Sunday, July 11, 2010

Immodesty

I walk into the hostel, tired, a little sweaty, and dragging my bag behind me, a trip that has now been about fifteen more blocks than I had originally intended. The girl behind the hostel desk seems happy enough and I explain that I am the person on the phone and that I am here to check into my room. She looks me up and after a moment tells me that my room is not ready or available yet, but should be by the afternoon and in the meantime I can put my bags in the locker that is in the basement. She directs me toward the basement, which is basically only accessible by the elevator. The elevator has a door knob. It has a porthole-type window on it, and is at least seventy years old. I thought this was interesting.

I get into the elevator, push the pop up button for down and after some bouncing up and down, a little jerking, and something that sounds like a hiccuping whine I am borne down to the lower level and put my bags into a locker. I don’t want to have to bring everything I have with me down to the meeting/interview with the person I’m working with. I also wanted to change, as I certainly was not going to wear the outfit I needed for the interview to on the plan and train. Considering my hot walk through the subway and my unexpected fifteen-block jog in NYC I am glad for that. I throw my suitcase down on the floor, open it up and pull out the blouse I packed on top for the meeting, and then realized I don’t have a room. I look around quickly on both sides of the basement/ounge and note the absence of anyting like a bathroom. I end up back in the locker room where two young guys are locking up. I figure as soon as they move I can change.

They continue to not move. I am far too aware of how quickly my time is passing and I need to get down and out of there sooner rather than later, so I turn to guy number 1 and say “Look, I hope you are not shy, but I need to change my shirt, is that okay?”

Ne c'est pas?” He says back to me.

It is at that moment that it dawns on me that I have been surrounded by accents and languages for the last five minutes. For some reason this had not registered on my sense before, but now I am acutely aware of all the languages and accents that I am hearing. Of course.

I point to shirt in hand, point to shirt on body, mimic pulling it over my head. Guy 1 smiles. Not sure that is what I was going for, but finally decide it’s just not worth trying to explain it, turn around, pull off my shirt, and pull the blouse on for the meeting. I think this may, in many ways, be a result of having been on the road for the better part of this year. I just don’t have the sense of modesty that perhaps I should at times. I spend so much of my time changing in people’s living rooms, or dining rooms, or in my own hotel room, or in another person's guest room, or in the train bathroom, or in the plane bathroom, and I keep doing this and doing this, and finally it has just worn me down. So what, a stranger is going to see my bra, they can deal. Fortunately the French guys behind me did not care. All dressed and ready to go I flew back out the door, back up the shaky-shaky rocky-rolly elevator, down the streets and to my meeting; stressed to be sure, but none the worse for wear.

Later that evening I return back to my hostel and grab my bag to roll into my room. I’m informed that my roommate has already checked in. I’m not sure if she will be there when I check in but I figure it is cool either way. I roll down the hall with my bag, unlock the door to a nice cushy little room with a bunk bed.

It’s white and brown (as seems to be the theme of the hostel). The bottom bunk has been claimed by the placement of a white towel, so I will be on the top bunk. Fine, fine, I think to myself. I roll my bag into a far corner, check my hair in the mirror and go out to Broadway to find something to eat, which proved a dramatic and expensive set of choices. When I end up back at my room later I find that the room is no longer empty but occupied. On the bed is a girl with a German accent. We talk for a few minutes and within moments have hit it off completely. She is a writer, a professor, traveling to NYC. She understands education and multiple-intelligence theory. I accompanied her out to a cigarette, and we talked more about the publishing business, and the writing game. Being both writers we had a number of thoughts about our various genres. Under the light I realize she is a lot older than I had guessed, probably her mid-fifties. She is from South Africa by way of Germany. She is lovely and wise. We talk, but both of us are feeling drained after a day of traveling and moving in; we are both probably in bed by eleven.

I lay in the top bunk of the bed and look out the blue window on my right. The night in NYC is cool and chill, unlike the somewhat warm day. The blanket on the bed is just enough, the sounds of the city are distant, nary a passing car breaks through to interrupt me before I drift off to sleep after my first long day in NYC.

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