Friday May 20th marked my last day of work at the Hawthorne Hostel, a job that I held for five years and three months. The longest job I had. It beat my stint at corporate retail by almost a year. Yeesh, it’s hard to think that I spent four and a half years working such a shitty retail job. A different decade, and a different Shawn. I think one of the reasons I stayed at the hostel so long was to pass that milestone.
Five years. Half of my Portland life. Hawthorne Boulevard, a street that I have a love/hate relationship. “Bohemian and funky” it is called by many a guidebook. The hostel definitely fit into that description. Yeah, the hostel could be a bit hippy at times. (Somehow they never asked me the question “What do you think about the Greatful Dead, Phish, and the String Cheese Incident?” in my interview, and I’m happy that they didn’t.) But my cynical East Coast self found a welcome home here.
There were a lot of things I loved about the hostel. Most of the people who passed through the door were decent folk. Some of them were genuinely interesting, especially the bike tourists, go figure. If there was a cool event going on in town, we would be sure to have attendees staying there. I think I surprised some folks who came to town for the North American Handmade Bike Show back in 2008: one day I’m checking them into the hostel, the next day I’m checking their tickets at the door of the show! (I volunteered that year.)
But customer service is customer service. I got burnt out the last year. There’s only so many times you can repeat the same basic information. After the 3,000th time you feel like an automaton. I’m not proud to say that I was short with a few guests. And having to deal with people being stupid is never fun. I didn’t intend to take the role of “dad”, especially with people older than myself, but in certain situations I had to.
But the good outweighed the bad. I loved helping bicyclists route their way out of town and to the Coast, Gorge, or elsewhere. And even though they were awkward, I did appreciate the “rockstar” moments when people recognized who I was because of the Zinester’s Guide to Portland or my comics in Momentum Magazine.
And now it’s over. The last day was a pretty ordinary one, besides wrapping up some loose ends. Goodbyes were said. I rode off. It took a little while for it to sink in: I won’t be going back to work here again. Freedom. Thrilling, exciting, dangerous, anxious freedom. First several months of bike touring across the continent. Then we return to Portland and I’ll need to find another job. I have no real plan in that department. Hopefully there will be some freelance gigs, but I’ll need something more stable eventually. I’m not going to think of that right now.
Thanks Hawthorne Hostel for giving me five good years!