In which I (briefly) second-guess the hostel.Posted by Donna Freedman on Mar 12, 2011 | 17 comments
I lived in Anchorage, Alaska, for 17 years. About 15 of those years were spent in a trailer whose flat roof needed to be shoveled. My now-ex husband never acknowledged the existence of household or maintenance duties, so I was the one who clambered up.
I was then and am now afraid of heights. The second-worst part of the chore was stepping off the ladder and onto the roof.
The worst part? Getting back on, because there was nothing to hold onto save the top of the ladder, which extended a couple of feet past the roof line.
The first time I looked at the job I knew that getting back down was going to be scary. That’s why I came up with the strategy of leaving a patch of snow next to the ladder.
After the rest of the roof was clear I would sit down in the little snowdrift. Once my ass got cold enough I’d do anything to get off that roof – including swinging my left leg around through open air until I felt a ladder rung and then swinging my right leg around, too.
I thought of that strategy twice on this trip – the nights when I was assigned to the upper bunk of a hostel pod bed.
Hey, ho, up she rises
Just as an icy butt urged me down a ladder, extreme weariness sent me up one. But this wasn’t a real ladder, as you can see from this photo:
Nope, just three weirdly spaced rungs – and worse, no hand-holds above them. All I could do was grip the edges of the narrow bed frame.
Apparently it’s a simple process if you’re young and confident, or even old and flexible. But my still-wonky right ankle hurt as I balanced on it, trying to coax my left leg up to the next rung, my fingers scrabbling desperately for better holds.
It took several false starts: One foot up and on, hands pulling myself upward, and then my body would start to shake as I tried to move higher. Back down to the floor I’d go. One foot up and on, then back down. And once I finally did get near the top it seemed impossible to propel myself up over the ledge and onto the mattress.
Think “I Love Lucy,” but climbing into a pod bed rather than a vat full of grapes.
In the morning was worse: Still no hand-holds, and doing it backwards. Then there’s that full-bladder thing.
What goes up must come down
Both times I asked to be reassigned, but both times they were full-up. My downstairs neighbors were never around I was awake so I couldn’t ask to trade.
The first time coming back down was the worst. That was the morning I woke up to a male voice. It turned out to be an elderly Irish guy who was already on his second can of beer. Not to perpetuate a stereotype.
He stood there grinning as I struggled to maneuver myself onto the ladder. And yep: It took several false starts then, too.
When I finally thumped to the floor I looked pointedly at his choice of beverage. Still grinning, he told me that it was “French beer,” which still didn’t make 7:30 a.m. tippling classy.
“I have orange juice for after,” he said. “But this gets me going.”
I bet it did. Especially, oh, about 20 minutes after it was consumed.
The upper-bunk nights were the only two occasions I regretted my decision to use a hostel. On the whole, I’m glad I’m here: Cheap sleep = longer stay.
But I sure am glad that I won’t have to climb up there again. Or shovel roofs, for that matter. Or share a room with a guy who takes beer before his orange juice.