Title: Hotel California
It was summer of 98. Mamat had just arrived in Christchurch for 5 month, and at his wits end trying to find a job, any job at all. In the end he took a commission only job selling vacuum cleaner door to door. After two months working in Christchurch, 5 of them, Roland, Mamat, Kate, Zack and Phil were assigned the West Coast, Wanaka and Alexandra to work on for a fortnight. Steve and Katie stayed back at the office, holding fort.
The first town after Hokitika was Ross, basically a one convenience store town. The shop also sells fish and chip, liquor and act as a post office. Two rows of houses on either side of the main road, with primary school at the edge of town. They didn’t work on Hokitika, because 3 weeks previously they have spent two days on the town. Katie and Steve from the office came along on that trip to help out. They rented 2 motel units that time. Being the only woman on that trip, Katie had to share a room with another; she didn’t want to share room with Steve, “yuck, not my type” she said later, so she climbed into Roland’s bed. They have been together ever since.
The days were spent on driving the country roads and knocking on doors selling vacuum cleaners, and the night were spent watching TV and playing gin rummy at the motel.
One memorable motel room was 40 kms south of Franz Josef glacier. One room had mirror on the ceiling. Imagine that, if you lie down on the bed naked with your girlfriend, you ca see yourself in the mirror on the ceiling. They let Roland, the team leader sleep there, jested that he should have brought along his girlfriend, Katie for this trip. Mamat remembers the song by the Eagles – Hotel California.
In the dark desert highway,
Da da …da da.
Mirrors on the ceiling, and champagne on ice,
We all are prisoners here, of our own device.
The lady owner of the motel said that a man from Christchurch built the motel. He had a wife and family in Christchurch but also have a girlfriend in Franz Josef, and he built the motel for his girlfriend to manage. That room with mirror on the ceiling was a special place for them.
The next day they continue to Haast, where they stayed at a motel refurbished from a Ministry of Works old depot. They travelled along the coast to Jackson – an old Maori settlement in the 1800’s but no one lives there now. There were relics from the whaling days, giant cauldrons, whalebones as well as a deep-water port. Mamat walked around, feeling the whalebones, climbed into the cauldron and walked down the pier. Kate followed like a puppy.
There were holiday baches 20kms or so down the road, with white sandy beach that goes for miles. The water was warm – around 15 degrees in summer.
Mamat was sitting on the beach enjoying the sunshine and peaceful view. Kate was lying down on her stomach sun tanning her back. The three other guys – Roland, Zack and Phil drove up the road. Later Kate went for a swim.
Kate called out for Mamat, but he couldn’t make out what she said. He thought she was in trouble. So Mamat took off his shirt and rolled up his trousers, wade knee deep to the water.
“Come join me for a swim”
“I can’t swim” he replied.
“I’ll teach you,” she said.
Mamat went back to the beach and took off his trousers, then went back to the water just in his underpants.
She taught him not to fight the waves, but went along with it. He also learnt to float. Kate was a slim girl about Mamat’s height, five foot six, and her skin was slightly tanned.
“Could you please stop looking at my breast?”
“I can’t help it.” he replied.
They had enough of Tasman Sea after an hour or so in the water. Looking back to the beach, their three friends were looking out to the sea. Time to go back.
“Whoa man, you have been skinny dipping with Kate.”
Mamat just flashed a smile.
Later on the van back to Haast, Kate complained of being cold. Mamat took of his jacket, and draped it over Kate’s shoulders. Kate flashed a smile and that puppy eye look of hers.