My family and I took a road trip to Natchez, Mississippi three years ago, and these are our stories. I'm writing this now because I have just begun to recover from the experience. *Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
It should have been a red flag when the side of town we arrived on was barely paved, in utter disarray, and had two Popeyes literally right next to each other. Like, I'm not exaggerating. They were RIGHT next to each other. It was shocking to see. I personally love Popeyes (those biscuits tho), but I can't even fathom the circumstances that require two of the same restaurant to be next to each other.
We visited Natchez in the spring and were under a veil of ignorance; we thought the weather would be pleasant. In actuality, the weather was total bullsh*t. We expected some wind, but the temperature that evening can best be described as frigid. Because it was April, I neglected to pack a "real" jacket. I only had a light one. (I watched Miss Congeniality one too many times.) Cool job, me. We all decided we were ill equipped to face the current temps, so we made our way to *gulp* Walmart to fetch some outerwear.
I don't think anyone really likes going to Walmart; it's just kind of one of those things that you have to do — like taxes. And getting bangs. I, on the other hand, hate going to Walmart. It disturbs me to my core. One could say that I am morally opposed to it.
Before we even made it into the store, we were instantly creeped out by the post-apocalyptic nature of the parking lot. There were buggies EVERYWHERE. Literally I have never seen so many misplaced shopping carts in my life. They were not only out of place; they were overturned. It was something out of a nightmare. A literal scene from The Walking Dead.
After an exchange of horrified looks, my mom, my aunt, and I made it into the store. We were shopping for clothing items in Walmart, so we were already in a delicate emotional state. The things we saw in there, however, were enough to unravel anyone's sanity. The "people of Walmart" are always an interesting group, but in this particular Walmart, I am like 100 percent sure we saw a cult all dressed in cerulean, which just so happened to be my favorite crayon as a child. Coincidence??
We arrived at *The Petunia after we procured literally zero outer garments from the superstore. I was immediately taken aback by the hotel's haunting sorrow. The air seemed damp — moist even. The lobby was filled with certainly once-beautiful antiques that had met their match with time. And the hotel staff seemed like they were all in a trance. Everything was dejected and kind of hazy. The building contained so much unspoken sadness that it felt burdening. Everything that once was lively and fresh seemed broken and sour. It's what I imagine the Titanic must have felt like after sinking.
We didn't stop at either Popeyes in town, so my family and I were famished. We discussed a dinner strategy, but being an all-female crew, we struggled.
We finally decided to try the in-house restaurant and wondered if we needed to make a reservation. Spoiler alert: we didn't.
We actually called the front desk to check if we would need one, but the clerk was quick to tell us that we did not. So quick that I now see it was another red flag.
It was about six o'clock on a Friday, which (one would assume) would be a pretty bustling time for any restaurant. Well, not this one.
We were greeted by a super sweet hostess named *Divine, who told us we could sit wherever we wanted. And she wasn't lying. There was only one other group in the entire restaurant: two elderly ladies who didn't seem to have ordered yet. One by one, each of them exited the restaurant, leaving their belongings at their table.
We didn't really think anything of it at the time, so we casually perused the menus and decided on fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and side salads. Seemed safe enough.
We placed our orders within the next few minutes and noticed the other ladies still hadn't returned. A couple more minutes went by, and one of the women ran in with a distinct look of bewilderment, grabbed their things, and scrambled out of the room like a cat escaping water. For an older woman, she was quite swift. She ran out so quickly, though, that she forgot her sweater she had hanging on the back of her chair.
My mom, my aunt, and I all gave each other the what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks look, but our salads were coming out of the kitchen, so we tried to ignore the woman's hurried exit and proceeded with the meal.
The lady eventually came in to retrieve her sweater, and she left as quickly the second time as she did the first. How odd, we exclaimed.
The salads were essentially barren, but I appreciated the staff's efforts to fancy up the dish by decanting the Hidden Valley Ranch into individual containers.
There was a problem with our order, so *Chef Willy himself came to our table to clarify what we wanted. Seeing Chef Willy confirmed something I had always thought but never voiced: I don't want to see my chef. It's just too much information. I would rather live out my dining experience in ignorant bliss.
After clarifying our intentions, we waited for a while, then received our food. The texture of the chicken was terrifying at best. It was literally pink inside (dear Lord), and our mashed "potatoes" were that out of a horror movie. They were clearly artificial. Are artificial potatoes even a thing? Who knew the empty salad would be the highlight of the night?
We were in the restaurant for over an hour, and literally not one person ever came in.
And this is all before we even got to our hotel room.
To be continued ...