The hostel in Berlin was a hoot. Shortly after we arrived, in trooped a horde of teen-agers. . . OMG, as they text. There goes the night’s sleep. I asked one where they were from and he said the Netherlands. He seemed normal enough. Turns out they were well behaved, friendly and even fun. I should have expected as much, having been a high school English teacher for nine years. Kids are fun, sometimes. And I reminded myself that such places used to be called “youth hostels.” I told Sharon I’d try to act younger. She said, “Please don’t do that. Twelve is young enough.”

The strangest guests (other than me) were older than these kids. One, a good-looking dark woman of about 30 who was dressed in sinister black, eyed me suspiciously and frowningly while I toiled on my computer at one of the side breakfast tables. She was writing a few tables away. I had barely looked at her; did I somehow look as sinister as SHE did? I thought I looked grandfatherly, or at least avuncular. Did she think I was menacing? Dangerous? Lust-driven?

As I looked at her once more, out of the corner of my much-practiced eye, she came slowly over with her computer and stopped by my elbow. I looked up, wondering what th… and she said without the slightest smile, “Would you mind watching my computer? Will you be here for a few minutes? I have to make a phone call.”

“Sure. I mean no, I don’t mind.” I smiled my warm, kind smile. Still without smiling herself, she said “Thanks,” tonelessly, and set the machine down and left.

I thought she was weird and I would write about her later, which I am now doing.

She returned, picked up the computer (a Toshiba laptop like my old one), turned away and said “Thank you,” again tonelessly, but this time into the air behind me.

“You’re welcome,” I muttered, thinking “bitch.”

The other old geezer in the place cornered me in the slow elevator down from our fourth or fifth floors and began quizzing me. It was annoying. I wasn’t interested in getting acquainted with him, an aging hippie with horrible finger and toe nails (he wore leather sandals) and a massive, grizzled beard, long hair down his neck and none on the top of his head. A big guy. Looked strong.

He said he was from Denmark, and I? “The U.S.,” I said, trying to show boredom. “Oh,” he said, not interested. So why ask? What did he expect? A few Dutch kids got in and that pushed him close to me, which I also didn’t like. Suddenly he was conspiratorial. “Lookit this!” he urged me in wheezing tones. (His English was very good.) He began showing me some flyers for the world-famous anatomy sculpture that was making the rounds in California a couple of years ago. He wouldn’t listen to me trying to tell him that I KNEW about the exhibit. It had been in L.A.

The kids got out on the ground floor and I tried to follow them away from this beast. “I’m going to visit this place,” he said. “I heard they show EVERYTHING. I mean, EVERYTHING!” Nothing more off-putting than a dirty old man. What was he thinking?

“Uh,” I grunted. I had to escape.

“How old are you,” he asked suddenly in rather rude tones.

“Seventy-four,” I said.

He grinned crookedly, proudly, the old fart, and said “I’m seventy-eight.”

“Good for you,” I said, and hurried around the corner away from the door and toward the coffee bar. When I got there I glanced back to see if he was following, but he wasn’t. He was headed our through the door, studying the flyers. Whew. NOW maybe I could have some coffee in peace and quiet.