PICTURESQUE: A view of Queenstown in New Zealand.
PICTURESQUE: A view of Queenstown in New Zealand. Contributed

Chance encounter when on the road

THE things that intrigue and impress when you travel are often not so much beautiful monuments or breathtaking landscapes, as the people you come across.

Let me tell you a story or two.

ONCE, on a road trip across the United States, I thought to stay in a motel situated in the somewhere in the plains of mid-west. Seemed like a good idea. The road had been long and hot, we were dusty and tired. Maybe they had a pool. A shower would be welcome. We pulled up in our faded pale blue Volkswagen beetle and went into the reception area. It was empty. We called out Hullo? Anyone There?

Then we glimpsed into the room at the back of the office. There slumped a man in a sagging chair, staring at a dead Christmas tree, completely devoid of any greenery, with a few tatty decorations and with a light that blinked on and off erratically. A pile of beers lay next to him. There was a rifle leaning up against the wall. This was in May.

We looked at each other, tiptoed out, got into the car and got the hell out of there. Whatever Stephen King story was happening with the man and the dead Xmas tree, we did not want to know.

At a coastal town in New Zealand I went into the supermarket to get some supplies. At the checkout the woman was rapidly passing the items of the man in front of me across the scanning thing.

'Only one more hour!' she said as she slammed a packet of pasta across. 'One more hour and I am out of here!'

'Bad day?' said the man

'You could say that,' barked the woman. 'You could say bad week!'

A silence ensued punctuated only by further slamming of food items.

'Well,' said the man,' I was going to a visitation with my children when my ex-wife cancelled it at the last moment. No explanation.'

'Huh!' Snapped the checkout woman. 'My aunt went to Australia and while she was there, she died.'

They looked at me, next in line.

'I have a sore hip,' I ventured weakly. They both looked away. Sore hip didn't stack up.

Slam! Went the groceries.

"Loyalty card?' said the woman.

'No,' said the man, as he packed up his shopping.

'Sorry for your troubles,' I said to him.

'Oh you don't know the half of it,' he smiled sadly and went out. The woman looked at me belligerently.

"Are you going over there?” I asked cautiously.

'No, she's coming back! Loyalty card?'

No, I said apologetically, quickly packed up my supplies, got onto my bicycle and wobbled off as fast as I could.