When in Wellington, I stay in an hotel with a lift that has direct access to the street. In order to protect the guests from nightly assaults by maniacal hordes of ravaging Wellingtonians, the lift has a security mechanism. A small keypad somewhat akin to that found on ATMs, and serving much the same purpose sits just above the panel of floor access buttons. In order to reach the residential floors the potential liftee is obliged to enter a four digit secret code number into the keypad. Should this be done correctly, a cheerful chirrup announces that the required floor may be selected within ten seconds. Failure to choose a floor within that time necessitates starting the whole procedure again. Should the secret number be keyed incorrectly, a sullen silence results and the floor access buttons remain stubbornly inactive.
All this is explained carefully and patiently by the check-in staff to each new guest, and then the guest is handed a card with the code number printed on it.
The guest strides confidently towards the lift, card clutched in hand. However confidence erodes the closer they get to the lift and once they are actually inside it, mild panic often ensues. Many times I have stood in silent amusement at the back of the lift and watched people struggle with the arcane and mystical mechanisms required to induce it to ascend.
I have seen people simply walk in and ignore the keypad completely. They just hit their floor number and wait with gradually increasing puzzlement as absolutely nothing happens.
I have seen people punch their code number into the floor selection buttons and their floor number into the keypad. Again the lift remains immobile.
I have seen people so overcome with delight at their skill in entering the secret number into the keypad that they completely forget to select a floor number. Sudden realisation usually dawns as no lift movement is detected, but by then it is too late and the secret number must be entered again.
I have seen people who cannot find the necessary numbers on the keypad. These people are typists of the "hunt and peck" variety and despite the fact that the keypad has its digits arranged in numeric order their finger still hovers uncertainly and stabs semi-randomly. The lift haughtily rejects their pathetic efforts.
At least sixty percent of my ascents and descents find me giving impromptu tutorials in lift manipulation.
The hotel is always full of intense business people with cellphones that ring loudly during breakfast. Wheeler dealers deal and wheel between the cornflakes and the toast. These are the important people, the movers and shakers, an inspiration to us all. Fortunately the breakfast room is on a floor that does not require a secret keypad number to reach; they can always manage to get there so as to impress each other in the morning. If the breakfast floor was a guarded floor, not only would these pillars of industry starve to death, but the wheels of industry would probably cease to turn.
But I dont care. Ive got a squashy...
The other day I stared into the mirror and realised that I looked as if I had come off second best in a quarrel with a Van Der Graaf generator. My hair was having a bad hair day. It was time to have it seen to.
A nice lady showed me to the torture chair and cocooned me with towels and sheets.
"What can I do for you today?"
I explained that I would like the Einsteinian fright-wig on my bonce brought back into some semblance of control. She poked it dubiously.
"Would you like your beard trimmed as well?"
"No thank you," I said. "No offence, but people without beards shouldnt trim beards."
She nodded understandingly and took me over to the basins for a shampoo. There is nothing quite so sensuously pleasurable as having shampoo massaged into your scalp by someone who knows just how to do it. Strong yet gentle fingers, warm water to rinse the suds away, a final scalp massage and then quickly back to the trimming chair before you fall asleep beneath the ministrations. I love it!
She snipped and snipped, manoeuvring my head backwards and forwards, chatting freely the while. She told me her life story and I told her mine. Slowly the exuberant mass of curls came back under control. My head was smooth and sleek.
But now my beard, which previously had seemed somewhat thin and anaemic in comparison with my hirsute scalp had begun to look particularly shaggy.
"Are you sure I cant trim your beard?" There was a wistful note in her voice. She was obviously very eager to continue. By now we were fast friends, having shared so many intimacies.
"OK," I said. "But please dont turn it into designer stubble. I dont like that."
"I promise," she said, clicking her scissors in anticipation.
She did a marvellous job, shaping the beard precisely, and skilfully removing the slightly lop-sided appearance that my own more amateur trimming efforts had caused it to assume. I was very pleased.
And then she made me an offer no person has ever made me before. It fair took my breath away, so it did.
"Would you like me to trim your eyebrows?"
"No thanks," I said. "Ive got a squashy."
A squashy is a New Zealand bush hat designed to survive hard usage. It can be squashed up into a small, tight bundle, squeezed into a bag, carried from one end of the country to the other and when removed from the bag will resume its proper shape with no wrinkle or distortion. It is the ultimate fashion accessory and no Robson can afford to be without one. The label in my squashy proclaims:
Kiwi Classic Hats
There is a picture of a kiwi, a koru and a flax plant. And the words:
Made in Australia