On family road trips
our dad would balance costs
over a day.
So a nice restaurant meant a cheap motel.
Fast food meant nicer motel.

My brother had a way
of ranking motels.
There were five stars
one each for:
soda machine
vending machine
swimming pool
color TV
and …
wait for it …
magic fingers.

Soda and vending machines
might seem like a given
but back in the day
they weren’t a guarantee.
So we brought a cardboard box
in the trunk of the car with
vienna sausages
fake cheese spread
the ever-present
RItz crackers.
Hence the love of
soda machines and
vending machines.

On one trip
the only soda available
was Dr. Pepper.
So my inventive brother
heated up Dr. Pepper in our
hot pot.
Think: 1970s version of an
electric kettle.
Voila: hot Doctor Pepper.
Better than Tang.

Swimming pools was somewhat
of a luxury as well.
Especially after hours on end
in the backseat of a car.
without air conditioning.
Ones with slides,
diving boards
hot tubs
were choice.

Color TVs were also
a splurge.
Although many of us
had traded black and white
for color at home,
motels hadn’t
gotten that memo yet.
So front kiosks heralded:
“Color TV” right next to the
“Vacancy” sign.
On road trips
it was fun to stay up late
watching shows
we didn’t know about
because they were on
past our bedtimes.

The final star was for
something that no longer exists:
Magic fingers.
You could put a quarter
into a box
attached to the headboard
of your motel bed
and it would make
the bed vibrate.
I think magic fingers
might be
the grandfather of
Sharper Image’s
massaging recliner.

The best motels
had all five in their
cha ching!

Jennifer Gurney lives in Colorado where she teaches, paints, writes and hikes. She is a newly published poet with nearly 400 poems published in 2022 and 2023. Jennifer’s poetry has appeared in a variety of journals, including The Ravens Perch, HaikUniverse, Haiku Corner, Cold Moon Journal, Scarlet Dragonfly and The Haiku Foundation.