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1162 Staying in an Inexpensive Hotel

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,162 – Staying in an Inexpensive Hotel.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,162. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California. Oh, yeah.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast. When you do, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode that contains a complete transcript of everything I say. I say you should also take a look at facebook.com/eslpod and like us, because we like you.

This episode is a dialogue between Suzanna and Kenji about staying in a hotel that doesn’t cost very much. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Suzanna: Remind me why we’re staying in this fleabag motel in the seedy part of town?

Kenji: We agreed that we would skimp on the accommodations so we could spend more money on activities and eating out. Remember?

Suzanna: I remember, but I didn’t bargain for someplace as run-down as this. Look at the peeling wallpaper and moldy bathroom.

Kenji: It’s pretty bad, isn’t it? Look on the bright side. At least it’s not rat-infested.

Suzanna: That’s small comfort. Well, I think I’ll take a short nap before we go out for dinner. Uh!

Kenji: What’s the matter?

Suzanna: This comforter is filthy. I doubt housekeeping has changed it in months!

Kenji: Let’s get out of here and go get a drink. That should cheer us up.

Suzanna: Good idea. If I have more than one, maybe I won’t care so much where we’re staying.

Kenji: Given the state of this room, we might need an entire pitcher!

[end of dialogue]

Suzanna begins our dialogue by asking Kenji, “Remind me why we’re staying in this fleabag motel in the seedy part of town?” When someone begins a question with “Remind me why” or “Remind me,” usually the person is not very happy with the situation, or perhaps confused about something – something he doesn’t understand. For example, if you go to a movie and it’s a really bad movie, a movie recommended by your friend, you may say to your friend, “Remind me why we’re watching this stupid movie?” You’re criticizing, of course, your friend’s choice.

That’s what Suzanna is doing here. She’s in effect criticizing Kenji for having them stay in this “fleabag motel.” A “motel” (motel) is like a hotel but it’s usually smaller and less expensive. The “m,” I believe, originally comes from “motor,” meaning it was a hotel that was designed for people who were and are traveling by car. Usually a motel has doors that face out or that look out onto the parking lot where the cars are.

The term “fleabag” (fleabag) describes a hotel or perhaps another temporary housing place that is dirty, old, and usually falling apart, often with not very clean living conditions. The rooms aren’t clean. The hotel itself isn’t very clean. The word “fleabag” comes from “flea” (flea). A flea is a small animal that you usually associate with dogs, for example, or other small animals. Technically, a “flea” is a small insect that feeds off of the blood of another animal. If your dog has fleas, your dog will often scratch at the fleas or the flea bites.

“Fleabag,” then, would describe a very dirty, not very nice hotel or motel. Suzanne is wondering why they are staying “in this fleabag motel in the seedy (seedy) part of town.” The word “seedy” refers to an area, perhaps even a person who is somewhat suspicious, possibly even criminal. It could also describe a place that is dirty or disgusting or unsafe. If you say, “That’s a seedy character,” you mean that’s a person whom you can’t really trust, a person who might even be a criminal.

To describe a hotel as “seedy” would usually indicate that it’s not a very clean hotel, possibly even a hotel that is used for criminal activity, including prostitution. Kenji says, “We agreed that we would skimp on the accommodations so we could spend more money on activities and eating out. Remember?” “To skimp (skimp) on” something is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to spend a very small amount on something – much less than most people would normally spend – in order to save money, although you could also skimp on something because you don’t want very much of it.

There’s an adjective “skimpy” (skimpy) which describes someone who isn’t wearing very much clothing. If a woman is wearing a “skimpy outfit” (outfit), she’s not wearing very much clothing. A “bikini,” for example, might be described as being skimpy. But here, the phrasal verb “to skimp on” means not spending very much money. Kenji says that he and Suzanna agreed they would not spend very much money on accommodations. “Accommodations” (accommodations) refers to a place where you stay when you are traveling, such as a hotel.

Another word for “accommodations” is “lodging” (lodging). Although, you don’t hear that word as much anymore unless you’re talking about your expenses for your company. If you travel, your company might ask you to give them receipts for your lodging, for your accommodations, basically for your hotel room. Kenji says the agreement that he and Suzanna had was “to skimp on accommodations” so they could spend more money on “eating out” – that is, on eating in a restaurant.

Suzanna says she remembers this, “But,” she says, “I didn’t bargain for someplace as run-down as this.” If someone says, “I didn’t bargain (bargain) for “something, she means she didn’t anticipate or intend to do something. Usually when you say, “I didn’t bargain for this,” you mean you are surprised in a negative way because you didn’t expect this or you didn’t think you agreed to do this.

“To be run-down” means to be in very poor condition – to be very old, to be perhaps falling apart. You could describe a building as being “run-down.” “This apartment building is run-down.” It’s not taken care of very well. There are things that are broken. It might be a little dirty. That would all be part of this description of being “run-down.”

