Thanks to my solo trip to Denver earlier this year, I know how to Uber now, so that wasn’t a big deal; my Uber driver chatted with me and narrated our short trip yesterday evening as the Seattle airport extended further and further behind us and the city’s dazzling lights and towers came into view.
Within just twenty minutes’ time, he was dropping me off in front of the Green Tortoise Travelers Hostel where I quickly shuffled inside, climbed two short flights of stairs, and then approached the group of cool kids huddled around the front desk to check in.
When I learned that I would be traveling to Seattle a few months ago, I asked my company to please fly me in a day early and assured them that I would take care of my lodging for the extra night. Reason: I wanted to sightsee!
I used AirBnB earlier this year and it was a great experience, so AirBnB is immediately where I went to find my accommodations. There were tons of little one-room-deals being offered for $75-$150/night, but I happened upon a listing for a $60 hostel bed and it intrigued me for three reasons:
- It was cheap… duh
- Staying in a hostel would be a new experience
- In my naive little mind, staying in a hostel would be a dangerous and therefore exciting new experience
My mother and best friend and manager all disagreed wholeheartedly. “So it’ll save you FIFTEEN BUCKS? Who cares!”
“Here’s the thing, though,” I tried to explain. “If I was sharing a room with ONE other person, that WOULD be terrifying, and truly dangerous — but these hostel rooms accommodate anywhere from 4-6 people, so – statistically-speaking – the chances of me being assigned to a room with ALL bad people are just…” I paused, considering. “They’re probably really, REALLY low,” I decided, smiling. But even I wasn’t fully convinced. Still; I’d made the reservation on a whim and wasn’t about to go back on it.
BACKSTORY = OVER.
So last night, an extremely pretty Hispanic girl checked me in and gave me the low-down on rules.
“No food, drinks, or smoking in your room. You can rent out a lock for $5 and, if you return it to us when you check out, you’ll get $3 back. You can rent a towel for the showers for $1. Breakfast is served each morning from 6-10, and we offer guided tours and excursions throughout the day… they’re listed on our calendar. Check out is at 11 AM. Bring your bed linens and pillowcase with you when you check out and throw them over there.”
I turned around and saw a trash can.
“Yes, in there.”
Okay. Easy rules to follow.
She led me to my room (#206) which contained two sets of bunk beds. I did some quick math and then referred back to my statistics; the maximum number of people in this room would now be 4 instead of 6, which actually wasn’t preferable… but I brushed the uneasiness off.
“This one’s yours,” she said, indicating the bottom bunk that was closest to the door.
“Wonderful — thank you!” I smiled at her. “And the lock… is there a special way of using it?” I asked quickly, before she left.
“Uhhhhh nope… it comes with a key,” she smiled sweetly, closing the door behind her.
It took me a few minutes, but I figured how to lock my belongings in the trunk underneath my bed and then asked myself: what now? It’s 9 PM in Seattle, and I’m not SO grandmotherly that I won’t do something fun before retiring to bed.
So I zipped my wallet and phone up into the pockets of my leather jacket and stepped outside, into downtown Seattle.
The first red flag was the fact that there was lots of commotion outside — rowdy young people EVERYWHERE, hollering and laughing and tripping over their own feet on the concrete. They rattled my nerves, but I reminded myself to act cool. Act like you’ve lived here for yeaaaaaars and know the place inside and out. You “own” it.
I spotted three young people walking in a group and decided to tag along just behind them — I figured that, as they navigated to their destination, I’d (more safely) be able to find one of my own.
But unfortunately, they arrived to their destination VERY quickly: an adult theater (yes, it is as awful as it sounds) that was approximately 50 yards away from my hostel. They boisterously entered the theater, laughing and making cat-calls at each other, and I grimaced. Gross gross gross gross GROSS.
I performed a quick 180 and began backtracking, which I knew didn’t look good; if you know where you’re going, why are you turning around? Oh well. What else could be done?
I noticed that there were lots of homeless people on the streets — more so than in Birmingham, which REALLY surprised me, since Seattle’s population is actually a little lower than Bham’s. Some of them were just homeless, but others were clinically crazy and homeless; they appeared angry, too angry, and seemed to be spouting off whatever crossed their minds, berating themselves, and stop signs, and empty, crushed beer cans as they punched at the air and spit their barely-coherent words out. I felt empathetic towards them, and I also feared them.
