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So this is pretty wrong, but it happened. I had to kick two Americans out of the hostel earlier tonight. They’d only checked in a couple of hours earlier and had paid up for the next five nights, but now they’re wandering the streets of Rome looking for another place to stay. On top of that, Mario refused to give them their money back, so they lost around 90 Euros each.

I had just started the night shift and although technically the smoking terrace was shut for the night, I told these two lads that they could stay out there a bit longer so long as they were quiet. It was fine because Mario was gone for the night, so no one was going to bother them. They only wanted somewhere safe to be able chill out and smoke the nice lump of hash they’d just bought. I was going to go out there and join them once everything was under control at reception, leaving Amin to man the desk alone for a bit while I got stoned, to be able to float nicely through the rest of the night shift. I turned off all the lights in the communal area and closed it off to guests and waited for the last remaining stragglers to piss off out for the night. The unmistakable fragrant aroma of marijuana filled the air. It smelt delicious.

Amin was balancing the books for the day and Matt and I were just stood chatting about nothing in particular when fucking Mario walked in the door. He didn’t need any time to smell what we could all smell. ‘What the fuck is that? Drugs in my hostel!’ Mario’s policy is zero tolerance. I’d been unaware until that moment of how seriously he enforced it, but now I found out. He flew out onto the terrace; they never had a chance. He grabbed one of them by the collar. I’ve never seen him that angry before. ‘Pack your bags! Get the fuck out of my hostel!’ They tried to reason with him but he was having none of it. He came back to reception and told me that I was to make sure they were gone in 10 minutes. Then he gave Matt and me a bollocking for not smelling it sooner.

‘I have to go, I’m meeting someone. Just make sure they’re out of here as quickly as possible.’ ‘Yea but Mario, don’t you think that’s a bit harsh? They didn’t know. Maybe we should just give them a warning. They know now; they won’t do it again. They seem like nice guys, no trouble. There’s no need to put them out,’ I argued. ‘Am I speaking English? What don’t you understand? I won’t have drugs in my hostel! They’re leaving.’ ‘OK, so I’ll give them their money back for the five nights they’ve paid and see that they leave.’ ‘You do not give them their money back! That’s the price they pay for bringing drugs into my hostel.’ ‘Oh but come on, Mario!’ ‘No refund! Now, I have to go.’ And then he fucked off out the door.

Matt and I looked at each other stunned. I peered round the wall to the terrace to see the two Americans just sat there quietly allowing what had just happened to sink in. Fortunately it was good hash, so they were properly mellowed out. I went out to talk to them, to tell them the situation. They accepted it; they knew they’d broken the rules, so it was fair enough that they had to be punished. They said they’d go upstairs and get their shit and then come down to reception to ask if I could recommend a different hostel, and to get their money back. Telling them that they had to hurry up and leave and that I wasn’t going to give them a refund was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Because it was me that told them to smoke on the terrace.

And me that sold them the hash.


This story is just a small taster of the book I’m currently about halfway through writing, about the year I spent working in a youth hostel in Rome back at the start of the century.

But if you’ve enjoyed it and you don’t want to wait for that to come out, you might want to pick up a copy of my first book Gatecrashing Europe, about the time I travelled to every capital city in the European Union without any money in my pocket, for Cancer Research. You can get that from Amazon or direct from the publisher Valley Press. Or from most other book sellers.