November 23, 2019

Welcome to the Brothel: Where Not to Sleep in New Orleans

At the desk of the funky, pastel-painted New Orleans hostel, a guy acting drunker than he was greeted us in a fake British accent. “Welcome to the brothel!” he said.

Fumbling dramatically, he checked us in, referring to various liquors as his best friend. “There’s candy if you need it,” he said, pointing out a basket of condoms. He grabbed sheets, warned us that the middle shower had been broken the night before by the people having sex in it, and said he’d show us to our beds.

The place was filthy and people of all ages and sexes (more than the usual two genders were represented) were strewn across the room. I checked out the bathroom—not for the faint of heart—and rejoined my friend, who sat on her top bunk, which was approximately a foot and a half above my bottom bunk. The girl on the next bed was removing body piercings and dropping handfuls of them on the floor.

We decided to take in only what we absolutely needed (so as not to risk contamination to the carload), first putting the items into plastic bags. After we delivered our hermetically sealed bags to our bunks, we returned to the office for a bus schedule—Bourbon Street awaited. But first, the desk clerk insisted on giving us a tour of the house, taking us by the arms and parading us around so that the many people who seemed to live there full-time could have a look.

We discussed our options and came up empty handed—so, after a night on Bourbon Street, a missed bus stop, and losing a chunk of my toe in attempt to jump over a puddle and onto a curb, we decided to quietly sneak back into the hostel, grab our stuff, and think of the money we’d paid the hostel as payment for a parking spot.

Bourbon Street had robbed us of commonsense—the hostel was too filthy to sleep in, but we thought we could brave quick showers. Dodging a cockroach in the hallway, we made our way to the bathroom, selected the two working stalls and tried to ignore the razors and toothbrushes that had been left in them. I feared for my toe—this was not the place to bring an open wound.

Draping towels in the windows and placing the sun shades in the windshield to hide us from view, then dousing my toe in peroxide, we prepared to sleep with one eye open outside a shady hostel in a shady neighborhood. Waking early, we brushed our teeth with bottled water we spit into the road, and told the desk clerk our plans had changed. He gave us back our money, just as three older women told him that they didn’t think the place was “right for them.” A cleaner hostel awaited us across town, and we were happy to have escaped unmolested.

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