Monday, October 10, 2011

"That was so American of you"

We walked in the doors of the Shanghai City Central Youth Hostel, armed with our reservation confirmation, and breathed a sigh of relief. It was open and clean, looked friendly, and offered a free breakfast.

Lauren and I at the hostel bar.

Our room at the hostel.

My bunk.

Random picture at the bottom of the stairs.

Map of Shanghai.

This was supposed to help us figure out where we were, even
though all of the streets were written only in characters.

The lobby.

The lobby.


The bar.

The outside of our hostel.

The lobby.

Someone who apparently had a bad experience in Shanghai
had left this on a bookshelf in the lobby.

We waited in line for at least 20 minutes, during which time every single person had a problem with their reservation. Nervously, we finally approached the counter. We had reserved three beds of four in a female dorm. He took our passports and began filling out the forms. Everything seemed fine, and we figured out the amount we needed to pay. After some miscommunications, we got him to understand that we wanted to pay for all four nights at once instead of every day. Meanwhile, a massive line of other westerners was gathering behind us. (Note: no other Americans. This becomes important later.)

He handed us a key for room 1515, and explained that that was a 100 kuai key deposit that we would get back at check out, as long as we didn't lose the key. Cool. No big deal. Then came the whammy: he told us that he didn't have three beds available together for Monday night, but could move us on Tuesday.

Now, I had been awake since 4 AM and had traveled to Shanghai alone. I was in no mood to put up with this. We were all on the same page. Without ever having to say the words to each other, we all realized that we would argue this man to death before accepting two separate rooms. For simplicity's sake, I'll just paraphrase my part of the conversation, but Lauren also took a turn yelling, while Emily posted up and straight up glared at this man for the entire conversation.

Me: No. Absolutely not. We booked three beds together. You have our reservation paper.

Him: You booked three beds, but not three beds together.

Me: We definitely booked three beds together. Give me the paper and I'll show you.

He refuses to give me the paper.

Him: No, no. Three beds separately, not together. Separate tonight, together tomorrow.

Me: No. Do you really think three young women traveling together want to be in separate rooms? Clearly not. You have to be legitimately dense to think that one reservation for three beds, made together, means separate rooms. If we wanted to be separate, we would have booked our reservations separately. See, now doesn't that make much more sense?

Him: No open rooms for three together until tomorrow. I'm sorry.

I put my hand over the money that is sitting on the counter at this point.

Me: If that's the case, we absolutely will not pay full price. Three beds in two rooms is not what we made our reservation for. So, what are you going to do? Reimburse us for not having the rooms we made our deposit for?

Magically, once money was mentioned, he found us a room with three beds together. Room 1212 became ours.

Left out of this retelling was Lauren yelling and pointing at the sign that said " female dorm" and how absolutely venomous my voice sounded.

We got up to our room, realized we had a male roommate, and unloaded our stuff. Upon heading downstairs to check out where breakfast would be the next day, we realized that the hostel had a full bar and restaurant, with real liquor and reasonable prices. We decided to have a drink and split some appetizers before heading out to explore the area and find a place for a chill dinner.

While sipping our drinks, we had our first encounter with Luke. We heard a voice behind us ask, "Did you end up getting your beds together?" We answered yes, to which he replied, "Good. I was rooting for you. The whole thing was so American of you."

So American of us?

I think it was both the best and most awkward compliment I'd ever received.

When he said that, I realized that the thought of just accepting that there wasn't the room we wanted available had never actually crossed my mind.

To me, I was demanding what I paid for. I figured anyone who wasn't afraid of confrontation would do the same.

To him, however, I was being "American" - seeing what I wanted and demanding that I get it, regardless of anything else.

Side note: a similar thing happened to the Chongqing kids. Once they threatened to take their business elsewhere, the hostel magically found enough beds for them.

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