October 4th, 2012
I interrupt this blogging of my travel travails to ask the public when sleeping became illegal. I must have missed the memo which proclaimed one may only sleep for perhaps four hours per night and three hours is even better.
Travel means spending many nights in different beds. Some people find this disorienting but I’m happy to sleep anywhere one can find fresh air (being asthmatic). Unfortunately, there are times when nice buildings might have things go awry with them and various irritants can enter rooms. These might come through the vents or be brought in by other guests, as is often the case in hostels. I prefer those economical housing options for traveling on a fixed income but have to offer this tale of woe regarding those hostel chains which forbid one to sleep anywhere but in your assigned bed. No matter what may befall you.
Sleep deprivation is long known to workers everywhere. As a former administrator and teacher, I often skipped many hours of sleep in order to get more work done while learning my crafts, or when I’d missed time due to illness. However, I recall that it was generally my choice to make that sacrifice. During the months before I left the U.S., I noticed that no matter where I seemed to be staying, I’d be rudely awakened after a mere five hours of sleep. It was simply impossible to gett in the additional hours of healing sleep needed for this aging body.
Sleep deprivation has also been noted to be institutionalized for younger bodies in various placed around the world, such as China (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2006-03/21/content_547966.htm ) . Sleep deprivation effects have been well studied in other countries (http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1812420,00.html ) revealing very interesting patterns among citizens. I also recall a condition known as fibromyalgia, a “çentral” pain syndrome, was attributed to inflammation caused by lack of sleep (http://www.clinicaladvisor.com/detecting-sleep-abnormalities-early-helps-reduce-fibromyalgia-risk/article/235479/).
As a traveler however, I have to state my expectation of being allowed to sleep in a place where I’ve paid for that privilege.
On two occasions now, I was unable to remain in a room assigned to me in a hostel (same chain actually). The first occasion was in London where I fell asleep in a room filled with friendly, young Korean women. I awoke an hour later with an asthma attack, noting some odd odors had infiltrated the room. The young ladies, who also appeared to have awakened at the same time, went back to sleep with no apparent surprise or comment. Rather than disturb them and unable to remain there myself, I went to the lobby area where a young clerk was at the front desk. Another guest was apparently asleep at a window seat at the opposite end of the room. He was hastily awakened by the clerk who growled at him to wake up. Shrugging, the guest told him to in unprintable terms not to bother him and went back to sleep.
In the meantime, I sat in another window seat and began to read. The clerk requested an explanation of what I was doing in the lobby so I described the problem. He informed me that I needed to go back to my room or leave the hostel. Guests weren’t allowed to sleep in the lobby area. Pointedly looking at the other man snoring in the corner, I informed the clerk that I would obey his request but couldn’t return to the room due to my medical condition.
As he harried the sleeping man out of the lobby, I began to read. By 2:50 AM, I nodded off of course, being human and requiring a decent night of rest. Perhaps ten minutes later I was being shouted at by the clerk to wake up. He angrily informed me that not only must I not sleep in the lobby but that I must leave the hostel immediately. Mind you, this is in the wee hours of a chilly London morning, in an area of questionable safety. I’m a four foot, eleven inch tall lady with a degree of frailty quite obvious to the average observer. Such treks aren’t really in the tour guide for the United Kingdom.
I refused to leave the premises. He went behind his counter and busied himself with some papers for a minute and then told me that he’d cancelled the charge to my credit card for the night. Therefore, I must exit right away or he’d call the police.
I’m in my fifties and not inexperienced in dealing with obstreperous young people. I said ”no”, more emphatically. He then demanded I give him my credit card so he could charge me once more. Not wishing to entrust my bank card to someone so unstable, I assured him that it would be my pleasure to give my card to his supervisor in the morning to pay for my ‘stay’, such as it was. However, no way was he getting his hands on the card!
He then threatened to call the police and insisted I leave once more. Sighing patiently at that point, I told him to please go ahead and call the police. I figured it would be safer for me to have the cops come and witness this incredibly bizarre incident that to ignore it. The clerk put in the call and we waited about fifteen minutes for them to arrive.
The police officers were very surprised at the request to put me out on the street at such an hour. They looked sympathetic but could not go as far as ordering him to let me close my eyes and sleep sitting up in my chair. They did refuse to allow him to order me off the premises, regretfully asking me to comply with the rules about not falling asleep. They then reminded the young man that I was certainly no danger to him or to myself and that there was no reason to evict me. These were officers from the Holborn precinct in London and I plan to obtain a copy of that incident report for my records. It might be very entertaining.
So, the young man was forced to keep the status-quo. I spent an uncomfortable half hour coughing as he went through his end of shift cleaning routine with a mop and bucket of cleaning fluid before leaving around six AM. His supervisor arrived and completed the cleaning routine with a spray bottle and cloth before hearing out the tale. Since her hostel was to appear by name in a police report, it seemed sensible for her to know the facts. She apologized for the inappropriate behavior of her subordinate and I left not long afterwards.
Why do I recall this night? Because the same thing happened once again in an Amsterdam hostel this week. The people of Amsterdam are very friendly and hospitable to strangers so I am not saying this is a typical experience. However, the other night, I spent a third evening at a particular spot and found myself alone in a large dormitory. It smelled of recent fumigation, either in the room or from some adjacent spot/lower floor treatment. After half an hour, I gave up trying to stay in the room and went down to the lobby to work at the computer. Dozing off at one point, I was warned by the desk clerk that sleeping in the lobby wasn’t allowed.
Not wishing to revisit this kind of argument, I retreated to a stairwell where I settled down on the bottom step and closed my eyes. Around an hour later, I was visited by one of two night clerks for a discussion about my choices of sleeping locations. Refusing to return to the dorm room, I was then invited to go back to the lobby.
“May I close my eyes sitting up on the couch then?” I wanted this to be perfectly clear as there was no way I was going to be able to stay awake all night.
“Certainly not! There is no sleeping in the lobby.”
“Then I’ll stay here.”
“No, you really must go back to your room or I’ll have to call the police.”
“Oh, please do!”
The clerk seemed astonished that I’d welcome the police but a sleep deprived 50+ year old can be polite for just so long before asking the police to intervene and handle such nonsense for her. The clerk backed down and left. I went back to sleep only to be awakened perhaps a half hour later by the other clerk. This time I was told my luggage and I were fire hazards, blocking stairwell egress. Finding that reasonable, I rearranged my luggage to leave a wide swathe of quite adequate space in the ample stairwell. After that, we went back over the same ground except this time I told him to please call the police. He declined but then returned to the same scripted dialogue in which I was given the choice of staying awake in the lounge area despite the demands of my body for sleep, or returning to my room.
I thanked him for his input and closed my eyes once more. He was quite disgruntled and demanded to know why I was being rude and refusing to speak with him. Informing him that going back to sleep was the least rude thing I could do at that point, I ended the interaction in this manner and he eventually left. Both clerks returned at six thirty to awaken me in a tag team match that I immediately conceded, not wanting to disrupt the waking guests soon to be on their way out to begin another fun-filled day in Holland.
At that point, I returned to my room but still experienced some problems breathing so I retreated to the lobby once more. While seated at the computer, a day supervisor came over and we reviewed the night’s events. She apologized for the behavior of the clerks saying that because of my condition, I should have been allowed to sit up on the couch and close my eyes as needed. Returning my fee to me, she directed me to a bathroom off of the main room for my morning ablutions and I was on my way an hour later.
There appears to be a societal issue with sleep. I hope someone can share that secret with me before I collapse from fatigue