I walk through the doors to the hostel and greet the Night Manager who, at that moment, bears a striking resemblance to a dead body that’s been propped up behind a counter.
The jumbo coffee I purchased from the 7-11 is already kicking in and I sense the “MORNING!” I bellow across the room isn’t entirely appreciated. I really need to find a way to monetize being annoying in the morning because goddamn I’m good at it. Do what you love, they say.
I read the list of things from prior shifts that need to be resolved. Two guests had to move rooms due to messy roommates and need refunds. One claims to have a rash. I make a note to talk to the messy boys as someone else left a review online about it, so it’s a legitimate issue. That said, the review guy asked to be Facebook friends with my colleague when she was checking him in, so he’s obviously a lunatic.
I also make a note to enquire regarding the rash. No doubt the guest has been told by a pharmacist that it’s bed bugs, which they always do and it never is.
A little fun fact: Bed bug bites are clustered together and are quite large, welt-like bites. If you have a couple of small bites on your arm and a few on your legs it isn’t bed bugs. If you have seven large bites on your ankle it may be bed bugs. If you have six on your torso it may be six geese-a-laying and, everybody! FIVE GOOOOLLLLD RIIIINGSSS. Four french cigars, three foreskins, two something else… I don’t know the words.
There’s another note that some private room guests are not happy with the temperature, noise, bed, toilet and sink in their room, which literally leaves the shelves as the only object in the room they haven’t taken a dislike to.
A guest walks up to the near-antique luggage scale we have in reception – that has a sign on it that says not to stand on it – and stands on it.
I print a new, bigger sign, with pictures of feet with a big cross and a suitcase with a big tick (and words explaining the feet and the cross and the bag and the tick) and then I highlight the cross in red marker and the tick in green marker and get a digital scale and place it beside the luggage scale so those who feel the need to weigh themselves in reception can do so and OH MY GOD JUST DON’T STAND ON IT.
The first guest who moved rooms last night comes down. I apologise and offer him a refund of the difference in room price, which he was happy with. I don’t mention a rash and neither does he. Maybe it’s the other guy. Maybe it’s Rashbelline.
Some guests check-out and ask if they can store their bags for the day. The key to the luggage room is on a big, stuffed toy platypus to stop people thinking it’s their personal key and disappearing with it, leaving us with a locked luggage room full of bags that we can’t get out.
After returning their key deposit I hand them the platypus, which they hold at arms length and stare at as if I just handed them a human bladder. “It’s the key,” I say, after which they all laugh as if I told a joke, which I didn’t.
The second guest who had to move because of the messy roommates comes to reception. I refund the difference in price and apologise. He was lovely. No mention of a rash. Did I read the note right? Someone, somewhere in this building has a rash and I WILL FIND IT IF IT KILLS ME.
The guests who are unhappy with their bed, room temperature, noise, toilet, sink and lives arrive at reception. I let them know I have another room they can move to if they like. They ask me if the bed in the other room is comfortable. I say that I can’t, off the top of my head, remember the comfort level of every bed in the hostel.
I give them a key to the new room to do some bed assessing and the bed is the same, they are unhappy to report, but the air-con is less noisy so they will move anyway. I tell them it’s no problem and move them to the new room but hmm, weird, I seem to have neglected to mention that their new room is on the noisiest floor in the whole hostel. Oh my, I’m such a scatterbrain. I’d forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on.
A French backpacker arrives to check-in and I talk at her so quickly she asks me to slow down at least four times, but I can’t because of the aforementioned jumbo coffee and, when I try, I become illiterate and wonder if I’m having a caffeine induced stroke:
“Dooooo youuuu haaaave a boooooooking? Whaaat naaame it underrr is? Pleeaaases passspooortt haaaave forrr meee youuu a deeeeposssiiit tuuuurrtttle.”
A guest comes to reception and informs me that the fridges in the communal kitchen, packed with hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars of food, are smelling funky and also that the thermostat says 13 degrees and is flashing “Fd” on the little screen that only has space for two letters.
I note the thermostat model and consult google to discover the fridge is defrosting. Hmm, one would think that “Df” would be a more appropriate acronym, unless the “Fd” actually means “this fridge is Fucked“.
Google has instructions on how to disable the defrost mode and put it back on cooling but, of course, there is no cooling function on the thermostat and none of the other acronyms on the thermostat are in the manual.
