Ah, Valentine’s Day — what a wonderful occasion for spending time with your significant other. Or, if you’re single and bitter about it, what a perfect excuse to watch You’ve Got Mail alone in bed and audibly sob into a tub of rocky road ice cream. I’ve never been overly invested in the Hallmark holiday, so even though I’m flyin’ solo (again) this year I don’t feel the need to crumble into a hysterical ball of neediness. Instead I will regale you with the story of my most unromantic Valentine’s Day, which conveniently happens to pertain to travel:
I was visiting Amsterdam with friends over February 14th a few years back, and since we were poor college students studying abroad in Europe, our only lodging options were youth hostels. We made the unfortunate mistake of letting a vague acquaintance pick the hostel for our large group to stay in, and we discovered upon landing in the Netherlands that it was in the heart of the infamous red-light district. Actually, I don’t even think it was the heart, per se — it seemed more like the “niche” section, as the windows appealed to far kinkier tastes than what I imagine the average John would be into.
Walking down a cobblestone path with rolling luggage as women of various shapes, sizes, and dispositions waved what could best be described as sex machinery at us was highly comical. Until, that is, we arrived to check in at our hostel and realized that it was a staunch Christian establishment with every intention of reforming the sinners they saw passing by on a daily basis. We’re talking curfews, gender segregated floors, and as we would find out later, attempted brainwashing during the free morning breakfast.
The juxtaposition of raunchiness and chastity was enough to kill any Valentine’s Day mood I may have happened to be in, but it wasn’t even the most remarkable part of that day.
That would be when I walked into my dormitory-style hostel room to find a slumbering vagabond in my assigned bottom bunk. I mean, who knows what that sexy setup could have resulted in if the intruder had been sociable and attractive rather than a schizophrenic hobo who broke into the hostel and passed out on the first bed he found. But alas, this was not a love connection. I had to shoo him into the (thankfully) empty bunk above me, where he would later roll over onto his marijuana paraphernalia during a particularly violent REM cycle and spill the broken pieces down upon my sleeping body.
In summary: I spent Valentine’s Day 2010 in the vicinity of hookers, being compelled by the power of Christ to confess my sins, as a crazy man slept overhead and showered bong shards down on my head.
Who needs love when you have a story like that?