Hostess With The Mostest
Part 1

"So how much did you get last week?" Julia asked

"Twenty five, plus my share of the drinks, about forty I suppose" I admitted

"That is just so unfair Chris," Mandy stated, "all the drivers reckon you're the best host on the company but you always get diddley squat in the way of tips!"

"Well, that's the way it goes I suppose"

"What tour are you on this week Chris?" Julia shifted the focus of our conversation.

"Tirolean Splendour"

"Urgh! All those mountains. It rained all week last time I did that one" Julia mentioned

"Well I prefer it to those Med. Trips, they're too hot for my liking" I mentioned, " what about you two?"

"Sorrento and Amalfi Coast" Mandy stated

"Lake Garda for me" Julia added

"Cool we go down to Bavaria together" I enthused.

Now before you all get too uppity perhaps I need to fill in some holes! My name is Chris Hornby, like the toy trains? me and the girls work for Global Holidays as 'hosts' on their continental coach holidays. I've been doing this for three years now and I really enjoy it despite being or perhaps because I'm the only bloke. I'm sure a lot of you have been on coaching holidays so you'll have a fair idea what I do, if not you'll soon get the idea! Any way where were we? Oh yeah.

"Here we go" Mandy told us as the minibus pulled into Leicester Forest East (motorway services)

"See you at Dover girls" I called as we walked to where our weeks charges were waiting.

"See ya Chris" Mand called back

I walked to where my bus was waiting, Colin the usual driver for the UK leg was just finishing his fag.

"Hi Chris"

"Morning Col" I yawned, stretching theatrically, "I hate these early starts"

"Don't do anything for me either" he agreed

"Are we all loaded?"

"There's just a couple at the toilets then we can get off"

I climbed on board and stowed my bag, hopefully my luggage was already on board, I did load it myself last night but you never know! The last two 'guests' climbed on board followed closely by Col.

"Let's go!" Colin enthused

He reversed the coach out of the bay and eased forward, hooting the others still waiting. I waved to the girls as we passed and sat on my seat while we threaded our way out onto the motorway. The passengers settled down quickly and with practised timing I grabbed my mike and perched on the dashboard.

"Morning everybody"

A few mumbled mornings were received in reply.

"Welcome to Global Tours Tirolean Splendour, my name is Chris and I'll be looking after you this week. Colin here will take us to Dover where our driver for the rest of the trip, Den, will join us. Now just a bit of info for you, although there will be regular 'comfort' stops the coach does have a toilet, the door to the left at the bottom of the steps to the centre exit. Just remember to turn right when you come out" I joked, which received a mixed reception.

"All seats have seatbelts, for your safety we advise that you use them at all times. there are several emergency exits, front door, centre door and just next to the rear seats. In addition there are two roof exits and in case you are asked there is a fire extinguisher and first aid box next to my seat at the front here."

I paused for breath

"I will come around shortly if you want drinks, we can offer, tea, coffee, chocolate and an assortment of soft drinks. All drinks are fifty pence each or seventy cents if you prefer. If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them."

"Relax and have a good trip, thanks for your attention" I clicked the mike off, knowing that the punters would take a few minutes to settle down again.

"You want a drink Col?"

"Tea, white no sugar please"

I headed up the coach, a fixed smile on my face and started the drinks making process. I know some of my fellow hosts hate this bit of the job but done right you can make some serious dosh!

By the end of my first 'drinks' round, I realised that this was going to be a difficult trip, several retired couples, a few older singles, one young family with two small children and the rest of our thirty six passengers were forty something's. As usual, the regular travellers were extolling the 'virgins' with travellers tales of places distant, exotic and I'm sure quite often never visited!

We stopped for a loo and fag break at South Mimms then started the long leg down to Dover. As we always catch the one o'clock Stena sailing we could afford to keep the speed down and the other Global coaches caught up to us so that the driver changes at the docks were carried out simultaneously.

"Hi Den" I greeted my partner for the week.

"Chris" he acknowledged

A short wait on the dock and we were loading.

"We are at blue five, please return to the coach as soon as you are advised, have a good trip, see you in France" I told my charges

The passengers filed off and Den and I quickly locked the bus and followed up stairs. One of the perks of the job is the cheap or sometimes free meal's offered to coach crews. We joined the girls and their drivers, Rob and Steve and headed to the drivers lounge.

We collected our lunches and commandeered a table.

"What are yours like?" Mandy asked Julia and myself

"Looks like my lot are gonna be hard work, I only did a dozen drinks on the way down" I told them

"Poor Chris" Julia patted my arm, "my bunch seem pretty up for a good time"

"Yeah mine too, Chris always seems to get the sour pusses" Mand added

The six of us sat and chatted while the ferry manoeuvred out of Dover harbour then left to go visit the bureau de change and duty free shops. I know it's a cliché but we joined the bargain hunters in the rattling beer and cigs shop, Den likes the occasional cigar and Rob smokes anytime he gets a chance!

