I don't write many reviews and usually only when something has been a truly special experience, almost always positive. Then we have the Red Carpet Inn, near Fort Dix in Pemberton Township New Jersey. My wife and I traveled 3 hours for a day long visit with our son, who was temporarily stationed at the Fort. Knowing the day would stretch long and that we might end up having a good dinner with a few drinks, we decided in the late afternoon to find a nearby hotel and stay the night for a fresh start home the next day. We found the Red Carpet Inn via a search from Siri on my iPhone. In retrospect, I now believe that Siri has become sentient and vindictive, and her listing of this hotel as being a top choice nearby was in revenge for me having dropped my phone a few days prior.
The hotel and property were old looking, but we were not expecting some resort in this sleepy little farming town and support community for the Fort. I inquired about the room and was pleasantly surprised to learn it was only $65 for the night. I collected the key and returned to the car to finish out our day with the boy on the base, visiting and generally having a good time.
We returned to the hotel around 9:30 PM and found a slightly different scene than when we had left several hours earlier. The hotel is built like the old motor inns, three stories with room doors opening to the outside. A number of people were on foot in the parking lot, going to or coming from various locations in the township. Several more individuals were lounging against the railings of the balcony hallways on various floors.
We parked the car and began collecting our gear. Knowing we were on the third floor and after having assessed the level of interest we generated among several of the folks who had reached a point in their lives where business transactions on a Sunday night in the parking lot of a cheap hotel made perfect sense, I decided that we should carry the bulk of what we had with us to our room. My wife and I are both photographers and had spent the day taking pictures and videos of our son, thus we had our cameras out and fully put together (fairly big dSLR kits). We toted our luggage and cameras into the lobby to reach the elevator, emerging on the third floor in an open airway which lead to the breezeway to our room. As we rounded a corner, I caught the gaze of a man on a corner of a lower floor. His interest seemed more than the simple bored or wary gazes I had glimpsed in others. Somewhere in the distant past of our species, an ancient ancestor of mine would smile and nod knowingly as he skinned the predator he had caught stalking his tribe.
We reached our room and tried to enter. The key wouldn't work. My wife and I exchanged glances and there was truly a moment in which I was unsure which would be the safe route for her, to stay with the gear on the third floor or to leave me to watch over it and allow her to go to the front desk to get a different key. She made the decision to stay and we sat the gear close to the door and let me get the key checked. It is worth pointing out that only about five minutes have elapsed from the time we pulled into the parking lot.
I jogged back to the elevator and then to the front desk to address the room key issue. I quickly got a new key and headed back up to the room. When I reached the third floor and rounded the corner to the hallway to our room, a scene in front of me once again triggered a genetic memory connection to that ancient ancestor of mine, on some savannah as he moved through the tall grass, spear in hand.
My wife was standing stiffly casual, looking in my direction. The man I had glimpsed on the lower floor earlier was facing her, a few rooms closer in my direction. Seeing her gaze, he turned and faced me as I walked toward our room. He was not as tall as me but he was a bit broader, wearing heavy stylish jeans, clean tan work boots, and a light jacket. I was in a t-shirt, jeans, and sandals. I walked deliberately yet casually toward our room. He actually held my gaze for several seconds too long for me to later think it was a big misunderstanding. Whether because he assessed his odds against my petite wife had changed or because he saw in my eyes and gait that of my ancient Holocene grandfather, he suddenly turned and began knocking loudly on the door next to him, calling out loudly for someone inside. The windows of vacant room have their curtains opened wide, allowing passersby to see into them. The entire side of that floor was vacant, save for the room we had just recently checked into. He was knocking on the door of a clearly empty room.
As I got closer, he avoided my eyes and ducked around the corner to the staircase. My wife's expression was one of relief tinged with just a bit of her own maternal Mesolithic memories of fending off threats to the tribe's cache of supplies. We moved quickly into the drab room and locked the door behind us. Later, I decided I should move the car closer to our side of the hotel. After having worked out a series of code-knocks for her to know whether I was alone at the door or whether I had been coerced into getting her to open the door, I left once again to go move our car. As I did, I noticed a young, short blond girl standing on the balcony ahead of me, having a cigarette. As I approached, she looked up at me and did such an overt hair toss and long gaze that I almost laughed out loud. Her shift in stance, the attire she was wearing which I could see as I walked closer, and the way she kept looking at me as I passed indicated that instead of feeling that ego-boost of a man approaching middle age and still able to catch the eye of young girl, I should actually check the placement of my wallet and assess my surroundings for anyone who was likely her "supervisor". She was still in the same place when I brought the car around and I avoided her glance entirely, quickly reaching my room, giving my wife the signal, and entering.
This already too-long review would likely suffice to alert others about the conditions of this place, but to end it here would be a disservice. The conditions of the room itself deserve their own, entirely separate review, but I will do my best to be concise here. The style of the room was early 1980s. A large CRT television sat inside the usual screw-together cabinet. The three dresser drawers beneath the television contained, as we discovered, the remains of what had been some sort of party by previous occupants. Used bits of pink taffeta ribbon, various plastic bottle tops, shopping bags, and a notebook stained enough that not even my word-curious eyes could make my hands touch it. Something the color of either blood or raspberry jam was splatter on the wall behind the bathroom door. Only Dexter could tell us which and by what direction it had arrived there. The dismal king sized bed was adorned with a vary thing comforter and single sheet. A number of hairs greeted my wife as she turned down the bed, but it is unclear whether those hairs or the fact that a cigarette burn hole almost to the bedsheet itself concerned her more. She asked me to check if there were extra blankets available from the front desk. It turns out the night clerk has no access to such amenities and so we were left with what we have. We both slept the night in our clothes, on top of the blanket and trying to avoid thoughts of creatures might be lurking in the folds of the bed, or who might come knocking in the middle of the night.
We were only 3 hours from home, fatigued, and having only consumed a couple of beers each. Were it not for the fact that we wanted to take the Cape May ferry home the next day, I believe I would have taken my chances in just driving back that night. A $65 per night hotel room was far outweighed by arriving at my own bed, safe and sound.
Don't stay here. Ever. If nothing else, this would be a good source of research into the various economic activities one might use to justify a Federal or state agency study in determining how to best allocated funds to help economically blighted areas.