The Hidden Costs of Budget Hostels

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Mendoza, Argentina — I woke up this morning, after a long, hot, suffocating night, and decided I wanted to take a hot shower to start the day off right. A simple request I presumed for a respectable hostel in Mendoza. After finally getting the broken door to latch, I disrobed, and turned to examine what I would be working with.

Every hostel has a unique shower setup, and it takes a brave and logical man to figure out the right combination of poking and prodding necessary to produce the elusive stream of voluptuous hot water, all while avoiding burning water, freezing water, or worst of all, the electrocuting sparks common of the dodgy electrically heated shower heads prevalent throughout the world.

Initially, in my morning haze, the shower appeared of antique luxury and I was delighted. The gold faucets sparkled next to the vanity mirror and fancy European looking bidet. I turned the creaky knobs and a promising squirt of hot water fell out, followed by a slow dribble. I quickly realized this Victorian era bathroom had seen much better days. Regardless, the hot water felt so delightful, and my hopes stayed high as I waited for the pressure to pick up so I could get this party started—sadly, it wasn't cooperating.

The only way to increase the water pressure beyond a drip was by turning on the cold water as well. While this would increase the pressure to a usable level, the water temperature would instantly turn ice-cold.I discovered, however, that the hot water would flow more generously if you flipped the valve over to the bath faucet, instead of the shower head. Unfortunately, the tub itself was in no condition for sitting—I was already weary of exposing my bare feet to the molding, peeling, rusting cask.

Generally in this dilemma, I would opt for the quick cold shower, but annoyed from the night before—the relentless squeaking fan, the odd toxic odor I was warned "not to worry about", the not-so-secure security locker—this was the last straw, and dammit, I was determined to have my hot shower.

So there I stood, naked, and defeated, showering myself from the bath faucet, one glorious handful of hot water at a time. A splash here, a splash there, until I finally resigned to the fact I wasn't getting clean, at least without getting cold. Out of spite, I chose to stay dirty yet warm, but not before remembering the hidden costs of saving a peso or two on accommodations: it might afford an extra rum and coke, but a hot shower is priceless.


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