It is a few minutes past Eight on Bath's town square. The town has roots in Revolutionary War America and deep connections to the nation's veterans, home to a Veterans Administration hospital and a national cemetery. I read about the revitalization of Main Street through the New York Times. A few store fronts could use work and steady tenants with a solid business. There's only a few spaces left in angle parking. Fascinated by the presence of an old hotel off the park, a block built structure called the National Hotel. I've counted two powerful churches downtown, each built of cut stone split by Masonic hands. And like everywhere I have visited in the small towns of New York State, a door was held open when I walked up.
In the tap room of the National Hotel, a young woman washed glasses behind the counter. She couldn't be older than twenty-eight. I ordered a Budweiser, a good choice when I want a beer to hold my place on the bar. I had an idea of staying the night and waking up in the wine country around Finger Lakes. I had a stronger idea of making home Friday and collecting money at my bank. I didn't have any cards for accessing cash so I had to go to the bank's counter, closing Friday evening until Tuesday morning.
"How much for a room tonight".
"Are you alone"? She asked.
"I am sleeping alone, again".
"It'll be sixty-five dollars, plus tax."
"Are the rooms nice"?
"Here's a key. Take the elevator up and see for yourself".
I left the elevator on the second floor and entered a hot hallway. The air conditioning had failed on that floor. I opened the door, and noted a heating and cooling unit. As a plus, the room had a tall and wide mirror on the vanity, great for reflecting a hot sex between two partners. The bed covered with an antique blanket had a mattress that gave little comfort when I sat down to test it. I made up my mind to keep driving home. Sleeping alone on that hard mattress made me want to be home, if alone, on my cozy pillowtop mattress.
I returned the key to the bar top. She asked, "Do you want it".
"I think I'll make it home tonight. Thanks anyways".
"It's the best you'll find for the price around here, let me tell you that. My fiance and I stayed here for two weeks because we had to wait for repairs before we could move into our place. I saw a help wanted sign, and they hired me. I needed another job. My son has respiratory problems, so there's doctor's bills to pay. He's seven. His brother is three and he's always well".
"This is your second job?"
"Yes, I roof during the day".
"So, you close the bar at Midnight, catch a few winks ...."
"Yes, I wake up at 5 AM and start working at 6 AM".
"You run the bar and check people into the hotel. Do you also clean the rooms"?
"No, the woman who cooks in the kitchen cleans the rooms". The elderly woman poked her head out of the kitchen to see who was talking about her. My bartender dropped a glass that broke, and she vigorously swept up the broken glass.
"Make sure all broken glass goes into a paper bag", said the cook.
I was pretty astounded that the lovely woman who had treated me nicely had worked all day on five hours sleep. I tipped a dollar and the change for the Budweiser.
"Have a safe drive", she wished as I left her tap room.
I walked back to my car parked before the Chat-A-Wyle and the staff was sweeping and preparing to leave. It had closed exactly at Nine. I walked into the pharmacy next door for bottled water and a Red Bull, dashboard supplies for driving through the night. I was still fifteen hours from home.
I asked the clerk, who had a peppy manner and dark skin around his eyes, generally a sign of anxiety. "What do you like about Bath"?
"There's two exits to the freeway. I drive to Corning every chance I have".
— at Liberty Street Pub.