(Sample story from “Tales from the Bus Leagues”)
One of the quaintest towns in central New York state is Hamilton. Hamilton lies in the Chenango Valley, just south of the headwaters of the Chenango River in Madison County. It is plush green in the summer and pristine white in the winter. The colonial houses line the tranquil streets surrounding the picturesque campus of historic Colgate University. As soon as you set foot in Hamilton, N.Y., you develop a sudden craving for tea and crumpets and readings of the works of Robert Frost and Leo Tolstoy.
Colgate University, which accounts for 50 percent of the village of Hamilton’s population, was one of our conference rivals when I played at Clarkson University. Colgate lays claim to several NHL alumni, such as Mike Milbury and Andy McDonald, as well as all five members of Broken Lizard, the creators and lead actors in cult comedy hit movies “Super Troopers” and “Beerfest.” Starr Arena is a small shoebox of a rink, but it holds one distinct advantage over many of the other arenas in the ECAC, a bowling alley practically right outside of the visitors dressing rooms.
Every time we went to play at Colgate, we stayed at the Colgate Inn, which is a Dutch Colonial-style inn that opened in 1925. The inn is known for its elegant ballroom, stylish parlors and cozy rooms. It is a haven for highbrows, scholars and artisan travelers. It was hardly typical of the Red Roof Inns and Courtyard Marriotts that we normally stayed at.
The first thing I noticed about the historic inn was how narrow the hallways were. The rooms themselves looked like they belonged to Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. I half expected to open the door and find a 90-year-old lady knitting an afghan in front of a well- stoked fire while watching reruns of “Murder She Wrote.” All of the furniture, from the side tables to the chairs and beds, were teak. Rumors were that the inn was haunted, and it wasn’t implausible to see why.
After unpacking some of our gear, my road trip roommate and I decided to flip on Sportscenter and relax. There was only one problem. When we flopped down on the beds, the mattresses engulfed our bodies like waves and our legs hung over the end of the bed. These “Bert and Ernie” single beds were only five and a half feet in length.
Just before the Sportscenter Top Ten came on, my roommate went into the tiny bathroom to get ready for bed. Ten minutes later he came out, just in time for the Top Ten, after which we shut off the TV and lights and went to bed.
The next morning, at about 6:35 a.m., our phone rang. I looked at the clock, saw the time and ignored the call. Our wakeup call was set for 7:30, so obviously someone had the wrong number. After ignoring the call, the phone began ringing again. This time I picked it up and groggily answered. The person on the other end of the line was a frantic inn employee. “Excuse me, sir. Is the toilet overflowing in your bathroom?”
I asked them to hold on, put down the receiver and went to the bathroom to check. When I opened the door, I saw that the floor was covered in poopy water. I woke up my roommate and said: “Hey! You clogged the shitter last night, man. Look! It’s all over the floor.”
Apparently, the water had been running all night and had pooled under the tile in the bathroom, leaking down into the ceiling of the ballroom below us. Our team breakfast was cancelled on account of a shit storm!
When we went downstairs, we were met with quite a sight. The pristine ballroom ceiling was bowed down with a massive pocket of sewage. Plumbers, wait staff and bellhops were hastily moving tables and clearing off glassware and cutlery. One particular maintenance worker was on a ladder just beneath the pocket of filth, removing an elegant chandelier.
The next time we played at Colgate, we stayed outside of town at the Red Roof Inn. Hockey players, you can dress them up, but you can’t take them out.