The Cranky Spinster in Barbados

I went on a vacation to Barbados. I was there for a week, partly to escape New York in February, and partly because I needed to get my visa replaced. When you lose your passport, like I did because I am a drunk idiot, you have to get your visa put into the new one. The easiest way to do so is to go out of the country and go through the whole application process again at a Consulate.

I didn’t want to go all the way back to Australia and the flights to Barbados were cheap. Everyone in the “Australians in New York” Facebook group who had been to Barbados recommended it, and so off I went, excited for some sun and a chance to relax.

I arrived around 1am and the hotel I’d booked for the week was not worth what I’d paid. The “king size bed” was two smaller beds pushed together and there was a big dip in the middle. The bathroom was dirty, and the WiFi didn’t work. I got out of there the next day and found a deal at a much nicer hotel a little bit further south in Dover.

I hadn’t slept well the night before. I was stressed out about my Consulate appointment, and angry about the bed. I’d waited for a long time at the Consulate, and I’d been rushing around the whole morning trying to find a SIM card and a new hotel.

By the time I went to check in, after I’d been at the beach all afternoon, a big group of school kids were checking in too. Half the group were staying next door to me, and the other half were above me. They were doing what school kids do. Running around, yelling to each other instead of talking, and slamming doors every few minutes.

I remembered myself at that age on a school trip in Sydney. Two of my friends decided to dye their hair in our hostel room. Our teacher caught them, and yelled at them to go to bed because she thought it was too late to dye hair. Since they’d already mixed the dye, they put it in the fridge and decided to finish it in the morning. This was a very bad idea.

Early the next morning, they got up and started using the dye again. When they opened the bottle, it exploded and hit one of my friends in the eye. She started screaming that she was going blind, the other friend with the dye started screaming she was sorry, and the rest of us started screaming at them to shut the fuck up. Another girl went to get a teacher, and when they came back our teacher screamed at them: “We came to here to sing, not to dye your FRICKING HAIR!!” In hindsight, we all knew that, and having someone else screaming at 6am probably didn’t help.

I didn’t really think about the other people on our floor in the hostel back then, but when I was faced with a group of young girls in the room next to me at the hotel in Barbados, I realized we really must have pissed some people off.

These girls were from somewhere in northern England. My guess is Leeds but I couldn’t be completely sure. (That’s not really relevant. An unwelcome American accent is just as annoying as an unwelcome English accent.)

I called the reception desk and asked them to tell the teachers to keep them quiet, and the guy who answered politely reminded me: “They’re children on a holiday,”

“I don’t care!” I said. “What about my holiday? I’m trying to relax here.”
“OK,” he said “I’ll tell the teacher to pass on the message but just remember, we’re dealing with children here.”

After they’d slammed the door for the fifth time and they’d yelled at girls in a room on the floor above to come and see what some guy had just put on Snapchat, I yelled “SHUT UP!”

This of course didn’t help. If anything, it made them worse. I know if anyone had told us to shut up back in the hostel, we wouldn’t have listened and purposely been even louder to annoy them. But, I was running on no sleep, and I was over it.

They eventually went to dinner at the front of the hotel, and I saw them as I was walking out to find somewhere to eat. I think they knew I was the one who yelled at them and for a minute, I was scared of a group of 13-year-old girls.
Then I remembered I am an adult.

Not that being an adult changed the way I was feeling or my reaction, or made me realize that I was in fact, being a fucking petty idiot. No. Remembering I’m an adult made me realize I am smarter than them, so I could get them back another way.

I considered leaving empty beer bottles out the front of their room, or getting a packet of cigarettes to smoke and then leaving the butts in the doorway so their teachers would see it in the morning and they’d get in trouble. But I didn’t, and settled instead on pushing their wet towels, swimmers, and uniforms off the railing where they were drying.

The thought of these girls ruining my relaxing vacation made me very angry, and I wasn’t going to let them do that without getting back at them in some way. Some may argue that by being angry at something I couldn’t control, I was making it worse for myself. Yes, thank you Captain Obvious, but this was my vacation and I will, generally, do what makes me feel good. And at that time, knocking girls’ wet clothes off a railing made me feel good.

Would I have reacted in the same way if I was younger? I know I would have been just as annoyed. I probably wouldn’t have been as tired, since a night without sleep was a lot easier at 22 than it is at 29. I don’t think I would have stayed in the hotel that afternoon when they arrived. I would have just gone for a walk, or to the beach, or to the hotel bar. But I’d been out all afternoon, and just wanted time alone in my hotel room.

There was a moment, maybe just after I’d screamed at them to shut up through the wall, when I felt very old. Like a cranky old spinster who has no patience for kids, and who wants to go and speak to the manager all the time. Even if I had done the same – yelled at kids through a wall at a hotel – when I was younger, I wouldn’t have felt as guilty or as conflicted.

I’m not a patient person, and I probably never will be. I’ve accepted this fact about myself and it doesn’t bother me anymore. I am bothered that the man at the reception desk didn’t take my concern seriously – probably should have asked to speak to the manager – and that when I tell this story, I’m fitting the stereotype of the old person yelling and shaking their fist at those innocent kids just having fun.

It’s a hard thing to admit to yourself, that you are getting older and in turn, beginning to act like those old people who put an end to all the fun you were having when you were a child. I didn’t consider the other people staying at the hostel during the hair dye incident, and I also didn’t consider my teacher. How annoyed would she have been having someone wake her up at 6am, to be told that two 16-year-old girls had an accident with some hair dye?

While I am, in fact, a cranky person rapidly approaching 30, it doesn’t mean I want to be judged on it. Is there a way to age, call people out on their shit behavior, and not be labelled a cranky old spinster? I know there will be more situations like this when I reach and move past 30. Maybe I’ll become better at handling them and not resort to throwing people’s clothes on the ground or yelling at them to “Shut up!”

Or maybe I’ll just accept myself as an impatient bitch who’s got no time for kids and their shit, regardless of my age.

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Justine McNamara

I'm an Australian living in New York. I work in marketing but I write about music, New York, and my own personal experiences.

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