Two Chaosbunnies in the Desert: Creepy Motel

Part 1 of this saga is here. Part 7 of this saga is here.
Part 2 of this saga is here. Part 8 of this saga is here.
Part 3 of this saga is here. Part 9 of this saga is here.
Part 4 of this saga is here. Part 10 of this saga is here.
Part 5 of this saga is here. Part 11 of this saga is here.
Part 6 of this saga is here. Part 12 of this saga is here.

“Hey! Pull over!” Bunny said.

We were in the third–or was it the fourth?–day of the Faffing: wandering around more or less aimlessly, not finding any genuine ghost towns but still having great success photographing the many and varied ruins that dot the Pacific Northwest like acne on a geeky kid’s the day before the high school yearbook photo.

We were driving along a long, boring stretch of road in–god, I can’t even remember what state we were in. Possibly Oregon. Or maybe California. Weeks on the road will do that to you.

“Hey! Pull over!” My ears pricked up. Maxine had become quite adept by this point at spotting interesting things from the road, and she rarely disappointed.

We pulled into an utterly deserted parking lot, gravel crunching under the wheels of the Adventure Van. The sign said Juniper Lodge Motel and Restaurant. The creepiness of the surroundings said photographic gold mine.

We hopped out (get it? Hopped out?) and cautiously poked around. The first thing Bunny found was a portable toilet of the kind you usually see in the backs of campers and RVs, that looked a bit like someone had been cooking meth or something else equally unpleasant in it. I won’t disturb you with a photo, because I didn’t take one (if I had, it would be exactly the sort of thing I might like to share, so consider yourselves lucky, O gentle readers).

The Juniper Lodge Motel had been built as three long, low buildings on three sides of a square, with the road making the fourth side. I’m guessing the gas station used to be in the middle, perhaps, though it seems that would be a rather unpleasant arrangement for one who was wishing to sleep while all night long, people pulled in to get gas.

We cautiously entered the first building, wary of collapsing ceilings, snakes, and drug-crazed gangsters, all of which seemed like they might be a distinct possibility. All we found were ruins.

The bar and restaurant–at least I’m assuming that’s what this was–looked like something straight out of a nightmare horror movie, perhaps a movie called Freddy Krueger Visits the 1977 Guide to Interior Design Bar of the Year or something. That orange! Those beams! That fake wood paneling!

Someone had been there before us, which showed that fears of drug-crazed, machete-wielding gang members perhaps weren’t so far off base as all that.

The rooms were spacious, once upon a time, even if perhaps I might not have chosen that particular texture for the fake wall paneling, if it had been up to me.

The building to the right as you face the motel from the road, where the office once was, had reached a quite spectacular level of decay, one that made us fear for our safety dare we even to venture within. Much of the floor was gone, revealing that the building wasn’t precisely built on what one would call a “foundation” in any traditional sense of the word.

Photos taken, we set off again. We had, at this point, a new Plan. It was a Plan ambitious in its audacity, that would take us into Black Rock Desert questing after a…well, that will have to wait until next time.

Some thoughts on changing the world

“My vote doesn’t matter.” This is a common call of the North American White-Chested Citizen, particularly prominent during election years.

This isn’t really a post about political participation, except that it kind of is. Bear with me.

There are rather a lot of human beings on the planet–almost seven and a half billion of us, at last count. That’s quite a big number. Even the smallest of actions, when combined across seven and a half billion people, can make for an enormous impact.

Problem is, each one of those seven and a half billion people individually feels they are not responsible for the cumulative impact of their actions. No raindrop feels responsible for the flood.

Back when I was a kid, I remember my father telling me to save money by turning off the lights when I wasn’t using them. I recall arguing the point with him, to the extent that I got a copy of the power bill, figured out what we were paying for electricity, then sat down and did the math about how much it would cost for me to leave the light on in my room all the time.

It turns out it really wasn’t much. The cost of lighting isn’t that great–one light bulb is barely a rounding error in the bill even if you leave it on all the time. Other things–the water heater, the refrigerator, the stove, the air conditioner–totally swamp the contribution made by that lowly light bulb.

He was unconvinced, but I think it had more to do with him not accepting the math than him not accepting the argument. Light bulbs are easily visible sources of power consumption. The water heater? Not so much.

So I went about my life for many years thereafter, not really caring if I turn the lights off or not, because they’re a drop in the bucket. Compared to other things I do, the energy I use for lighting is insignificant.

As CFL and LED lighting has become more common, I’ve cared even less.

But here’s the thing: It’s not just me.

See this? This is not you. You are not a unique and special snowflake, except that you kind of are.

I mean, yes, you are unique in all the world’s billions. Yes, there has never been and never will be anyone else like you again. And yes, there really is nobody else who brings what you bring to the table. So in that sense, you are a snowflake.

But all snowflakes have six sides. There are consistent and repeatable similarities between people. Whatever chain of reasoning you use to arrive at some conclusion, there are other people who use that exact same line of reasoning to reach exactly the same conclusion. So when you tell yourself “My vote doesn’t matter,” there are millions of other people–people who might vote the same way you do were they to vote–who say the same thing for the same reason. When you rationalize leaving the lights on because the amount of electricity consumed by a light bulb is so small, millions of other people reach the same conclusion for the same reasons.

Which means it isn’t just you. You represent a multitude. You follow in the footsteps of many others, and they follow in yours. The road you take to arrive at whatever you arrive at is walked by more people than just you.

And that means if you want to make fully informed and rational decisions–decisions that account for all the variables and arrive at rational, logically sound conclusions–you have to account for the fact that you don’t exist in a vacuum–that whatever chain of logic you use to get where you’re going, other people will too. You need to account for the fact that it’s not just you, that the inevitable reality of being a person among billions of others is that whatever choices you make, you make in the company of millions of others for the same reasons.

So, that means weighing the consequences of your actions as though it isn’t just you. The vote you cast, or don’t? The lights you leave on? Your choices are bigger than you think. They’re amplified enormously by the simple iteration of your reasoning applied across vast numbers of others. Think of the consequences of your choices in terms of millions, not just one.

No raindrop believes it is responsible for the flood. Each raindrop thinks “what difference do I make?”

I have resolved to stop leaving the light on.