How to Not Die: Part I, Motels

My dear friends often ask me: “Bastard Archaeologist, how are you not dead? You have an abrasive personality, you regularly walk drunk on dark, foggy nights, and you stay in sketchy hotels?”  While I realize that there are a lot of creepy movies and PSA’s that tell you to avoid those situations, and as I sit watching a Netflix, horror movie, I realize there are a lot of ways to not die.

I will start with my current predicament:

Surviving  Sketchy motels

Not everyone gets to stay in the motels and hotels that I do while on the road for field work. Plenty of people are hindered by good fortune, luck, or a willingness to stay home that prevents them from the experiences that I have.

  1. Bathing

While these places are occasionally dangerous, even the Bate’s Motel can be safe with the correct steps taken.  Showering is out of the question for the duration of the stay, for example, but bathing is perfectly fine. I’ve taken to the no showers policy, which is always awkward if there’s no bathtub, but what are sinks if not mini-bathtubs.

If it’s a giant hotel and you’re the only guest, stay out of bathtubs too.


We’ve all slept with, or will sleep with, this sort of person.

As far as drowning goes, always remember, sinks are a lot harder to be killed shoved into than a bathtub.

As for knocks on the door….

  1. Guests

There are two big rules that you need to remember before letting anyone in.

The first rule is the Nic Cage rule: If you ever see Nicholas cage with crazy hair and he tells you your room is haunted, believe him and leave immediately.  If he has normal hair, run, because this is evil Nicholas Cage; his hair and alignment have an inverse relationship.  This is the same for motel guests; it’s never the ugo’s that stab you to death.

Saint Cage.

Another potentially wicked visitor is often wrapped in a cute wrapping paper.

I always try to remind people  to avoid having children at all costs.  They are often wicked creatures without empathy or sympathy. However, as far as it goes for motels, they are most often a danger if you hear a knock and it is a child at your door.

Hey, Mister! Wanna play????

As soon as your hear the dulcet sounds of a child’s voice on the other side of the door, please avoid opening it at all costs.  If it has an adorable, regional accent, hide in the closet and pretend you are dead.  If it is an English child, please disregard previous advice and drown yourself in the bathtub. You’re already gone.

The most adorable and dangerous variety of child.

Most often, these children are like vampires and will not go in unless you let them inside.  And, like the vampire, their bizarre mixture of indiscriminate accent, big eyes, and inherent evil draw in lonely, sad, barren women.

Otherwise, probably don’t let strangers in your room and avoid answering the door after eleven pm. Standard high school rules.

  1. No Sex

I know sketchy motels were made for sex. I know this. I know this. I know this.

I know this well.

However, in any movie or situation where you are having sex in a bad pace, it always ends badly.   If someone is going to pick a victim, it’s always going to be someone who is distracted.  Is there any better distraction than sex?

When was the last time you got murdered eating hot wings?

Have you seen any horror movies where people get killed having sex in well-populated, four-star hotels? Sketchy motels are the adult version of Camp Crystal Lake.  Save your sex  and affairs for the Four Seasons, the Hiltons, the Hampton Inns;

Made for infidelity.

Overall, if you follow all of these rules you will avoid being stabbed in the shower by Nicholas cage while attempting awkward shower sex.


Archaeologist Anxiety

I have pretty bad anxiety, like to the ‘needs therapy’ and ‘possibly medication’ extent, so that can be a bit of a problem.  This means that I literally cannot enjoy anything new without imagining some horrible new fear; in this case, a new job as a field technician, even though I’ve done it before with another organization.  But this is new, so it’s really quite scary.

There’s the standard archaeologist fears:

What if I find a projectile point and drop it into a pile of dirt filled with ticks and black widow spiders?(Already happened, waiting for the inevitable Lyme’s disease)

What if I mistake sandstone for prehistoric pottery (it actually looks really similar to the untrained eye)?

What if the motels we stay at have dead bodies and cockroaches under the bed? (it’s really possible)

What if I accidentally decapitate my dig partner with a shovel? (At over a meter in the ground, your arm gets super weak.)  And being struck by lighting?( it’s totally possible).

Then there’s the standard work fears:

What if everyone hates me? (pretty standard)

What if I’m horrible and get fired? (really standard)

What if people discover I like to knit and demand I make them hats, then realize I’m really bad at it and can’t afford the yarn without charging them? (Everyone’s been there)

But then there’s these REALLY specific fears that only make sense to me (or to you. I don’t know your life).

What if my married roommate at the motel I am staying in has sex with someone while I am still in the room? (I feel like one in two people have had this experience; hence the divorce rate).

Standard Falling Off of a Cliff? (happened in Achill Island in Ireland, 200 ft drop, caught myself at the last minute).

How about the very high risk of choking on melted cheese? (It happened when I ate potato skins at this restaurant in Mackinac island, and now I fear my favorite food).

What if I meet a really over competitive douche bag who tries to get ahead by ruining my relationship with our supervisor by sabotage? (That seriously happened in graduate school; there was some weird stuff going on in that staff office).

When it comes right down to it, my fears from the most specific and odd to the most standard are currently out of my control.  I can do the best I can, but I know I will screw something up; it’s inevitable at any new job. There is no way to not screw up at a new place, even if you’ve done the same job somewhere else. No amount of experience or preparation can stop that first mistake, and disappointment.

But I’m still going to have a panic attack.