It’s a normal day. A few guests have shown up, a few have left. After finishing work at 9am, I slept until 2pm then got up for lunch. I speak to a new Canadian girl who tells me I don’t have a British accent. I tell her that half the people I meet say that, and the other half hear one word and start saying things like “a jolly good cup of tea!”, and think themselves very amusing. I go for a run, reply to some emails, go to the supermarket and cook some food. I sneak in a couple more hours’ sleep  at around 8pm, and at 10.30 I start the next shift. There’s a lot of people in the basement bar, but unusually they’re pretty quiet, so I check the bookings for the night, do some writing and get settled in to some films.

At 4am, a nice girl puts her head round the door and tells me we’ve got a leak. I sigh, and go and have a look: there are indeed two patches on the living-room ceiling sending small streams of water onto the floor. I trot upstairs with Nice Girl and head to the bathroom area, which is completely submerged, and find myself outside the female showers, one of which has water pouring out under the door. I give Nice Girl a leg up to look inside, where she finds someone unconscious and wrapped in sheets. She starts shouting for help.

People start emerging from I don’t know where, only around half of whom I recognise as guests. Someone bundles through to Shower Girl, shouts he’s a medic, shouts for dry clothes. I throw my jumper at him; someone shouts there’s bleeding. I run down to the storeroom in the basement and pick up as many towels as I can carry, back upstairs, they’re still shouting she’s bleeding, I tell Daniel to phone an ambulance. Get out of the way I tell Canadian Girl, who is leaning against the bathroom door, drink in hand. “You do have a British accent!” she says. I spare a second to stare at her, then push through the crowd, into the cubicle, preparing myself for the sight of a lot of blood. I find the “medic” untangling Shower Girl, who is regaining consciousness, from red bedsheets. Nobody replies as I ask where the blood’s coming from… I swap the soaked sheets for the dry towels, and see bits of food in amongst the blood. It’s not blood. “It’s vomit,” I begin to say, shaky, “it’s vomit. It’s red wine. She’s not bleeding.”

Crisis over. People being to disperse. Shower Girl’s friends shut themselves in the bathroom with her and some dry clothes – apparently she’s awake now. Nice Girl takes a mop off my hands and begins to clean the floor. OK. I still have downstairs to worry about. The crowd follow me and have a gossip as I go for more towels, try to find buckets. “You can take a statement from me,” says Canadian Girl, “I’m her frund. Do I have a cigarette? Can I smoke in here?” Boyfriend slopes in. “It’s kinda funny because, because, it’s not raining outside” he contributes, and giggles at his own wit.

By 4.45am the bathroom is fine. I’ve mopped the floor of the basement, ignoring and being ignored by a couple in the corner. I am in the living room, which is covered with towels and has two buckets doing the best they can. One of the other staff members walks in, and we look at the still-dripping ceiling. “The water”, evaluates Staff Member, who is off-duty and accordingly is holding a mixed drink, “musta been coming from the shower room.” I look at him, my patience running low. “… where else is it going to have come from?” I ask. He begins to bluster: “I dunno, I didn’t see, why are you asking me man –” and off he goes. Outside, everyone has returned to drinking. “You shouldn’t have phoned an ambulance,” intones a non-blinking girl I don’t recognize. I explain that we didn’t, in the end, because we worked out Shower Girl wasn’t cut. “But you shouldn’t have phoned an ambulance,” repeats the girl, “because the police would have come as well.” Daniel mutters something about cocaine, and suddenly I understand both what the girl’s angle is and why there are so many people I don’t recognise in the hostel.

I went back to reception. I felt drained. I was still coming off the minute or so when I had thought a guest was going to die on my shift. No-one else seemed remotely bothered about that; actually, many of them seemed confused that I was stressed.

At around 5.30am, Shower Girl showed up in a thick woolly jumper and apologised for causing so much trouble. She explained that she‘d had too much wine so had taken herself off to bed, and woken up throwing up. In her confused state she thought the best thing to do was to clean the bedclothes in the shower, but after turning the water on, she fell back asleep.

She was a nice girl. She stayed up with me until I had to go and buy the bread for breakfast.


With thanks to Frosty, Paul, Clee, Tash and Nate.