The exercise we do is to make trainees aware of a growing problem of hospitaleros not getting on and sometimes leaving their post because of continued strife.
Trainees are taught to set a few ground rules before their shift even starts. They can ask their co-worker these questions:
- Are we going to be flexible on opening times - if yes, how flexible?
- Are we going to be flexible on the curfew - ditto?
- What time will we admit cyclists?
- Are you a morning person or a night bird? Let’s come to some agreement about who does the morning shift and who locks up at night – or can we alternate?
- Will we share the cooking?
- One day you do the bedrooms and bathrooms - I’ll do the kitchen and living rooms. Then we can swap.
- What things put your back up or push your buttons.
Those sorts of things seem small but they can become a big hassle, especially if you are locked in for 15 days with a grumpy, moaning, bossy, controlling, fault-finding co-hospitalero.
The most frequent complaints received are about bossy hospitaleros who take over the albergue and rule the roost.
Oh my goodness, since midday yesterday I have asked myself, a 1,000 times - what are you doing here? Ferran does not like his routines or methods challenged - my suggestions, of music in the morning to send pilgrims off, bleach to clean the dishcloths and perhaps new mats to place in front of the kitchen sink and one or two others all for the pilgrims comfort, was squashed or rejected. Thankfully he left yesterday and the two new hospitaleros are far more amiable.
"Mama Mia!!" Mariano (old guy) threw up his arms.
All 4 hospitaleros (Mariano, Antonia, Vladimer and Maria) looked disgusted turned around and left me standing there. From then on they ignored me . No problem, I was there to do a job.
Maria came back, took me to our cubicle with just a double bunk bed, cramped with her stuff all over the place, said I sleep on top and that she keeps the key around her neck till she leaves in 4 days.
It was fine for the first two days but then 'HE' arrived - the anointed one - and immediately took over and started moving things around and changing things. He is an experienced hospitalero who has served at Bercianos many times and considers it to be HIS domain. He was extremely rude to me because I wasn't fluent in Spanish (Madeleine's course didn't prepare me sufficiently for the Camino!) even though I told him I could speak French, understand German and Dutch - which he couldn't. Whenever a non-Spanish speaker arrived he would have to call me to register them. One of the other hospitaleros asked him why he couldn't speak English but he was just rude back at her.
If anyone wants to know what its like to be treated like a 2nd class citizen or skivvy, then go and work at the Santo Domingo albergue. I was bossed around, ran up and down stairs all day, was sent out to do shopping and was supposed to be a tour guide for the cathedral and the town.
Even experienced hospitaleros l
ike Rebekah Scott can have an unlucky pairing, as she wrote on her blog
: Hell is Other People
"I was paired with The Queen of Passive Aggression, and spent two weeks in misery and desolation, shivering through damp, gray days with wet firewood, a sinus infection, and a perfect bitch from London. (Paddy says it´s a syndrome: Person of a Certain Age outlives the spouse, who´s been bossed around for decades (or said spouse finds a more gentle partner). POACA is a righteous churchgoer, does the Camino. And as Hospitalera s/he finds a new niche: Lording it over a pilgrim hostel for two weeks per year, fixing everything that´s wrong with the Camino de Santiago.)"
Smile, stick to your guns, say 'No' if you know that you are right and the other person is wrong. Smile again.
You could say, “In this case, I don’t agree with you” or “No, I don’t think that’s the best way to do it.”
I have served with 7 hospitaleros and am happy to say that I got on well with all of them, even though one of them was a bossy, controlling woman! But I guessed she would be on the first day we met. There is a saying that 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree' and this could be true of your co-worker if she tells you that her mother was a bossy, controlling and domineering woman. Listen to the alarm bells going off in your head and be prepared to stand your ground!
My bossy co-worker told us (Robert, Kevin and me) on her first day that she'd been alone for 27 years, had raised her children on her own and was an occupational health nurse so was independent and able to take care of herself. When Robert and Kevin left, they both looked at me with some pity and said, "Good luck with this one, Syl. She is going to be trouble."
But, I don't like strife. I have a dogged personality, have been told that I have the patience of Job. I am able to stoically fend off bossy people, so when she tried to be domineering, I just brushed it aside. We never had words or disagreements but the potential for them was there in the relentless fault-finding and criticisms:
"I always do it this way...."
"That's interesting. I do it this way." Smiling.
"I don't think we should admit cyclists,"
"Of course we can - all pilgrims are welcome here," smiling.
"I don't think you should have given that pilgrim our water. You must keep the water for our pilgrims.""All the pilgrims are our pilgrims. We give water to any pilgrim who arrives here thirsty," smiling.
"Don't you think you've cut too much bread already?"
"No problem - if there is any left over we can toast it at breakfast tomorrow," smiling.
"Don't boil anymore milk, there was some left over yesterday"
"No problem - I'll use it in my Cola Cao," smiling.
"Its too early to set the table. The flies will settle on the plates."
"No problem, we can turn the plates over and I'll cover the table with a cloth" smiling.
"You or I could've had that apple, you didn't have to use it in the salad."
"Actually, it is my apple and I wanted to share it with all the pilgrims," smiling.
And so on, and so on ..... incessant bossy quips and suggestions on how she liked to do things that could have lead to full scale confrontation if not handled properly.
Don't retaliate but don't become a doormat by giving in and then sulking about it. If someone is bossy that is their problem, not yours, so don't make it yours. Continue doing your work, sing or whistle whilst doing it, and don't give them the satisfaction of buckling or rising to their bait. Whatever you do don't argue in front of the pilgrims. This is their Camino (not yours) and they don't want a lasting memory of squabbling hospitaleros.
Concede small things. If she prefers to say grace at the table, let her. If she prefers large lettuce leaves in the salad to your broken up leaves, take it in turns to make the salad. If she doesn't like onions, lentils, chickpeas or beans, or any other products that you think are staples, find a way around that and serve them separately.
Hospitalero-ing is hard, physically, mentally and spiritually. When you are tired from lack of sleep, long hours of physical work, listening to heart-breaking pilgrim's stories and feeling homesick, you can be vulnerable to criticisms and unkindness. Go for a long walk when your chores are done, meditate, find a quiet place and read inspirational quotes, anything to restore your soul and your body.
And remember, your co-worker is going through the same thing, so unless she has been a real bitch to you or the pilgrims, or has been intolerable, don't report her to the supervisor beyond a suggestion to warn the next hospitalero who will serve with her that she is inclined to be bossy.