Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
In case your partner is British (or French) you can count on it being something awful and profoundly sarcastic that makes you look utterly ridiculous.
I know the story Mike most enjoys telling about me happened circa 2001. I was young (22) and pretty then- quite sheltered as well.
We were at a club and that evening I happened to get a table and a bottle. Hint hint, if you buy a bottle at a club you get preferential treatment. They write your name on the bottle and leave it at your table while you’re at the club. When you leave they make a mark of how much you drank so you know no one else drinks from your bottle. When you go back, your bottle is waiting for you.
Anyway, depending on the club getting a table is a big deal. There are people dying to sit down. That evening Mike was a guest at my table (we weren’t quite a couple yet.) There was a small group lurking nearby and eventually one of them begged us to let them sit down with us. They were university students from central Spain. All very charming.
It was their first time in the south and they were loving it. They all started speaking English because they heard us speaking English, I suppose. And so it began…
Young man: Everything here is so beautiful. I’ve never seen anything so wonderful before.
Me: It is lovely. A bit crowded during the holidays.
Young man: Do you two live here?
Me: Yes, I live on the beachfront. He lives in the middle of nowhere.
Young man: We’re staying at a place that’s not very nice. We’d love to come back in the summer. Do you know of a nice hostel?
Me: A what?
Young man: A nice hostel. Ours is terrible.
Me: (laughter) Darling, in English the word is HO-TEL. There’s no S. It’s HO-TEL.
Young man: No, I mean hostel, like a cheap hotel.
Me: A cheap hotel? Like a Holiday Inn? There’s still no S. It’s a HO-TEL.
Young man: No. A hotel is a hotel and a hostel is a hostel.
Me: There’s no such thing. A cheap hotel is still called a hotel. Sometimes in America they call them motels; And there’s still no S in the middle of the word.
Mike was enjoying all of this very quietly, smirking.
Young man: In a hostel we share a room with other people.
Me: What? You sleep in a room with other people? People you know?
Young man: It depends, sometimes people we don’t know.
Me: What? Why?
Young man: It’s a way for students to travel and see the world.
Me: By sharing a room with people you don’t know? That’s ridiculous. This hostel word is probably something German or Dutch. They like nudism and such. I don’t think you’ll find a hosssssssstel anywhere else in the world.
Young man: We’re staying at a hostel, here, now.
And this went on and on and on. Not once did HE nudge me to say that not only did the word exist, but most people knew it. And now he gets to tell this story until the end of time.