Room 238

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Monday. He’d forgotten rooms could look so luxurious. Six long years in the Federal Penitentiary tend to dull a man’s senses.

But here he was with his first taste of freedom. One night’s stay at a hotel was part of his parole package. As he stepped inside the room, he noticed the plush carpet, which seemed to envelop his shoes.

He threw his sack of wordly goods into the corner and fell onto the bed, reveling in the clean, soft, cushiony

mattress. He checked to be sure, and yes, it even had sheets. Never had a room smelled so clean. Never had a room seemed so large. Never had a bed felt so massive.

As he lay there, unable to touch both sides of the bed with his oustretched arms, he noticed the absence of writing on the walls. The windows had curtains and all the lights worked.

It was neither too hot nor too cold. And the quiet was overwhelming, as if the walls were absorbing every vibration.

He walked over to the bathroom. A bathroom with its own room. A bathroom with privacy. A bathroom with hot water and cold water and all temperatures in between. A bathroom with three clean towels and washcloths and unopened soap and a clean mirror. A bathroom with a telephone. A bathroom with a telephone on which he could push any seven numbers he desired and it would ring that number and he would not be monitored or screened. Just the phrase “Room 238” would forever carry this special place in his heart.

Tuesday. As the couple entered the room, she immediately noticed the stain on the carpet in the far left corner. Had they not been caught between cities on their trip, this would certainly not have been their choice of accomodations.

But anyone could endure a room for one night. As in most hotel rooms, the bed dominated the landscape, and so he couldn’t help but notice it’s narrowness. She commented on the noticeable wrinkles left on the bedspread and was certain it would not fit the precise firmness she so demanded on all her mattresses.

How she would ever sleep that night she didn’t know. And why they chose those colors for the curtains she could not fathom. Both the television and the bathroom were far smaller than they were accustomed. They also couldn’t help but notice a small but noticeable sound from the adjoining room. Surely the walls were paper thin.

As he stepped in front of the sink, he noticed the small bars of soap that made it so difficult to generate enough lather to wash oneself. The towels were thin and the water took forever to get warm.

Even then, the temperature fluctuated a few degrees. And of all places, the telephone was positioned in the bathroom at a location that was anything but convenient.

As he searched for the thermostat to try and fix the temperature at just the right level, he found himself murmuring that should he survive this night, “Room 238” would not cross his path again.

Rex alphin is a farmer, businessman and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is