Thursday, 8 September 2011

Hiding in boom town.

The people waiting at the luggage carousel in Perth airport said a lot about what's going on there.  About one third of people were wearing orange jackets with reflective strips and heavy boots on their feet.  Their luggage was a back pack and a swag, or at least a sleeping bag.  Many of them were women.  They must have been coming to the city to spend the money they'd earned working in the mines.

Arriving anywhere at night I find to be an oddly disorienting experience, especially if it's somewhere that I'm not familiar with.  As I waited in the queue for a taxi to my hotel, the ABC television program "Q & A" was on the television placed for us to watch while we waited.  Greg Combet looked put upon, Sophie Mirabella looked smug and Tony Jones tried to referee the whole thing with his regular intonation, "I'll take that as a comment".

Inside the taxi, the driver put some instrumental music on.  I can only describe it as African muzak.  It was African-esque, but something had been done to it to remove its soul.  I never want to hear that kind of noise again.  We drove through the suburbs past shopping hubs that had everything you needed:  24 hour gym, computer store, anytime deli (open 24 hours), adult shop and an ATM.  I could see people in the gym and wondered what order you would visit the stores in.  ATM first and any order after that I decided.

As we pulled up to the hotel, I knew that its grand name was an overstatement.  I was to meet my colleague in the bar at about 8:45pm after I'd checked in and settled.  Every step through the shabby corridors saw my heart sink a step further.  I knew that I had no hope of subtle lighting in the bathroom - or anywhere for that matter.  I flicked the switch on, and there I was, looking more craggy than I had in the loo on the aircraft only here, the mirror was bigger and I could actually turn around.

I waited for what seemed like 20 minutes for the lift to arrive and then found the bar.  A woman who barely spoke English and took four attempts to get the order of "soda, lime and bitters" right ("you want lemonade?")  then barked that it was last drinks and they were sold out of bar snacks.

After a restless night accompanied by the percussive clang of giants walking around in the air conditioning system and a fridge humming in the key of E flat, I met another rumpled and bleary guest at the lifts.

"Sleep well?"  I asked him.

"I've been on the phone to my EA to tell her never to book me in here again," he replied.

"It's pretty dire," I said.

"This is the kind of hotel you book into when you're hiding from the law," he declared.

I laughed.  Then I looked at him again and wondered.  I swear he looked at me too. Clearly the new class of criminal runaway wears a suit and cufflinks.

As I ate my breakfast in the chaotic dining room, everyone looked a little shady.  Everyone was hiding from something and this was the place to do it.

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