Liar liar pants on fire

// Heather Welsh

“They’re having sex!” a startled guest came running through to the lobby screeching late one evening, “On the sofa, like ew! I just went in there to grab a Twix from the vending machine and there they were, doing it on the pool table!”

Sometimes, drunken travelers seem to forget they are in a public space, and inappropriate behavior is all too common in the hostel. Sexual intercourse is one of the more extreme unexpected uses of social space, but every week there is a complaint about yet another guest doing something inappropriate. “My roommate was peeing into a bottle last night, he was on the top bunk, and then he dropped the bottle!” Can you imagine being the guy sleeping in the bed below? Another guest came down one morning to complain his roommate had peed in their shared sink – not a very nice place to brush your teeth after it has been given a yellow rinse like that.

The main thing that stems from these events is that whenever a hostel employee speaks to them about the event in question, the culprit denies what happened right in front of the very witnesses who saw them do it.

Neuroscientist Sam Harris writes in his book Lying, “Most forms of private vice and public evil are kindled and sustained by lies. Acts of adultery and other personal betrayals, financial fraud, government corruption – even murder and genocide – generally require an additional moral defect: a willingness to lie.” In Lying, Harris argues that we can radically simplify our lives and improve society by merely telling the truth in situations where others often lie. What seems strange, however, is the situations during which patrons feel compelled to lie.

Most of the best examples have happened to my colleagues who work the night shift, and they have told me about the true gems countless times. From the two guys who tried to bring back a prostitute, to the girls who bring guys back to a shared dorm and act as though they are in their own private love-shack, the events related to sex are countless. Another of the more shocking tales was of a girl showering in a cubical one night when she looked up to see an eye pressed up against the crack in the door! The guy ran away startled, and only having witnessed his eye colour, she was left wondering who it was that had unfortunately enjoyed his own peep show without facing the consequences.

Most recently, I had the delight of witnessing an older guy creep on girls, making them dinner when they politely refused the first time he asked, telling them they are beautiful and handing them letters including phrases like, “I think we should get to know each other”, “I was waiting for you”, and “but maybe you don’t like me”. Most of these incidents are followed by a confrontation with a member of staff, and, naturally, a flat out denial by the guest when they realize that their actions could cost them their stay.

It seems that a lot of this behaviour happens when guests are under the influence, as drugs and alcohol affect judgment and make people do things they might not do whilst they are their sober selves. And some of the time, it is to do with a mental disorder the guest may have. Something about their personality may effect they way they react in social situations. To put it psychological terms, they could have an “Antisocial Personality Disorder”, or ASPD. According to the American Psychiatric Association ASPD is “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”

However you describe it, there has to be a way to deal with the people who act this way in a public space and cause discomfort or worry to others. In my hostel, unruly customers are chucked out (within reason) and told that they are not welcome to stay at any of our hostels in Canada again, ever. Their name becomes highlighted in our computer system so that if they try to stay with us again, their name flashes up in red, with the notes about what caused them to be banned from the hostel.

One of the best situations was when a boy’s mom dragged him in and demanded to know why her son had been kicked out. I looked down at the computer screen and said quietly under my breath, “He peed in the sink in his room, and used the shared computers for porn.” – Not awkward at all! The second time, a guy was caught sleeping in our library instead of paying for a bed – he explained to me that it was “a mistake,” and in my eyes he was not only denying what he had done was wrong, he was also lying to me in an attempt to stay at the hostel again.

The guests who have some conscience about acting un-civilly obviously have some remorse about their actions, and are embarrassed about their decisions and this causes them to lie. St. Augustine of Hippo divided lies into eight categories, listed in order of descending severity: lies in religious teaching; lies that harm others and help no one; lies that harm others and help someone; lies told for the pleasure of lying; lies told to "please others in smooth discourse"; lies that harm no one and that save someone's life; lies that harm no one and that save someone's "purity"; and lies that harm no one and that help someone.

I believe that most guests’ lies fall into the fifth category, as they wish to “please others in smooth discourse”, because they truly want the staff to believe they are not a wrong-doer. And occasionally, those with ASPD would do so for the pleasure of lying or in loyalty – to defend their friend.

Whether it be lies, sex in a public space, loopy guests talking to themselves and making others uncomfortable, theft of facilities, abuse, or vandalism, and whether the guest was in fact blind drunk when the incident occurred, they have to pay for their actions. They might have been publicly humiliated, thrown out, or had to explain themselves to a row of staff struggling to keep a straight face. And when it’s the funnier incidents in which no one really gets hurt or too offended, the re-telling of the story is priceless.

// Heather Welsh, Columnist
// Illustration by Tiare Jung

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