When my husband and I travel, we usually use one motel chain, one which claims, and usually provides, certain amenities such as a decent breakfast, thick towels and internet service.  This practice also enables us to build up points toward a free stay once or twice a year.

There is one problem with having a “rewards card” however.  It means they have our email address.  After each stay we get a request to fill out a survey.  There is no “I choose not to” option at this point – if we don’t answer it we’ll get a “friendly reminder.”  Part of the survey includes “when did you last stay in a motel?”  “Which brand was it?” and “Did the brand name influence your choice?”  By this time I want to scream “Yes!  Of course the name influenced us!  We have a rewards card!  Aren’t you paying attention?”  But they are not paying attention.  They offer no place to make a comment to the organization, instead of to the individual hotel.

But the question which gives me the most trouble is “Was this trip for business or pleasure?”  If I have to get across the country to visit family, there ought to be a third category.  Would it be both?  Neither?  This became an acute issue for me when I was travelling to visit my mother because she was ill.  The culprit that time was an airline, but the reaction was the same.  Is it business or pleasure?  It’s both.  it’s neither.

My chapbook The Map of Longing includes a number of poems related to my mother’s last months.  The fact that it happened at the same time we were preparing to move made everything sharper and more complicated.  In the poem below I tried to express some of my frustration.

Choice

The form asks, “business or pleasure?”
No “other” category for this trip
which is neither―or both:
my mother’s business,
her pleasure in our visit,
our pain in the strained connection,
spoiled arm, scattered mind.

The web of family combines
what marketers want to segment,
as if pain and pleasure could
be wrapped separately, like
the chocolates she loves, as if
“all of the above” were an option
one could choose not to check.

The Map of Longing is available through Amazon.  You can get a signed copy from me via ERYBooks.

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