"That lot over there are mine" I pointed to a group of holidaymakers, sharing jokes and stories.

"They don't look too bad" Julia pointed out

"Well, they sort of clam up on the coach, none of my usual funnies have got more than a mumble"

"Not even the toilet door?" Mandy asked


"I reckon it's because you're a bloke" Mandy went on

"Get off" I stated

"You know she could be right" Julia agreed

"Well I think that's a load of bull" I mentioned

"Maybe" a thoughtful Julia allowed

We continued chatting as we strolled the decks, picking up a few extra Euro's at the B de C before rejoining the drivers as they waited for the call to the vehicles. Being a Friday, we cleared the French authorities without a stop and our little convoy of purple and silver coaches joined the French motorway system. Grabbing the mike, I took my place at the front of the coach.

"Everyone okay?" a few murmurs came back

"I hope everyone has put their watches forward, from now until next Saturday we will be using European time. We will head north to Belgium and then across to Germany and our overnight stop in the Westerwald. Den, our driver here will be stopping periodically for the usual facilities and I'll be around for drinks in about ten minutes. Sit back and enjoy the trip"

For anyone who's done this trip you'll know that the drive across Belgium is pretty monotonous so after another poorly supported drinks round as we passed Dunkirk, I settled down with my book. The next time I looked we were just leaving the Brussels Ring and our first twenty-minute stop was about ten minutes away. Somewhere along the way our colleagues had gotten in front of us and we pulled in beside them as their passengers crossed to the services.

"Phew!" Mand sighed, "I've hardly sat down since Calais"

"I've done two rounds too" Julia mentioned

"Looks like I've got a week with the glums" I told them

"Poor Chris" Mand commiserated

"Anyone want to swap" I joked

"Okay" Julia agreed

"What?" I was a little surprised

"Tell you what, I'll swap with you as far as the next stop, just to get you off that pretty butt" Julia explained

"Why don't we all swap?" Mand suggested

"Erm, I'm not sure we should" I hesitated

"Hey Den," Julia called to where the smokers were puffing away, "you mind if Chris and I swap? Just to the next comfort."

"Fine by me" he replied, as senior driver what he says goes.

So that's what we did. It was soon evident that Mand's suggestion on the boat might have some mileage. In the end I got Julia's coach, Mandy got Den and Julia travelled on Steve's motor. Now don't get me wrong, there was no hostility or anything like that from the passengers, but they acted nothing like I'd been led to believe. In fact they were like clones of my own passengers and although the drinks round was pretty full there was none of the holiday atmosphere.

We pulled into Aachen services for our meal stop and once the customers were off the three drivers and us hosts went to eat.

"So?" Mand asked

"Julia's coach was as bad as mine except they drink more"

"Yours were okay Mand, what about Chris's?"

"Seemed okay to me, a bit noisy but just about everyone was buying"

"Look's like you girls were right, they just don't take to me the same as you" I observed, "must be my sparkling personality"

"Talk rot" Mandy stated, "you're great and all the drivers think you're good at the job, right fellas?"

"As good as anyone else" Rob confirmed

We finished eating and returned to our own coaches, we each stop tonight in a different hotel but we meet up at the first stop mid morning.

"See you in the morning" I told them

"Yeah take care Chris" Mandy mentioned

"You too" I returned

It was knocking on eight o'clock as we pulled up at the 'Adler', our overnight accommodation. After sorting out the room keys, I helped Den unload the cases and grabbing my case headed to get a shower before our planned stop in the bar for a beer.

Once in my room, I stripped off and opened my bag to get my toiletries. Hang on this isn't my bag! I had a quick look and realised that I had Julia's case, how the? Well it's not the end of the world, we can swap over in the morning, and I'll just have to use the complimentary wash gear.

Brrng, brrng! Brrng, brrng!

I got to the phone and found Julia at the other end.

"Chris, have you got my bag?"

"I hope you've got mine" I mentioned, "yep I've got yours here"

"Thank god, I thought I'd lost it. How did I end up with yours?"

"No idea" I told her

"Ah well, we'll swap in the morning at Ulm, good job I carry a spare pair of pants in my handbag eh?"

