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Roadtrip: Ur Doin It Wrong!
SSar's Beast
When katiefoolery prescribed a roadtrip for my ills, she might have been surprised to learn that I was, in fact, planning one. Well, sort of planning one. Well, pointing out to my boss that she was supposed to be doing the planning. Yes, there's a boss involved... well, here we go...

Last weekend, had you chanced to stop by my house, you would not have found me home. That was because I was being driven about, stumbling through strange streets, and spending so much time in liquor stores that if I'd been anyone else, the proprietors should have summoned some form of social services. But they didn't, because I'm special. I was doing a survey.

I have two jobs. In fact, pretty much everyone who works for my regional manager, Kristene, has two jobs, because Head Office has thrown very few projects in Wellington's direction lately and it's not enough to live on. Because Kristene can't maintain a solid group of employees on such slim pickings, she has ended up with two sorts: those who can drive, and those who can be relied on.

So when Head Office told Kristene that they needed two shifts to be worked in Masterton and Palmerston North, she picked me. Several weeks of passive-aggressive emails later (K: "I still haven't worked out how you're getting from Masterton to Palmerston North." Me: Well, it's your job to figure that out. Not mine... we had a plan.

I got up at 6:30am on Saturday morning in order to be at Waterloo Station by 8:15am - for some arcane accounting reason, that made more sense than for the guy with the car to pick me up at my house - where Junior Employee Viyasan picked me up. Viyasan is a chatty, intelligent Econ/Accy student. There was a guy in the front seat who also seemed chatty and intelligent. Several twists and turns of the Rimutaka Hills later, I still hadn't been told his name, or why he was along for a 2.5-hour return trip.

It was a glorious day in Masterton. I found a café that offered more than one style of coffee, and gulped it down. Then worked. Not much to say about that. It's a survey. You stand in approximately one place, and intercept people as they exit and enter the store. People mostly friendly; storepersons usually hiding in the back room. They made me a cup of tea, which was a good thing, because I'd forgotten my hayfever pills. The store had a door on either end, which was tricky. People would come in one door and mooch, and I'd sneak around the side so that by the time they finished their purchase, I was waiting innocently at the door they'd come in by.

At 4pm on a Saturday, Masterton's shopping district was dead, and to my sadness, a rose show was just closing (I went to investigate, but they'd locked the doors), but there was plenty of sunshine. Masterton is flat. You can see ALL of the SKY. I found my motel (at fifteen minutes' walk away, it was actually in another suburb, Kuripuni. Yes, Masterton appears to have suburbs. Be afraid) took all of the heavy things out of my backpack, and reveled briefly in the novelty of having my own motel room. Yes, I'm 24 and have never stayed in similar accommodation alone.

The obvious place to stroll in Masterton is Queen Elizabeth Park. It has passed its heyday, but boasts such things as a really dense playground, a model train (across a moat), a deer park, a big swing bridge, and an aviary. This occupied me for an hour and a half, during which I also accidentally wandered into the hospital grounds, and was earnestly questioned as to whether I'd seen any (other?) suspicious wanderers.

I kind of wanted somewhere quiet for dinner, so against my better judgment, I didn't back away quietly when I opened the door of "Plaza India" onto the most battered carpet I've ever seen. It was all, roughly, the same colour, but that's because when you spill and grind things onto a dark carpet, it just gets darker in a very motley way. I got a chair and food. I had the room to myself, which allowed me to notice that the arrangements of tables were backed by two pole-dancing poles firmly bolted at the top. Huh. Well, if there was a party, I didn't stick around long enough. The lamb korma was delicious, though.

The next morning, I checked out and wandered hopefully towards the stranger at the motel gate. "Looking for someone?" said Kristene's cousin, whom she'd roped into doing this at the last minute. "Kristene didn't give me your name..." "She didn't give me yours either..."

Sue, along with her partner Paul, proceeded to drive me to Palmerston North, although this pair were kind enough to give me the front seat. It was an even nicer day than the previous. I am not good at describing roads: they existed, therefore we arrived. I have now driven through Eketahuna and can even spell it!

It was two hours before the beginning of my shift when Sue and Paul dropped me off outside the liquor store, with vague directions as to where I might find coffee (or, any form of cold caffeine that wasn't an energy drink). An hour and a half later, I found it. I don't think very well on hayfever. It's not that Palmerston North has no coffee, it's just that my tourism enthusiasm was only up to walking to the Square and back (up Broadway) and on the northern tip of Broadway, it's sparse. C'mon, guys, I was carrying my clipboards, a library book, a notebook, my laptop, my laptop power cables, a change of clothes, a passel of stationery, and it was at least 25 degrees, and my eyes were running. Kristene called to check I'd arrived okay. "Yes. Where is there a Starbucks?" (Answer: nowhere near you.) I begged a little Chinese takeaway to make me a coffee and just put ice in it. "But we don't have any ice..."

That shift was fun. The liquor store owner had a very developed philosophy, bits of which he shared with me. "We like our employees to study. It's written into the contract. If you drop out, you lose your job." He seemed a very passionate manager. And no one I surveyed had the least negative thing to say about his store. "They could, I don't know, have a cold drink just opened when you walk in..."

I was under an awning, but the store faced roughly west, and as the afternoon crept on, the sun crept up my legs. Halfway through the shift, the store manager tossed me bottled water, which I think I evaporated by touch. I shifted back and forth on my burning feet, wishing I owned better shoes (note to self: GET SOME), cursing my immune system for allowing hayfever to dry me out, and watching the clock. I was precisely on the nose of quota, as averaged over the two days, when the last respondents walked away at 7:34pm. Two shifts, 50 surveys.

My last driver was someone I'd seen but never spoken to, as Kristene's ex-husband is quite taciturn. I think we exchanged twenty words as he drove me from Palmerston North to Paraparaumu. Yes, because again, they couldn't afford to drive me all the way home. Instead, I got to Coastlands at 8:45pm, ran to the supermarket to get a drink, got on a rail-replacement bus, and got to Wellington Station at about 10:20pm. Where I caught a taxi home. There we go. That's it right there. What kind of roadtrip ends in a taxi?

So I got home, sneezing, dehydrated, sunburnt, and hopefully salaried, with a relative scarcity of photos and amusing diversions. How was YOUR weekend?

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That sounds like quite the adventure. I only wish you hadn't been struck with hayfever, because that sucks the fun out of just about anything. And I have just realised that I've never stayed in a motel or hotel room on my own ever. How strange.

My weekend was quite pleasant, thank-you! There was a very rainy (but lovely) backyard wedding on Saturday, followed by a great deal of laziness and sushi on Sunday. I am hoping for at least one daytrip in the coming weekend but I fear the weather is determined to thwart me.

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