Step away from the microwave
I have no complaints about my time here at the Cat's hostel in Madrid. It's been a great experience: that is, except for one very unpleasant incident this evening. It was New Year's Eve, and we were all down in the Cat's bar, having a few beverages as you do (but not that many). An American girl sitting upstairs asked me to heat up a donut that she'd bought: she said that we weren't supposed to go behind the bar and use the microwave; but I was in a jolly festive mood, so I said: "here, give me the donut, and I'll heat it up behind the bar — it's not like anyone's going to care." Boy, was I wrong — clearly, the hostel staff had no interest whatsoever in joining in on the New Year's spirit. In almost a year of travelling, I've managed to never once pi$$ off a hostel's management: and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that heating up a donut without permission would get me in more hostel-bound trouble than almost anything else on this trip.
I take the donut, I walk behind the bar (barely even noticing the "out of bounds" sign on the wall), I stick it in the microwave, and I zap it onto high for 20 seconds. No sooner had I pushed the "start" button, than one of the staff members marches out of reception, walks behind the bar to where I'm standing, grabs me by the shoulder and says: "bueno, vamos" (lit: "right, let's go"). I'm still smiling, thinking that everything's hunky-dory, but that perhaps they're going to give me a little slap on the wrist for using the microwave without permission. I give a nod to the American girls sitting and watching, to assure them that everything's still OK.
Everything was not OK.
First, straight off the bat, the staff guy said to me (in Spanish): "you're leaving right now; give me your room key."
"WHAT?!" I screamed back (also in Spanish).
"You broke the rules, you went behind the bar. Now you can get out," he replied. "Refund this guest his deposit and the cost of his remaining night immediately", he added to the guy beside him.
"What are you talking about?" I cried out, in utter shock and ready to collapse. "You can't kick me out — all I did was go behind the bar, and I didn't even know it wasn't allowed! Please — this is New Year's Eve!"
I forget exactly what the staff guy said to me next — he said a lot, and he talked very fast, and it was all in Spanish (I'm pretty sure that he knew English, and that he just couldn't be bothered using it). But the general gist of it was: "you broke the rules... the 'out of bounds' sign was clear... we already warned your American lady friends... you have no respect... we got no time for people like you... I don't give a f$#% where you go, you can sleep on the street with the homeless s$#%." Basically, within less than 1 minute he almost had me in tears, in utter shock, and feeling like I'd just committed a federal offence. All I could think was: "this isn't real — this must be some kind of terrible nightmare."
Anyway, the pr$ck dude stamped off out of the office, and I was left pleading with his buddy behind the desk for another 10 minutes. I also said a lot, and also all in (half-decent) Spanish; and the gist of it was: "I'm sooo sorry... I honestly didn't know... I was just doing a favour for those girls... it was a bit of harmless fun... I didn't think... it was very foolish of me... please don't kick me out... I have nowhere else to go... I booked this place two months ahead (no joke — for NYE, I wasn't prepared to take any chances)... this is New Year's Eve, please just let me enjoy it."
The pr$ck boss walked back in after a while, and his buddy started talking to him; and sort-of pleading on my behalf. Eventually, the boss softened a little bit, he handed me back my room key, and he said: "very well, you're off the hook — but if you do anything else while you're here — ANYTHING — you're out. Understood?"
"Yes — thankyou!" I said, virtually exploding with relief. "Don't worry, I understand, I'll be a good boy — very sorry about the incident, nothing like it will happen again." I scurried off back to the bar, feeling trodden-on and utterly humiliated, and still in a state of severe shock.
And so it was that before New Year's Eve had even properly started, it was almost ruined for me. And that's also the closest I've ever come to getting kicked out of a hostel. All that, just for sticking a bloody donut in the microwave! In retrospect, it was a little bit silly, and I was a little bit tipsy (although not as tipsy as I should have been, by 10pm on Dec 31st), and I shouldn't have listened to the American girl (even though she was blonde and beautiful — that's always my downfall). But then again, the consequences that I suffered were completely over-the-top, whichever way you look at it. It takes one hell of a pr$ck to (nearly) kick someone out of a hostel, on New Year's Eve, for the simple act of going behind the bar without permission (and with an otherwise clean record). Had the guy gone ahead and left me for dead on the street — and I have no doubt that he was serious, and that he was about 2mm away from doing it — that would have ruined my New Year like nothing else could have. I'm sure people have gotten kicked out of hostels for worse things than that: but I have trouble imagining that anyone's ever been kicked out for less.