When I first called Saxon Burns and offered him the assignment for this week's cover story, "My Stay at the No-Tel Motel," he eagerly accepted it.
This surprised me. Why would anyone be excited about the proposition of leaving a warm and cozy home to reside at a seedy motel for a week?
We got the idea from our sister paper in Las Vegas, which last year sent someone to live at the local equivalent for a week. He left early after he, well, started losing his mind, developing an urge he'd never had before: to cut himself.
Just to make sure Saxon--a University of Arizona student who, despite his young age, is developing into one of our better writers--understood what he was getting himself into, we had a meeting over coffee. I told him to be careful, avoid confrontations and to carry pepper spray, just in case, and to leave whenever he felt like it. I asked him once more if he was sure he wanted the assignment; he said he did.
This is part of the e-mail I got from Saxon after his first day:
"I can see why that guy in Las Vegas went crazy. I must say that I flipped out a bit last night--as well as this morning. I had neighbors who kept their door cracked so they could peer at me whenever I stepped outside. I feel like I'm being watched when I leave my room, which--by the way--is really scummy. -- So, yeah. I'm scared. But I'm hanging on. I also have pepper spray to protect me."
Well, Saxon made it. I hope you enjoy his entertaining, if somewhat disturbing, true tale.