Still trying to look cool, calm, and collected, I halted at a street crossing, and as I was waiting for the pedestrian light to turn white, I noticed a young man beside me; he was wearing cut-off shorts, a tight t-shirt, and spiky pink hair. I felt like he would be safe to talk to.
“Hey,” I whispered.
He looked at me.
“I’m so sorry to bother you, but can you please just tell me where I can buy a bottle of water in Seattle?” I forgot to mention this earlier, but I was really thirsty and had unofficially planned that my big, non-grandmotherly outing of the evening would take place at a convenience store of sorts. I just couldn’t fucking find one.
He looked puzzled. I wanted to explain myself — the drunken crowds, the adult theater, the crazed vagabonds… I feel very out of my depth right now! — but before I could…
“Uhhhh… Target?” he suggested, taking a step backward and revealing, like an angel, that gorgeously familiar red-and-white sign.
“YES!” I cried, instantly beginning to walk towards it. I noticed that he was walking alongside me.
“So you aren’t from around here,” he stated.
“No,” I shook my head, deciding it was an appropriate and necessary time to break my rock-solid cover. “I’m actually from Birmingham. I’m here for a trainers conference — I’m the training specialist for a credit union in Birmingham — but I flew in a little early…”
“Boss!” he nodded up and down. “I’m Francisco,” he offered, extending his hand.
“I’m Jace!” I announced, enthusiastically shaking his hand. I paused in front of the Target entrance, waiting to see if he was coming in or not.
“So do you like… wanna smoke some weed with me?” he offered, shrugging cutely. I’ll mention here that marijuana has been legalized in Washington.
I remembered my out-of-mind experience in Denver and frowned. “Oh, I so appreciate you asking, but it gives me such anxiety—-“ I paused. “But how about we meet for coffee tomorrow morning instead?” I offered brightly.
He stuck his hand out, shaking his head from left to right. “Too early.”
I laughed. “Well, it was nice to meet you, Francisco!”
I bought a jug of water at Target and then purchased a light dinner from the supermarket down the street: Greek-style lemon curd yogurt and an organic mozzarella cheese string. Or I guess you’d call it a stringed cheese… either way, you know what I mean.
On my way back to the hostel, I passed a scene that featured three police officers, a frightened-looking woman, and a government van (yes, van) that was pulling away. Don’t know what the hell happened there, but do you think that seeing this made me feel safer, walking the streets alone? NO.
I scarfed down my cheese string and fancy yogurt outside of the hostel’s front door and then quickly trudged upstairs to bed.
When I opened the door to my room, I gasped involuntarily.
Another person had joined my room, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise but did, and at first, I couldn’t really make out what they looked like, because they were wearing a mask. NOT a Halloween mask, or a bank robber mask, or a V for Vendetta mask. A weird, beauty face mask of sorts. It just took me a few seconds to gather what kind of mask it was.
Once I realized yes, there is another person in here; yes, they are human, I smiled to signal my okay-ness with it all and they laughed a little and then we stopped talking for the rest of the night.
This morning, I skipped out on a shower (because I couldn’t stomach the idea of renting a towel), applied some cedar-and-juniper-scented deodorant, gathered my small collection of things and checked out. I dropped off a free copy of my book at the front counter, and when an employee saw it, they ran over and picked it up.
“Did YOU write this?” they asked.
“Yeah!” I smiled. “And my best friend drew the pictures… they’re the best part of the book!”
He was delighted, which delighted me.
I navigated the city on foot for a bit this morning, feeling way more confident and optimistic that I’d continue living in the daylight. After about thirty to forty minutes of walking aimlessly, I found myself zoning out while waiting for another pedestrian light to turn white again.
“Excuse me,” a middle-aged woman asked, jolting me back to the present. “Do you know where bitchin’ biscuits is?”
I raised my eyebrows at her and noticed her husband beside her. “Uhhhhhhh… no, ma’am — I’m so sorry, I’m just visiting!” I explained. A homeless man started shrieking several yards away from us, engaged in a ruthless war with unseen forces. “I’m just trying to keep my wits about me and find a cafe,” I explained further, laughing a little.
And here I am, waking up at the Cherry Street Coffee House (they whip up a yummy caramello latte!) and preparing to head over to Pike’s Place Market for my next grand adventure.
Until the next update,