Welcomed Back With Open Arms
It is early in the morning. Jewish people around the world are observing Yom Kippur by not eating, washing or having sex- and getting a glimpse into the lives of oil rig workers, creepy guys who rent nothing but porn and Star Trek: Voyager, people on solo polar expeditions, castaways who talk to inanimate objects and unpopular teenagers in the process. People are being searched at airports in various parts of the world and are having things like toothpaste and gel-filled bras confiscated due to inane laws passed by overly paranoid (American) politicians who have released a
No Fly List that prohibits dead Nazi sympathisers and the head of Lebanese parliament from boarding planes. Later on today actress Tamara Dobson, known primarily for her role in the blaxpoitation classic Cleopatra Jones, will die from complications from pneumonia and multiple sclerosis.
For now though it feels cold. Tallinn is much how I remembered it except at this time of the morning (around 5 or 6) it is devoid of people and everything looks like it has been shot with a blue filter. It feels like I've arrived in town after the Rapture has taken place and its too late to repent. I stagger towards the general direction of the Backpackers.
Having arrived at my destination I ring the buzzer in order to be let in. The Backpackers wakes from its sleep, stretches its legs and makes a slight 'click' indicating that the door is now open. I try to open the door. Stuck. I buzz again. Again I hear the 'click'. The door still won't open. Buzz. Click. Stuck Buzz. Click. Stuck This happens once more until I read the sign that informs me I have to pull the handle towards me before it will open. Oops. I am such an idiot.
I climb up the stairs and enter the reception area where the staff member in charge looks at me with bleary eyes. 'Who are choo?' He has a Spanish accent. An accent deprived of much needed sleep.
'I'm Fatman. I'm here to work later on today.'
He looks at me dubiously.
'Honestly. I spoke with John when I was in Vilnius. You know John? Irish. Ill-tempered, foul mouthed...'
'I know who Chon is. He didn't mention nothing about choo. And choo are not on the computer. Nowhere.' He's pissed off with me for waking him up but I can't help but want to order caprihinias with that accent.
'I see.' Brief images of me sleeping at the bus station flash before my eyes.
'Go find a bed anyway. Choo can discuss this with him when he awakens.'
And that's how I met Hector.
Six in the morning is not a normal time to be awake, unless you work in a bakery or plan to break family members out of jail. The upstairs 10-bed dorm resembles an army hospital. The darkened room is filled with unconscious bodies, some emitting noise, some emit foul smells. I pick an empty bed and crash into it, knowing that on the other side of sleep will be a new beginning, a new life where I shall be appreciated for my hard work.
'You're an hour and a half late,' says John, 'Not the best start for your first shift.' Having been the subject of several sackings in the past I'm unfazed by these words but judging by the smile on his face I can tell he's taking the piss. Which saves me from retorting in the usual way ( 'Bite me ya spud-eating, horse marrying thug!'). Instead I say, 'Where do you want me to start chief?'
'Have you ever seen one of these before?'
'It's...a vacuum hose. But where is the rest of the vacuum cleaner?'
John walks to a section of the lounge room wall, opens a latch and plugs the hose into a hole. He pushes the latch forwards and the vacuum hose kicks into life.
'This is a built-in vacuum cleaner. The suction motor is in a central location in the hostel. All you need to do is carry the pickup head around.'
And it is great fun. For about two minutes. Then I'm just a guy vacuuming. It would've been a great adventure if I was, say, a gynoid from Stepford. But as it was my natural instincts are to be a slob. Encoded in my DNA is the urge to litter the world with pizza boxes and empty beer bottles. Not clean stuff up.