Suzanna says, “Look at the peeling wallpaper and moldy bathroom.” “Wallpaper” is paper, that usually has a certain color or decoration, that you put up on a wall instead of painting it. That’s why the term “wallpaper” makes so much sense. It’s paper that you put on the wall. If wallpaper isn’t put down properly, or if it’s very old, it will start to “peel” (peel). The verb “to peel” here means for the wallpaper to begin to come off the wall, especially from the top of the wall.

“To peel” can also mean to remove the outer layer of something. You could peel a potato. You could take the outer layer, what we would call the “skin” (skin) of the potato, off. So, “peeling wallpaper” is wallpaper that is falling off. A “moldy (moldy) bathroom” is one in which there is fungus – something that is caused usually by moisture. You don’t want mold in your bathroom. It can cause a lot of problems, including health problems.

Kenji said, “It’s pretty bad isn’t it,” meaning this motel is pretty bad. “Look on the bright side,” he says. This expression “to look on the bright (bright) side” is used when you are asking someone to find something good or positive in a bad situation. It’s another way of saying “be optimistic,” “be positive,” “look for the good things here.” He says, “At least it’s not rat-infested.”

The positive thing that Kenji points out about this motel is that it doesn’t have rats – small little animals that you don’t really want to see in your house or hotel room. The term “rat-infested” (infested) just means full of rats, or lots of rats. Suzanna says, “That’s small comfort,” meaning it’s a good thing but not very much.

“Well,” she says, “I think I’ll take a short nap” – a short time to sleep – “before we go out for dinner.” “Uh!” she says. Kenji says, “What’s the matter?” meaning what’s wrong. Suzanna says, “This comforter is filthy.” A “comforter” (comforter) is a thick, warm blanket that you put on a bed. If something is “filthy” (filthy) it’s very dirty, it’s very unclean.

Suzanna continues, “I doubt housekeeping has changed it in months!” In a hotel or a motel, there usually is a group of people who go around cleaning the rooms, usually every day. That group of people is called, collectively, “housekeeping” (housekeeping). These are the people – I’ll have to say, in most hotels in the United States, usually women – who go around and clean the rooms or who are supposed to clean the rooms. Suzanne is complaining that the comforter probably has not been “changed” or cleaned in many months.

Kenji says, “Let’s get out of here and go get a drink,” meaning an alcoholic drink. “That should cheer us up,” he says. “To cheer someone up” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to make you happy. Suzanna says, “Good idea,” meaning yes, that is a good idea. “If I have more than one,” meaning more than one drink, “maybe I won’t care so much where we’re staying.”

Kenji says, “Given the state of this room, we might need an entire pitcher.” “Given” here means considering or in reference to. “The state of this room” refers to the condition of this room. Kenji is saying, then, that because of how bad this room is, “we might need an entire pitcher” (pitcher). A “pitcher” is a large container. Here Kenji is referring to a large pitcher of beer, I’m guessing.

Kenji is saying that because the room is in such bad condition, he and Suzanna might need to drink a whole pitcher of beer in order to feel better, in order to be cheered up enough so that they can continue staying in this fleabag motel.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Suzanna: Remind me why we’re staying in this fleabag motel in the seedy part of town?

Kenji: We agreed that we would skimp on the accommodations so we could spend more money on activities and eating out. Remember?

Suzanna: I remember, but I didn’t bargain for someplace as run-down as this. Look at the peeling wallpaper and moldy bathroom.

Kenji: It’s pretty bad, isn’t it? Look on the bright side. At least it’s not rat-infested.

Suzanna: That’s small comfort. Well, I think I’ll take a short nap before we go out for dinner. Uh!

Kenji: What’s the matter?

Suzanna: This comforter is filthy. I doubt housekeeping has changed it in months!

Kenji: Let’s get out of here and go get a drink. That should cheer us up.

Suzanna: Good idea. If I have more than one, maybe I won’t care so much where we’re staying.

Kenji: Given the state of this room, we might need an entire pitcher!

[end of dialogue]

We never skimp on giving you the very best English possible. That’s thanks to our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
fleabag – describing a place that is very old, dirty, and falling apart, usually a hotel or other temporary housing

* When Jim developed a drinking problem, he lost his apartment and had to move into a fleabag motel.

motel – a building that offers lodging, like a hotel but smaller and less expensive, usually with only one floor and with room doors that face the parking lot

* They stayed in a motel next to highway in a room where they could keep an eye on their car.

seedy – dirty, disgusting, possibly criminal or corrupt, unsafe, or suspicious

* We’ve seen that seedy man pass by here at least four times already. Do you think he’s looking for empty homes to break into?

to skimp on – to spend the minimum amount of money on something, much less than most people would normally spend, in order to save money

* If we skimp on maintenance now, we’ll have bigger repair bills in the future.

accommodations – lodging; a place to stay while one is traveling; a hotel or similar place

* The conference wasn’t very good, but the accommodations were fantastic, with very large rooms, a swimming pool, and a spa.

