Los Angeles, Calif. – I pulled into the parking lot at 4 PM on a Friday, and an enormous line, five bodies deep, awaited me. All within it — a collection of drab, average Americans, donned in promotional t-shirts and flip flops — respectfully kept a six-foot distance from one another. This was, perhaps, the safest behavior they would exhibit all night. I thought myself quite sensible for arriving when I did. 4 PM is, of course, the hour a traditional motel would allow check-in. But this, I failed to realize, was not a traditional motel. It was, instead, the Mustang, a pay-by-the-hour establishment that caters to lovers who otherwise would be bereft of a bed on which to do the deed. After a ten-minute wait, I finally approached the mirrored check-in window. “No rooms left” barked the disembodied voice on the other side of it. “When will there be more available?” I asked. “In an hour,” the voice replied.
At the Mustang, the turn over is constant. The maids, all of whom wear scrubs (which makes sense, as their job primarily entails the clean up of human fluids) look exhausted. Every garbage can overflows with detritus; Crown Royal boxes hold court.
The grounds themselves, however, are well manicured. The landscaping is tasteful; palm trees softly blow in the breeze. It’s the sort of environment that would, if photographed properly, con European tourists into thinking they were booking a safe, sensibly priced motel by the airport. The Mustang has no online presence though, save a handful of heavily mixed Yelp reviews (my favorite, not that you asked, being “I don’t like this hotel it looks dirty and nasty and some guy got a bit at it and theer [sic] was under under the sink”).
You cannot book online. You cannot pay with a credit card. It remains, in spite of it all, a first-come, first-served, “CASH ONLY” establishment in the era of Sweetgreen.
And business is booming. For days, I attempted to check in, only to be told to return in an hour. An hour later, I’d be turned away again. “The people paid for more time,” the voice behind the window would inform me.
I began calling before showing up, hoping it would give me an edge over those who arrived on foot. Most calls jangled endlessly, ringing into the void. “Do you have any rooms available?” I’d ask whenever the voice actually answered. “In an hour,” the voice, as always, would reply. The whole ordeal quickly became ineffably frustrating, and I wasn’t even horny. I couldn’t fathom the frustration I would feel if I had blue balls on top of it.
One of the only visual records you can find of the Mustang’s existence is a collection of heavily art-decorated photographs taken by a cheery duo of “content creators” who visit “quirky” motels like the Mustang on their off-hours when not running a boutique ad agency. They don’t look like scumbags. They look like the kind of white childless couples for whom a mutual love of the Disney corporation serves as a personality.
Sitting in the parking lot of the Food 4 Less down the street, waiting yet another hour, I’d scroll through their feed and seethe. These people got a (highly coveted) hot tub room and I bet they didn’t even fuck in it. This is not to say that I intended on copulating in my room, but only because I’m not married to my best friend
Monday afternoon, I watched a man in hospital-branded scrubs secure a three hour room. Wondering if I should thank him for his service as an essential worker, I approached the window. “An hour!” I was told. In an hour, I returned.
And, three calendar days after my journey began, I was finally offered an olive branch: $43 for three hours in a “regular” (i.e. non-hot tub) room.
My ID and three twenties were slid under the window, a paper card was filled out. I was bequeathed room 114, wedged within the corner of the courtyard.
Walking up I spotted my neighbor, a woman in a skin-tight, bright pink two-piece spandex outfit that was surely giving her a yeast infection if the hot tub hadn’t already done so. She, unlike most patrons, had her curtains open and was circling the room in what can only be described as a trot.
I entered my room, noted its Mustang necessities (mirror on the ceiling, ashtray, scent of bleach), and immediately encountered the most harrowing sight you could find in a motel of ill repute – a sticker of a technicolor dog lying in the midst of sticky shag carpeting. A child was here before me. My God.
There were, indeed, signs of life everywhere. Fingerprints on the mirror above the bed. Gang tags carved into every solid surface. The shower floor was still wet; the bedspread smelled like cheap cologne. I propped myself on the bed to take some salacious photographs, as the act felt like the only thing that made sense when one found oneself alone in an environment such as this. I found it hard, however, to get in the mood.
In an attempt to horn myself up, I listened to the track “In Particular” by Blonde Redhead (a band that sounds like aural copulation) on headphones while watching a blonde woman receive a rim job from a blonder woman (the default channel playing when you turn on the TV is an endless stream of hardcore pornography so dated it feels quaint). Sadly, the scene more resembled art than anything else.
Everything felt wet. The air itself seemed damp, its molecules suffused with carnal moisture. While my hands cried out for cleansing, I could not accommodate them, as the only hygienic item provided in the room were two tubes of shampoo.
I parted the curtains: a woman wearing a wig cap was detailing her car in the parking lot while yelling into her speakerphone. It didn’t seem like the best use of limited time.
Their three hours up, I saw the man in scrubs and his girl slowly walk down the staircase to his car, giggling. The scene felt so wholesome, like watching a fella talking to his steady in a technicolor movie. The only thing missing was a stack of textbooks in their hands. A stirring in my loins began to brew.
And, as if challenged, a diapered child appeared, running amok back and forth from his room to the generic “cold drink” machine. His mother kept screaming at him to come back, but never actually left her room to retrieve him. He eventually tired himself out.
This intrusion initially unnerved me, but the more I thought about it the more the presence of children at the Mustang made sense. Fucking, after all, is what makes children. I silently thanked the doctor who rendered me sterile. Walking away from my room, I looked once more into the pink woman’s. A child was sitting on her lap.
As I left the parking lot, another unexceptional customer shuffled up to the window. One in, one out. Here, anyway.