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Bed and Breakfast

A man will knit a sweater when he's courting. My grandpa told me that. It has something to do with hormones. Not the regular rounding-third-base hormones but something deeper, something Nature installed so that a man will promise his love forever and ever because forever isn't long enough.

It was in this state that I planned a weekend escape for my wife Yahaira. Whereas I could have chosen Las Vegas or white water rafting, I decided on a bed and breakfast. It was like buying a bouquet of flowers -- I didn't personally care for it, but it seemed like a nice thing to do.

Online I looked up bed and in Santa Barbara since that is the bed-and-breakfast Mecca of the world. Elderly people everywhere kneel in the direction of Santa Barbara twice a day, promising to revisit.

I found a quaint place called The Secret Garden. I was looking for quaint. It seemed like a nice thing to do.

I reserved a room at the Secret Garden and counted the days till I could surprise Yahaira.

The morning of the trip, I told her where we going.

"Wow!" she said. "That's great! ... What is it?"

"Bed and breakfast. It's like a hotel."

"And they serve you breakfast in bed?"

"Um. No. But they should."

I followed the directions to a sleepy suburban street. This can't be right. Yet the numbers checked out. I parked and set off by foot.

595 Bath Street. Sure enough.

On the front lawn squatted a sign reading "The Secret Garden." Secret was right. The sign was the only thing that distinguished it from the other houses on the block.

An old woman answered my knock and asked if we'd be staying for the weekend. I glanced over her shoulder into her foyer. It felt like I was intruding.

"Yes," I said. "I mean, if it's okay."

Yahaira and I lugged our belongings up the creaky old steps. A neighbor watched us from his porch, shaking his head.

The old woman escorted us to our room and gave us instructions.

"This is your room, the restroom is down the hall, and I'll be making a gorgeous breakfast in the morning."

And off she went.

"A gorgeous breakfast," I said to Yahaira. "Does that mean we'll gorge?"

She rolled her eyes, having heard enough of my puns for one lifetime.

The house had five rooms, all of which were occupied by couples. We were the only couple that didn't qualify for social security. The house dated back to the early 1900s, still bearing its original coal-burning furnace.

I hoped they had running water.

Our room looked like any other grandmotherly room -- you felt like you couldn't touch anything without setting off an alarm. There were no complimentary soaps or Mr. Coffee Juniors. There wasn't even a TV. It was just ... someone's room.

The sad part is that I didn't plan beyond the accommodations. I figured that it was a complete kit with things to do. A Jolly Jumper perhaps. Or maybe I was high on hormones and didn't think at all.

Yahaira and I dropped our luggage, stared at each other for a minute, then burst into laughter.

"I'm sorry," I said. "You want to go to a real hotel?"

"No," she said. "Let's pretend it's a sleepover at your grandma's house."

We tiptoed through the hallway toward the activity room. The floorboards bowed beneath our weight. It turned out that Scrabble was the activity in the activity room. We could have dusted off a book, but that didn't seem too social.

We played Scrabble and sipped the vodka I had brought in case of emergency. This definitely qualified. Yahaira won the game on her last word -- humdrum -- and we retired to our quarters. There we fashioned footballs out of paper and flicked them into the trashcan for points. As the vodka set in, the game became full-contact and those are the best games of all.

Next morning, we awoke to find that breakfast was over. Over?! It's only 9:00. Who eats breakfast that early? Outside, three aged couples finished their coffee. So it goes.

"I know the price of bed and breakfast," I said, "but how much for just bed?"

Thus our stay at the Secret Garden ended as awkwardly as it began, a tribute to Jason's planning skills.

To this day, I can't understand the fascination with bed and breakfasts. Maybe it's something that comes over us as we get older, like a taste for prunes. Maybe we develop an urge to sleep at other people's houses out of curiosity. Maybe there's medication for it.

Whatever the case, next time I'm seized by the romance bug, I'll just knit a sweater.


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