"I'll have to go commando"

"Ugh gross! You could borrow some of mine if you want"

"Er thanks for the offer, I'll probably borrow some from Den" I mentioned

"Well the offers there, anyway have to go someone's at the door, see you tomorrow"

"Yeah bye Julia"

The second day of Tirolean Splendour, Tour 1138, started off as I hoped the week would continue, dry and bright. After a buffet breakfast at the Adler we made our way out to the autobahn and resumed our journey south. My passengers seemed to have loosened up a bit but I still sensed a sort of tension in the air. You know, nothing you can put a finger on but it's there just the same? we drove past Frankfurt airport then across towards Ulm, reaching our rendezvous for elevenses only minutes apart.

"Morning Den, morning Chris" Julia greeted us lugging my case over.

"Hi Julia, sorry about the case"

"No problem Chris"

Den pulled Julia's case out of the crew compartment and replaced it with the one she had.

"Thanks" she mentioned as I carried her case over to where Rob waited to load it on.

"We going for coffee?"

"Yeah Mand's already gone to get it, we'll meet inside"

We waited for Den and Rob then walked across to the cafeteria where Steve and Mandy had just grabbed a table with our drinks. The drivers drank up quickly and headed outside for a fag.

"So?" Julia asked

"They're still a miserable lot" I stated

"Us girls had a chat last night after I spoke to you" Julia went on

"What about as if I can't guess"

"We were not talking about men! Well perhaps sort of" Mandy told me

"Okay, I've bitten. What did you talk about?"

"Well about you and your passengers" Julia started

"We've got an idea" Mandy enthused

"About what?"

"About how to get your 'interface' more compatible" she continued

"Go on" I rolled my eyes. Last time I listened to them I ended up dressed as Santa on the Christmas tour! All week!

"Well what if Christopher was taken ill and Christine took over?" Mandy suggested

"What are you on about" I wasn't getting something here.

"What Mand is trying to say is that we reckon you could pretend to be a girl this week to see if the punters treat you any different" Julia explained

"You've got to be kidding!" I exclaimed

"No seriously Chris, we've worked out how we do it and we're pretty sure you can do it" Mandy filled in

"No way!"

In truth the very idea was producing conflicting messages in my head, one bit of me was yelling' not in a million years' and another part was wondering what it would be like! I'm hardly what you would call handsome, just sort of a non-event but no way could I look female!

"Oh come on Chris, it'll be fun!" Julia suggested

"Just supposing I said yes, what's the plan and what about Den?" I queried

"Den's okay, I already spoke to him this morning." Julia informed me, "in fact he's well up for it"

I rolled my eyes again.

"Anyway, you go down with food poisoning between here and where we split. Then you come with Rob and me to Lake Garda where I'll transform you into Christine. Den's not due out tomorrow so you can catch the train and join the coach at the hotel as Chris's replacement." Julia finished

"It'd never work!" I stated

"Why not?" Mand asked

"Well I'd never be convincing" I threw at them

"Leave that to me, by the time you get to Seefeld no one will know you're not a girl" Julia mentioned

"Think about it Chris, it'll be fun!" Mandy enthused

"Okay I'll think about it, I'll ring you before the lunch stop." Why was I even thinking about doing it? One look at my passengers as they returned to the coach answered that one.

"You okay with Julia's plan Den?" I asked as we hit the road again

"Well, we don't need to tell the office do we? I fancy pulling the wool over this lots eye's, it's like driving a hearse all day!"

"I'll take that as a yes"


Ah well in for a penny! I picked up the company mobile and dialled Rob's coach.

"Julia?...Chris...okay, against my better judgement I'll give it a throw...sure...okay, see you in a couple of hours"

"Looks like I'm leaving you at the services Den" I mentioned

I did my drinks round, I was quite 'ill' and had to keep rushing to the toilet which at least made the passengers a bit more attentive.

"Are you all right luv" one of the biddy's asked after the latest visit.

"I think I've eaten something bad, I might have to fly home" I sowed the rumour seeds thickly.

Within minutes when I paid my next 'visit', most of the passengers were whispering about my imminent demise. So after a (faked) call to the office they were unsurprised but sympathetic when I told them I was leaving them to return home and that my replacement would join them tomorrow. It was more than a little embarrassing when I got ten pounds in tips when I left the coach to 'return home'!

As part of the cover, I got to spend the ride down to Lake Garda occupying the unused back row of seats. Julia made a few 'worried' trips up to the back during which we chatted quietly. I was amazed how the punters reacted to her as she made her way back and forth. That was lesson number one - watch how Julia navigates the aisle!

We arrived at the hotel early evening and as I didn't have a room, I was 'sharing' with Rob, or rather I wasn't! Being supposedly ill with food poisoning I had to miss dinner, instead I was bathing and having a shave so that I'd be ready to start my 'makeover' when Julia returned.

Maddy Bell 17.01.04 © 2004

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