Christmas is a mean time of year for freelancers. We don’t get jobs, which means we don’t get paid. Unfortunately, the kids expect Santa, the festive little bugger, to still come calling.
Because of this, I committed to working (in not-well-thought-out haste, I must confess) as a hospitality-slash-property manager for the holiday season. The first warning bell lies in the mismatch between the title of the job and my personality type. I’m not really the managey type at all, mostly because I can’t be arsed with that kind of thing. For the most part, I lived up to my commitment swimmingly and truly put my back into this meet, greet and pretend to give a sheet business. It primarily involves a lot of smiling, acting like I give a damn when guests have complaints and doing a lot of mooching around waiting for guests to arrive and check out.
I hate it. Firstly, I find this first-meeting business nerve wracking and consequently, I tend to be overly chatty and sweat like a MOFO. I also tend to either make corny jokes or to laugh too loudly at the guest’s corny jokes. Secondly, what I most hate, in a deep and fearsome way, is when guests complain about the lack of sun loungers.
Whaaaaaaat the fuuuuuck is with sunloungers??!?!
I’m of the thinking that the world can be neatly divided into SUNLOUNGER TYPES and NON-SUNLOUNGER TYPES for it seems that certain tourists tend to be really obsessed with sun loungers. Like reeeaaally OB.SESSED. So much so, that in hotels and lodges, these tourists will wake up super early and “reserve” a sunlounger with their towel and will sometimes even place a book on TOP OF the towel (NOTE: this is often a “fake” book that they have no intention of reading at all). The book makes it look as if someone has been sitting there reading since 4am and has just stepped away from said lounger to swim a few laps in the pool or go for a quick pee.
In case you’re sitting there thinking that this isn’t as serious as cancer for some people, just Google “no booking sun lounger signs” and you will find a slew of articles and anecdotes about this very matter. (Side Note: many hotels are completely fed up with the furore created over sun loungers and have placed signs in strategic areas that state “No Booking Sunloungers”. True Story). I found an article, which states "A British tourist would be quite within their legal rights to ignore the reservation implied by the towels if there is nobody there," said Cologne-based Mr Höcker…”. Mr Höcker, by the way, is a German lawyer (oh the irony!) who also, incidentally, cautions against doing “anything undiplomatic with the offending German towel.” Mmm, I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure what undiplomatic towel actions involve but I think it’s best to leave some things well enough alone.
Another video and accompanying editorial I stumbled upon exposes British guests “booking” their sun loungers as though this was surely to be the biggest challenge – and indeed triumph - of their day. The footage, shot in fast motion (though it needn’t have been), shows crowds of tourists at a Spanish resort, streaming like lemmings through the door to the pool deck, rushing to the stack of sunloungers and feverishly finding a spot where they could park their sunlounger for the day. In the editorial section, one holiday maker lamented how they “only got a sun-bed on two days in the week that we stayed there” and added that “If you don't go and queue for 45 minutes and then run with the crowds you don't get one." It’s the heart-breaking holiday-romance love story you’ve heard a thousand times... Tourist goes on holiday. Lack of sun lounger breaks her heart. Tourist’s holiday is utterly ruined. The struggle is real, people.
Anyway, this week I very hospitably checked in guests who, within two hours, called to complain about the dust bunnies behind the couch (which immediately begs the question, what, exactly, were they doing behind the couch?!?!?) Then, almost as an afterthought, but with the tone suggesting otherwise, they also recommended that “there should be more sun loungers. At least one for every guest.”
There are various scenarios which might call for sun lounger fixation. Firstly, if you were, say, very old or infirm, I think you present a valid argument for sun lounger obsession. Another scenario would be if you were at some place which was utterly lacking in beach sand or lawn on which you could potentially rest your weary bones. In this instance, I can see how you would actually NEEEEED a sun lounger. However, given that most places have either lawn or beach sand – hell, sometimes both! - I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that you just, you know, put your towel on the grass and your arse on your towel. Voila!
But no, it’s all about the fucking sunloungers. I shit you not, my colleague and partner in crime was told by guests that she looked after that “their holiday was utterly ruined due to the lack of sun loungers” and that it was “creating stress” for them on their holiday. The place where I checked guests in has, despite the worst drought in a million years, pristine, lush green grass due to borehole water. It’s positively bouncy. The guests did not share my enthusiasm for this fact when I pointed it out to them. They simply could not connect the dots between green grass …and…arse.
No. WE NEED SUNLOUNGERS!!!! It doesn’t matter that the garden is draped in dappled sunlight and has gorgeous trees where birds’ nest and bees buzz. It looks like a bloody botanical garden for Pete’s sake. NOOOOO!!! All that goes unnoticed because every faaaaaaarking venue is judged by the abundance – or lack of – sun fucking loungers.
If you could have seen the urgency with which the guests in the main house abducted ALL the sun loungers from the poolside and relocated them to alongside their veranda, the first thought that would have come to mind is Gollum and his Precioussssss. The guests at the adjoining cottage had not even handed over the keys and checked out completely when the main houseguests had already claimed all the sun loungers for themselves. They obsessively pursued the sun loungers in the same way that Scrat pursues his acorn in the movie Ice Age.
It’s enough to make you weep. Truly. It just made me want to make a bonfire with our sun loungers at home just so that we’re not associated with that kind of shit. The sun lounger culture is truly mystifying. To begin with, it makes me wonder, what exactly do these folk do in real life that’s so exhausting that they need to spend an entire holiday lying on a sun lounger? And also, what do they think will happen to them if they lie on the lawn or beach sand?
I was once told - by an actual British person mind you - that British people don’t go on holiday to explore, they go on holiday to lie in the sun and get drunk. Bearing this in mind, sun lounger mania makes total sense. Who, after a hard night’s drinking, has the mind to do anything but recline? The thing is, it seems that it’s not only the Greece Uncovered-type tourist who suffers from sun lounger neurosis. It seems to be totally widespread, across all demographics.
When I related my confusion regarding sun lounger preoccupation to a friend of mine, he suggested that all holidaymakers be handed a “holiday etiquette guide”. This would include things like not wearing socks and sandals, not tipping what is the equivalent of 20 pence in your home currency, and NOT sitting on a sun lounger. This guide, he suggested, could imply that any kind of sun lounger related behaviour is totally passé. Touristically taboo. Frowned on. Scoffed at.
Because when you think about how ridiculous it all is, it is definitely a little ridiculous. There’s no other way to put it.