Across Continents

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One that almost got away

November 26th, 2011

I’d heard endless plaudits about the hostel at San Francisco’s Fisherman Wharf. But I was less than impressed. Initially at least. Single room for a couple of nights whilst I sorted out all my kit. Then decanting to a cheaper dorm bed. A far brighter, more pleasant place than the rather dingy affair I’d started with. And it wasn’t directly beneath the hostel’s cafe. Joked that in Alcatraz at least the cells were en-suite.

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Single rooms aside, I found myself slowly warming to the place. The staff were pleasant enough, patient and helpful. But it was the atmosphere that led me to put aside first impressions. Airy common room, music playing gently in the background, fellow hostellers as varied in their accents as their ages.

I’d also grown to love the hostel’s little eatery. Cafe Franco. Bohemian. Plenty of refreshingly health options and remarkably sensible prices. Sufficiently fond of the place to forgive them for their invariable lateness in opening up for the complementary breakfast. You could set your watch by it.

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Captive audience

November 26th, 2011

I’d couldn’t bear to watch. Truly I couldn’t. She had laryngitis, compounded, she said, by an earlier altercation with a protester at a demonstration in the city. Now a captive audience, able only to nod. Trying my best to sustain a modicum of dialogue with yes and no questions.

What flavour did she prefer, I asked. She scribbled her answer on a plain napkin. Entrusting her with my netbook, I left the hostel’s Cafe Franco for the nearby supermarket. Returning a short time later with a decent sized tub of ice cream.

She’d come to San Francisco for a fresh start. Searching for a job, and somewhere to live. Permitted only to spend a couple of weeks a year in each hostel before being obliged to move on. Motels or hotels far too expensive.

I’d met her by chance in the breakfast queue, suspecting her of trying to jump in and teasing her accordingly. A little sarcastic. Surprised then when she’d asked to join me at my table. Not the greatest of starts.

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