to not bargain for – to not anticipate or intend to have or do something; to be surprised by something in a negative way

* When I offered to help you move, I didn’t bargain for three days of dragging and lifting!

run-down – very old, not well maintained, and falling apart; in disrepair

* Why are you living in this run-down apartment building? It doesn’t even feel safe.

to peel – for the top or outer layer to slowly come off, or for one to remove that layer

* The skin on her shoulders is peeling from the sunburn she got last week.

moldy – covered with a fungus; spoiling due to the presence of a very small plant that is growing on the surface, especially on a food

* If you leave the bread on the counter in this humid weather, it will get moldy very quickly.

to look on the bright side – to be optimistic; to find something good or positive in a bad or negative situation

* Yes, it’s raining again, but look on the bright side! The plants will be nice and green.

rat-infested – with a large number of rats living in a particular area

* The Health Department shut down the rat-infested restaurant.

small comfort – a thing that is good, but provides very little benefit or reassurance compared to the size of the problem or other negative situation one is dealing with

* Winning $50 in the lottery is small comfort to people who owe thousands of dollars.

comforter – a thick, warm blanket placed on top of a bed and on top of the sheets, to keep one warm while sleeping

* They bought a bright green comforter with matching curtains for their daughter’s bedroom.

filthy – extremely dirty; very unclean

* This bathroom is filthy! The previous tenant moved out without cleaning it.

housekeeping – the people and department responsible for cleaning rooms and other parts of the facility in a hotel or other lodging

* If you need extra towels, blankets, or shampoo during your stay in our hotel, please press 3 on the phone to speak with housekeeping.

given – considering; with reference to

* Given the rising price of gas, we won’t be going on any long road trips this summer.

state – condition; the status of something, or how good or bad something is

* Many people are upset about the state of employment in this city, because many people are unable to find good-paying jobs.

pitcher – a large container with a handle and a spout (a small shape used for pouring), used to hold liquid and pour it into smaller glasses

* Let’s order one pitcher of iced tea, and another pitcher of lemonade for the entire family.

Comprehension Questions
1. What is “the seedy part of town”?
a) The farming areas surrounding a town.
b) A very fancy, luxurious business center.
c) A run-down, dirty, and somewhat frightening part of town.

2. According to Suzanna, what is wrong with the comforter?
a) It is very dirty.
b) It is very old.
c) It is falling apart.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
run-down

The phrase “run-down,” in this podcast, means very old, not well maintained, and falling apart: “The university offers good classes with well-respected professors, but the facilities are run-down, so the students don’t enjoy attending their classes here.” A person who is “run-down” is very tired and has not been taking care of himself or herself: “Sheila is really run down after several months of working more than 80 hours each week.” To give someone the “rundown on (something)” means to provide a summary or other basic information about something, without many details: “Please give us the rundown on your sales strategy.” Finally, the phrase “to run (someone) down” means to drive one’s car into another person to hurt or kill that person: “The police are trying to figure out who ran down the old woman while she was crossing the street.”

state

In this podcast, the word “state” means condition or the status of something: “What’s the current state of our inventory?” Or, “We were all shocked by the poor state of her health.” A “state school” is a public university that receives funding from the government: “Lyle would like to go to a private college, but it’s too expensive, so he has decided to enroll in a state school instead.” A “welfare state” is a government that provides many free services to people with little or no money, such as healthcare and education: “When the United States started helping people find affordable healthcare, some people feared that the country would become a welfare state.” Finally, the phrase “state-of-the-art” means using the best and newest technology: “The medical labs are filled with state-of-the-art equipment for the researchers to use.”

Culture Note
Chateau Marmont Hotel

The Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles, California is “infamous” (famous for being bad) for the bad behavior of its guests. It was built in 1929 to look like a French “chateau” (a large house or castle in France), and “promoted” (advertised) as the city’s “finest” (fanciest and best) and most “exclusive” (available to only a small number of people) “residential” (for people to live in) apartment building. However, during the “Great Depression” (a period of time with a very poor economy; see English Café 327), “tenants” (people who rent a home or room) weren’t able to pay their rent on time, so the owner, Fred Horowitz, sold the building to a man named Albert Smith. Mr. Smith “converted” (changed the building’s purpose) the building into a hotel.

The hotel quickly became popular with “celebrities” (people who are famous, especially for acting, music, or sports) and “gained a reputation for” (became known for) being the place to go to “misbehave” (to behave badly; to break the rules).

“Stories abound” (there are many stories) about celebrities engaged in sexual “improprieties” (behaviors and actions that violate society’s standards) and drug use, as well as “heavy” (intense; a large amount of) partying. Actor James Dean once jumped out of a window at the hotel, and Judy Garland sang next to a piano in the “lobby” (the entrance and main gathering area in a hotel). Led Zepplin, The Doors, and other famous rock-and-roll musicians have misbehaved there as well. And, more recently, celebrities Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan were asked to leave due to their bad behavior.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a