There is no Internet in Hell. There are, however, buses.

October 21, 2008

* I’m passing through downtown Tawa and — damn! — I blinked and missed it. Fifteen minutes north of Wellington. If nearby Porirua is a bedroom community, then Tawa is a Murphy bed.

* Two cafes in town. Both close at 3:30. You want coffee after that, you’d better have your own plantation, roaster and espresso machine. Unless you’re content to drink instant coffee. In which case, you pretty much deserve Tawa. And don’t ever speak to me again.

* A room in the Bucket Tree Motor Lodge. Smells musty. Redolent of mildew. Open a window every 10 years, people. No soap or shampoo. I used to run a B&B. I know those little packages are cheap as chips. $125 a night and you have to bring your own basic toiletries? In a civilized country, that would be known as highway robbery.

No Internet. Can’t blog. Can’t check NHL scores. Can’t write home. If I’ve suddenly been transported back in time, why don’t I have more hair?

Place gets its name from the humungous tree out front. And, yes, if you stand on your head, it does look just like a bucket. At least until the blood floods your brain and you pass out.

Built on some sort of historical site. I’m going to assume the train tracks passing within feet of the building came later.

* Said train is of the commuter variety, linking these dinky backwaters with the Big Smoke that is Wellington, capital of New Zealand, home to political sorts and other undesirables. I’ve never ridden a commuter train. Sounds like fun. Oh, except it’s closed this weekend for maintenance. Instead, I have to take a bus to Wellington. I’ve ridden buses before. There is no fun factor involved.

By the time the bus pulls into Tawa, it’s full. I’m standing for 20 minutes, pretty much swinging from the suppot rail by one hand every time the bus leans into corners. Trying not to drop either my camera or my laptop on some granny’s blue-tinged head.

* Wellington in the spring = sun/clouds/sun/clouds/sun. Sunglasses on, off, on, off. I’m freezing. I’m wearing too many clothes. Hey, you build a city surrounded by water (hello, San Francisco), Mother Nature is going to take you up the ass for being such a cheeky bastard.

* Conversation in Starbucks with Asian girl behind the counter:

Me: A tall Anniversary blend, please.

Her: Are you Irish?

Me: No, I’m Canadian.

Translation of conversation in Starbucks:

Me: A tall Anniversary blend, please.

Her: We’ve switched over to Estima.

Me: No, I’m Canadian.

They say your hearing is the first to go. Well, after your hair, that is. And about the same time as your waistline.

* The library. Thank you, Jesus. I have a Telecom New Zealand wireless account. Telecom has dotted the country with hotspots. The library has to contain one of them. But, oh dear, my computer can’t “see” any of them. However, should I care to enter my credit card number, I have two sites to choose from. Uh, no. The NHL scores will still be there when I return to Napier.

* The trains are supposed to be operating again by the time I arrive at the station at 2. They’re not. Back on the bus. The lady ahead of me in line is 4-foot-11 and 300 pounds. The steps into the bus are high and steep. She manages to heave one massive leg onto the first step. She stops. She’s stuck. She doesn’t have the strength to pull herself any higher.

“Help me,” she bleats.

The bus driver grabs one of the woman’s arms and begins to pull. The woman shifts maybe three inches. I glance at the teenage girl behind me. I raise an eyebrow as if to say, “Should we be helping here?” She flashes me one of those “Whatever” expressions and looks away. I’m on my own with this one.

From what I understand of physics and gravity, the ideal location for me to put my hands to achieve optimum heft would be under the woman’s butt. However, painful experience has taught me that — and you might want to write this one down — some women do not appreciate having strange men touching their posteriors.

In the end, as it were, I let the driver do most of the heavy lifting and simply put one ineffectual hand in the woman’s arm pit and push gingerly. If this were one of those Good Samaritan tests to see who is worthy enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, I failed miserably.

It’s pretty much straight to Hell for me. Well, either there or Tawa.

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