I toggle functions up and down until the thermostat starts going down, after which I return to reception to wait and see if we’ve averted a major incident or if someone is going to come and complain that their ham has grown nipples.
I check the messy dorm that the guests requested to be moved out of and think that Chernobyl would be a lovely place to vacation, by comparison. I give the guys some training on how to be human beings, the first lesson of which is that cheese is less likely to retain its freshness when stored on carpet.
A man calls and asks to speak to me. It’s Wayne, the son of the guy whose box of cremated remains we found abandoned in one of our dorms a couple of days ago. We have no idea how long it had been there for, but it had the deceased’s name and crematorium contact on it so I was able to track down the rightful owner.
Wayne isn’t sure how it ended up in the hostel as his sister has already scattered the ashes, so the box should be empty. I tell him that it rattles when I shake it (please let it not be bones, please let it not be bones). He asks me to look inside and see what it is and I say “hmmm” for so long that he says I don’t have to, which of course makes me change my mind and want to because, when it boils down to it, I want to see if it’s bones.
I pry open the container and find four metal tablespoons.
Wayne is as confused as I am – perhaps his sister used the spoons to scatter the ashes? – but we have a lovely conversation and, before hanging up, he tells me to put the container in the bin. I think about keeping the spoons for the guests to use – we’re always short on cutlery, god knows what the backpackers do with it – but decide against it because, um, I don’t think I need to rationalize that decision.
The sunny weather has motivated the guests to venture out into the sunshine, so all is calm on the western front.
I set to the task of processing the refunded key deposits in the computer. This involves doing the same thing (Right click. Click Update Booking. Click Sales. Click the dropdown menu. Click Key Deposit Return. Click Add. Click Payment. Type $20. Click the dropdown menu . Select Cash. Click Update. Click Close. Click Update. Click Close. Click No. Click Close. Click Close) so many times that when you’re done your index finger starts to resemble a thumb or, on a busy day, a big toe.
I check the fridges. 3 degrees. Then it drops to 2.5 degrees. I consider the ramifications if it keeps dropping and becomes a freezer. I really don’t have time to be dealing with pointy nipple ham right now because, right on schedule, Wade has started calling.
Wade has dementia and lives in a nursing home somewhere. Years ago he got our phone number and now calls 5-10 times a day – every day – and asks the same questions: can we post him some Penrith time tables, and some XPT timetables too, and when can he expect those to arrive, and how long do the bars stay open in Darling Harbour and are the McDonalds in the city open 24 hours?
I always give the same reply: They’re in the post, he can expect them Monday or Tuesday, the clubs are open until 2am and there are three 24-hour McDonalds in the city. He thanks me and hangs up, only to call back and we run through the routine again. And again. And again. And again and again and again. Every day.
It’s annoying, especially when you’ve got 12 guests standing at reception, but there’s something sweet about the fact that the experience he is reliving over and over is planning a trip to the big smoke, as opposed to what I what I’m pretty sure I will relive over and over should I ever develop dementia: Click, right click, click, close, update, close…
I do my cash-up while my colleague takes over answering calls from Wade and do one final lap of the hostel before finishing for the day. The fridges are stable at 3.5 degrees. Emergency avoided.
Our wonderful Nepalese cleaner (with limited English skills) comes to reception and starts saying something about shit.
“Shit. Shit. Shit!” she says, over and over again, while I think NO THIS IS NOT HAPPENING.
Any experienced hostelier knows that every so often you will have what we call a “shitter”. A shitter is a guest who intentionally shits in places most people generally know not to shit, like a basin or a locker or a fire escape. When a shitter is in-house there will be random turds popping up all over the place until they check out. They’re almost impossible to identify because there’s so many people around and they’re fucking savvy. The professional shitter sometimes likes to up the game by smearing shit on the walls. A friend once told me they had a shitter who somehow managed to empty a full load into one of those kettles that don’t even have a lid to take off to put the water in. They’d snaked it down the spout.
Anyway, it’s the end of my shift and I really cannot be dealing with shit right now. I don’t care where it is, whose it is, if the consistency makes it pick up-able or if we need a hose, no no no no no no no. But the cleaner continued.
No no no no no, I say, covering my ears.
I look around for my colleague who has OF COURSE disappeared as soon as the word came out of the cleaners mouth.
OH, sheets. Got it. Something about sheets.