I don’t watch a lot of North American TV these days. In fact I could probably count on two hands the number of hours I’ve spent in front of a TV in the last two years. Due to licensing issues, my Canadian Netflix account didn’t work in South America so I cancelled my subscription. I don’t have much time for Chinese or Turkish news (pure propaganda) or Thai soap operas or live coverage of the Mongolian parliament so I simply don’t watch TV in most countries. These days YouTube is my go-to source for cutting edge entertainment. Okay, cat videos. I watch cat videos late at night while holed up in $10 backpacker hostels and 2-star hotels. There, I said it.
After a pleasant but not particularly blog-worthy Saturday #90, I’m now laying in bed in a Bangkok hostel and watching the latest “Dear Kitten” episode on my iPad. If you’re not one of the 25 million people who have viewed this particular clip, you should know that Purina (makers of Friskies cat food) has produced a number of 3-minute videos that feature an older and wiser cat providing advice to a young kitten. Each episode starts off with “dear kitten.” (Go ahead, Google it!)
I’m currently sharing a 6-bed dorm with two German girls who’d be in their late 20s, two university-aged guys from the UK, and a Korean boy of about 17 or 18. They are all incredibly bright people with a great outlook on life. I like them a lot. Having said that, hardly 10 minutes goes by without one of them doing something that I find mildly annoying. I don’t want to come off as the grumpy old f___ in the top bunk but I’m the oldest and I would like to think wisest cat in this room so if somebody has to impart some wisdom here, I’m probably the one to do it. The following 10 pearls of wisdom are for you, dear hostel-dwelling kittens.
Regards, The Old Cat.
10. Dear Kitten: You are allowed to hit “snooze” but only once. There was a guy in my room a few nights ago whose alarm went off at 6:00 AM. He hit the snooze button every five minutes for the next two and a half hours. You might get away with this for a while but in consideration of others in the dorm it’s best to ask yourself: “What would happen if I pulled this in prison?” If the answer is too painful to think about, don’t do it.
9. Dear Kitten: Think Ahead. If you have to be up at 6:00 to catch an early plane, train or bus, please pack your bag BEFORE you go to bed. This is obviously common sense to you and I but there’s always someone in a dorm who fails to grasp the importance of this simple courtesy. In the same vein, if you have to brush your teeth before bed – and yes, you do – you should get your toothbrush and toothpaste out of your locker and put it under your pillow BEFORE you head off to the bar at 11:00 PM. It will be easier to find when you stumble back to a dark room at 4:00 AM with Jagermeister and pepperoni pizza on your breath.
8. Dear Kitten: Go ahead, play the ever-popular “Where You From?” Game for a while, but know when to drop it. The first thing you will be asked when you walk into a hostel dorm for the first time is: “So, where you from?” Many people answer straight up with “Germany” or “Australia” or “Canada”. But some particularly annoying people will make you guess where they’re from and they’ll often take this way too far. A few nights ago I listened from the top bunk as two girls went through about 30 rounds of this game. It was 1:30 in the morning. After round #25 I muttered: “Poland! You’re from Poland, goddammit.” I was close as she turned out to be from Belarus but it took another five guesses to get that out of her. This seemingly harmless little game can be a great ice-breaker but it should be limited to three guesses and never played in a room full of sleeping people.
7. Dear Kitten: Don’t leave anything in the bathroom, particularly the shower. If the two dozen people who have access to your shower were each to leave a razor and a bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap and some conditioner in the tiny space, there’d simply be no room to stand. Get a waterproof toiletry bag (a 10 cent Zip-Lock bag works) and keep your stuff in your locker or under your bed or anywhere but the shower floor. Leave it in the shower and sooner or later Grumpy Cat is going to throw it in the garbage.
6. Dear Kitten: Use vibrate mode. I’m referring to the alarm on your phone, of course. If a vibrating alarm won’t do the trick and it takes 80 decibels of Nick Jonas to rouse you (not arouse you, of course), then you have to realize that you’re waking up 3, 7, maybe 9 other people and sooner or later one of them will not be as enamoured with the Prince of Abs as you are. I once saw a Korean girl take a Ugg to the head when she slept through three minutes of K-Pop. Another time things ended badly when a pillow was thrown across the room. The girl who threw the pillow realized as soon as it left her fingers that her own iPhone was inside the pillow case. She screamed, the pillow missed the intended target and hit a cement wall, and you guessed it – the screen shattered. This had a noticeable impact on the thrower’s already vinegary demeanour and it was not for the better.
