I recently took a solo trip down the California Coast and back. On this trip I opted to try staying in youth hostels for the first time, specifically those being part of Hosteling International. I had no idea how I’d feel sleeping in a dorm-style room in a bunk bed, but I figured, what the heck.
There’s a degree of loneliness that affects me when I travel alone, which is why I haven’t done it very much. The idea of coming to a place filled with people at the end of the day seemed like a good idea. This turned out to be an accurate guess. Even though I barely interacted with the other hostel guests, it was cozy to sleep in a room with others. I always opted for the top bunk, because I figured if I’m going to sleep in a kid-like situation, I may as well go for it.
The last night I stayed in a hostel that was divided into small cabins, as they sometimes are. When I first entered my cabin, there was no one there. After a while, a man showed up. He was dressed in rain gear even though it hadn’t rained in days. He lay down on the couch and sighed heavily for a long time. Being alone in the building with him made me uncomfortable, but I went ahead and made my dinner and kind of ignored him. Then a couple showed up, they seemed retired. The wife was very friendly and introduced herself and her companion. I retired to the living room to read.
They ate their dinner, at which time the couch potato got up and went to the kitchen and got into a very animated conversation with them. His conversation had a liberal sprinkling of conspiracy theories. After a while the couple went to their room, and the c.p. went back to laying on the couch and staring at the ceiling.
Then another man showed up. He wandered into the living room and said to me, “Where’s the TV?” I thought he was joking so I said “Oh darn!” but then I realized he was serious. He went to the kitchen, ate his dinner, and then joined c.p. and me in the living room.
At this point they both began to talk about themselves and I realized that both these men were unemployed and perhaps homeless. They had enough money to live in youth hostels but seemed to be drifting. For a while I engaged with them but then I went back to reading my book and just listened.
They were both very disgruntled with their lives and the state of the Bay Area, where they had both come from. They both seemed vaguely racist. C.p. was especially ranty and seemed to believe he knew everything. He mentioned that “Asian money” was what was ruining the economy, as the Chinese were buying up housing in the Bay Area by paying cash over the asking price, thereby also driving up the housing prices. TV guy mentioned he had gone to some tech conference in Silicon Valley, even though he was a car salesman. He complained how he couldn’t understand anything at the conference (why did he expect to?) and that he was the only white man there (he didn’t seem to care there were no women).
At one point, TV guy referred to me as “this young lady” and I wanted to punch him. I was about 20 years older than him.
I thought, how many guys are there like these two? Falling in between the cracks, floating around with no particular idea of what to do with themselves, seeing the world as conspiring against them? Did these guys vote Republican? And let me tell you, I’m up to here with know-it-all, bitter white guys.
This isn’t who I thought I’d meet when I signed up to go to a youth hostel. They started to discuss tech in a paranoid way, not understanding a goddamn thing about it. I’m sure it occurred to neither that there was a tech person in the room, i.e., me, because they had very rigid ideas of who was tech and what tech was. I didn’t want to listen to their griping anymore so I said, “Please excuse me, I’m going to go to bed.” At which point TV guy said, “Oh sorry to bore you”. Not in a hostile way, in a sad way. And I thought, you aren’t boring me, you’re repulsing me. Good Night.
My room had four bunk beds and I was the only one in it. I slept on the top bunk anyway. After a good nights rest, I rose early and went home. Home to Oakland, my world of diversity, artistry, tolerance, feminism and yes, tech.