Characters at the Santa Monica Hostel

July 8, 2013


The lives you touch, touch others. Negative and positive. A laugh or a smile can spread across a city in a matter of hours, simply because you made the choice to spread happiness. By the same token, a foul mood is equally as contagious. Insanity… not so much.

As a traveler, I meet a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds. In hostels abroad, these tend to be the same sort of crowd: liberal hippie backpackers, to generalize. Closer to home, however, I’ve noticed it’s not always an international crowd who chooses to sleep in dorm beds for a maximum of fourteen nights per location. Americans as a whole still haven’t quite realized how cheap it is to live in countries in Asia and South America for extended periods and maintain the same standard of living, but many are being forced to consider alternative lifestyles as their jobs are made redundant, they lose support systems, and one serious accident can plunge them into debt (myself included).

That having been said, I met quite a few characters at Hosteling International Santa Monica who didn’t fit the typical mold of guests:

1. The Angry Older Lady

I’m definitely not asserting it’s improper for a senior, let alone a woman, to stay at a hostel when she travels. More power to her. Regardless, judging from this one’s behavior, it’s a safe bet she’s been this way most of her life. Some people just don’t know how to behave in a society, and would soak up every last ray of sunshine if their bodies were capable of it. Yes, this lady is one of them.

I had just stepped in off 2nd Street and waited for the front desk attendant to return from the back and confirm my reservation. About two seconds later, someone emerged through the security door with a frown on her face and a crumpled paper in hand. She didn’t address me directly, but in a shouting whisper, started cursing and complaining: “Ridiculous… not fair… stupid…” (PG-13 version).

When the staff came out and took down my information, I had one more question before heading up to my dorm, but this woman would have none of it. To the whole room, which had now become moderately full of people, she exclaimed “I’M NEXT!” in a frantic patronizing tone. I gave my best look of sympathy to the HI staff, and hurried away.

Some people, even when they’re not having a bad day, are just bitter. Unfamiliar with societal norms, they don’t hesitate to destroy the happiness of anything and everything blocking their path.

2. The Loud Talker

I’m biased here. I’ve never been a fan of loud or close talkers. One woman in Thailand had so much stinking alcohol on her breath and wanted to engage me a great expat debate. Another nearly got us kicked off a bus in Samcheok, where the driver pulled over and told us off in front of the other passengers. To a certain degree, I’m glad some people are outgoing without a trace of fear (have you ever known a loud talker to be an introvert?), but when one is in a shared living situation, there are codes to follow:

a. Don’t be a douche

b. Really, don’t be a douche (will address with the next character)

c. Clean up your own mess… this applies anywhere, really

Some of us just want to sit on the bus and read our books without your music blasting in our ears, or maybe just sit and stare… whatever the case, your noise robs us of the choice. Your voice, your computer, your phone, your tapping your foot repeatedly. All taboo and subject to a consensus when others are present.

In Santa Monica, this particular guest had the habit of squeezing herself into every single conversation around the common areas; if someone wasn’t talking, she made sure he’d be talking to her soon enough. All well and good, I suppose, if her major hub hadn’t been outside my window after 12 AM and before 7 AM. I honestly don’t think she ever left the building… just trying to establish a connection by any means necessary; I can respect that.

Learned later she was on social security and would most likely not have a place to stay after HI.

3. The Idiot

Remember the second code? It’s really simple. Don’t be a douche. Clean up after yourself. If you’re going to return to the hostel in the middle of the night, don’t turn on the main lights and talk loudly about what a great evening you just had (looking at guests of X-Base Auckland).

In all honestly, 90% of the people in my 10-bed dorm were very respectful, quiet, and good conversationalists… with the exception of one who choose to leave his alarm on before walking out of the room at 6 AM, shutting it in his locker, then superficially apologizing after the rest of us pried the door open and shut off his phone.

4. The Hustler

Seriously, in a hostel? It’s not like hookups in hostels don’t happen on occasion, but to employ the same methods as street harassers?

Saturday night. Mellow hostel evening. Plenty are staying inside prepping for travel tomorrow. One man is stationed by the elevators, accosting every woman on her way up or down, seeing if she’d be interested in hanging out. Very subtle. Very annoying.

This concludes characters I’ve been at the hostel, but I’ve also come across a few in my LA travels worth mentioning. Two kids from Hawaii away from the islands for the first time, just looking to meet people. The crazy “dancer” at the Korean Friendship Bell, practicing the same bad kung fu kicks and punches since 7 AM. The masseuse at Whole Foods who is also an actress in Texas and an activist.

Right now, I’m staying at HI South Bay, which is relaxing beyond belief. I wake up and go to sleep with the Pacific Ocean right outside my window. Because of the lack of public transportation, there are very few guests staying; I have a 6-bed dorm to myself. I think it’s safe to say I’ll get some writing and reading accomplished in the next few days.

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