5. Dear Kitten: Please pick up after yourself. Even the small stuff. In fact, it’s generally the small stuff that causes the most grief. I can generally see your daypack laying in the middle of the room and I will do my best to avoid stepping on it during the day, but in the middle of the night, when I’m not wearing my glasses – or shoes and socks – I won’t see that toothpaste cap that you dropped, and if I land on it from the third step on a ladder, everyone in the room will hear about it. The nice people who live next door might also hear about it.
4. Dear Kitten: Packing cubes are Heaven-sent. Zippered, mesh packing cubes won’t add much weight to your load and they’ll make your packing / unpacking routine soooooo much easier. I have six of these little miracle bags and they hold almost everything that I currently own. In one cube I store my lightweight down coat, rain jacket, wool hat, gloves and two pairs of winter socks. Another cube holds my hoodie, long sleeve shirt, 2 t-shirts, socks, underwear, and 1 pair of either jeans or cargo shorts (depending on what I’m wearing). The third bag contains toiletries, prescription drugs, grooming items and a small first-aid kit. I call the fourth cube my “Minimalist Hoarder Kit.” That’s an oxymoron, of course, but in this cube I keep everything that I carry but don’t actually use on a daily basis: 6 AAA batteries, 6 Russian asthma inhalers ($2 each in Uzbekistan), 6 zip lock bags, 5 elastic bands, 4 clothes pegs, 2 shoelaces, one embroidered “flag” patch from each country I’ve visited, a bag of assorted beads that I’ve collected, etc. A fifth cube holds my lightweight sleeping bag. These five bags all fit in my main backpack. A sixth cube fits in my daypack and it contains things that I carry with me at all times: chewing gum, Tums, hand sanitizer, earbuds, a charging cable for my iPad and iPhone, a padlock, headlamp, several important documents, backup credit and debit cards, etc. I often take the packing cubes out of the backpack when I check into a hostel but unless I’m using it, I don’t take anything out of the individual cubes. This way I only have 5 or 6 packing cubes to throw into my backpack and I can be out the door in under 30 seconds.
3. Dear Kitten: No, you cannot borrow my towel. I don’t actually have a towel, but if I did the answer would still be no. Use a T-shirt like I do. If you’re traveling in a warm country you can hang a damp shirt out the hostel window and it will be dry when you get back from breakfast. Even in cooler climates there’s always a way to dry a T-shirt. Place it on a heater, hang it out the window of a moving vehicle, use the hand drier in a public restroom, etc. If all else fails, ask around at the hostel. There’s bound to be one princess travelling with a curling iron and/or a hair drier. Just don’t stretch a synthetic T-shirt over a four-slice electric toaster and walk away. I saw a young kitten do this in Singapore where the fire department charges $300 per call.
2. Dear Kitten: Some things should be done in the bathroom and only in the bathroom. For example: Shaving your legs, girls. Or clipping your toenails, old man from Birmingham who is currently sitting cross-legged in his underwear on the bunk directly above me. Nobody wants to be sleeping on the bottom bunk, mouth wide open, when pieces of your gnarly old toenails get airborne.
1. Dear Kitten: Some music (Canadian artists in particular) can be played at full blast for everyone’s enjoyment, but if you’re in doubt, use headphones or earbuds. The worst thing you can do is play music late at night through a tiny speaker tucked under your pillow. Everyone in the room will hear it and they’ll drive themselves into a frenzy trying to determine its source. You can avoid this messy situation by limiting your playlist to the ever-popular Northern Pikes, Neil Young, Sam Roberts, Arcade Fire, Teenage Head, Carrol Baker and Stompin’ Tom Connors.
Most of the above points would be considered common sense and could be summed up by quoting Luke 6:31: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Of course not all kittens exercise common sense. Not you, of course. You are a smart kitten. As the old cat in the Friskies commercials often says in closing, “You’ll do just fine, kitten.”