There's always a tense moment when first entering your room in a youth hostel. What will these intercontinental strangers be like? Will they steal your passport and stash of Peppermint Aero Bars? Will you wind up best friends and strip to your undies for a pillow fight?
I always try to be friendly, so I put on a big smile and my most congenial "Helloooo!".
There was only one girl in the room and she did not smile or helloooo back. Instead she said in stern tones, "Do you know about The Door?"
"The Door? No."
"The Door is not good. It does not shut properly. You must make sure you shut it properly or someone will steal your belongings. You will do this, okay?"
And with that she stalked out, slamming the offending object behind her.
Ten minutes later we were back in reception, booking a bus trip for Thursday, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the Door Watcher.
"Me?" I said meekly.
"You," she repeated, "You did not close The Door as I asked you to."
"Oh I'm sorry, I thought we made sure it was locked."
"It was not locked. You did not lock it. Make sure it is properly closed next time please."
She selected a chair in the corner and sat with her head resting on her knees, frowning, frowning, frowning, watching the travelers stagger in beneath their bloated backpacks.
Later that night we returned to find a new roommate, a sweet and chatty girl from Washington DC. Door Watcher was in the middle of her briefing, perched on the top bunk. "I already told these two about The Door, so don't forget okay?"
"Okay!" Washington said breezily. "So where are you from and how long have you been here?"
(D'oh! I always forget to play Where Are You From And How Long Have You Been Here. I'm such an amateur.)
"I am from Munich," said Door Watcher. "I have been in Iceland two weeks."
"Great! So Where Have You Been? What Have You Seen?"
"I have been all over. Mostly up North. Lava deserts, glaciers, fishing. Lots of willages. It is okay if you like willages. I prefer big cities to willages."
She was brandishing a Nikon with an obscenely large lens, peering down at us through it.
"How did you get around?" asked Washington. "Did you fly or do a tour?"
"It is easy. The longest wait was ten minutes. Quicker than the bus."
"You must have met some interesting people then?" I ventured.
"Yes. Sometimes. They are usually more friendly up North," she said. "Friendly, but stupid. Down South people are less friendly. But still stupid."
I longed to crack this crusty exterior, to see her smile or laugh. But it was impossible. Her routine was to deliver a few lines then swoop off the set. At one point Washington chirped, "I hear that they only get, like, three hours of sunlight in the winter!"
"No," said Door Watcher, "Five hours. Not three hours. Five hours."
The next night I returned from our delicious meal of Noodle Surprise (two-minute noodles sauteed in peanut butter) to find my digital camera charger had been unplugged from the outlet.
"That is your camera charger?"
The Door Watcher sat bolt upright from the top bunk, making me jump.
"Yes it is."
"I have unplugged it. I have to charge my phone. You must wait ten minutes and then you can plug it back in. Ten minutes."
She disappeared back into the depths of her sleeping bag.
Despite the lack of sunshine, I thought surely a nice warm person lurked beneath. Perhaps it was just her English making her sound a wee bit frosty. But I never got the chance to find out. The next night she was gone, replaced by two Finns with delicate tattoos and incredible legs.