Amish and Asian Invasion at the Best Western, Valemount

Last night was my last shift as porter at the Hotel.  Thank God.

The job itself is excruciatingly boring.  Most of the time I’d wander the generic corridors of the hotel, judging the generic artwork hanging on the walls, trying to think up ways of killing time.  The highlight of my 7-hour shift was usually picking up cigarette butts and garbage around the premises, because that way I could at least be outdoors and get lost in thought with the mountains as my witness.

On my last porter shift the hotel was at capacity, filled mostly with two busloads: one of Asian tourists (that cliché is internationally known btw) and one of Amish folks from Ohio.  The Asians arrived first, and there must have been at least a hundred in the hotel lobby for over an hour.  They pillaged the free coffee and hot beverage dispenser that, as porter, is my responsibility to keep fully stocked. There was a line up at the free beverage dispenser for at least 30 minutes.

The Amish were no less gleeful with the free drinks.  I had to restock the beverage dispenser three times in the course of my shift.  And in keeping with stereotypes, I had to instruct a number of the Amish on how operate the gratis technology.  According to a CNN story, most Amish groups from the midwest don’t reject technology outright, but on a case-by-case basis, often after negative consequences are learned.  Nonetheless, it was, well a spectacle to see 80 or 90 Amish men and women and children, in gender-specific uniforms, the men with long, scraggly, moustache-less beards and rather bow-legged, and the women in plain, starched dresses and little white bonnets covering their buns (hair, that is).  I was genuinely curious to see them interacting with or even simply walking by the regular tourists the hotel sees:  travelers from Alberta, environmental assessment contractors and, yes, the Asians.

But, thankfully, I won’t have to kill time doing that job at the hotel any more.  On Sunday the delivery and subscription and billing boy at the Goat quit. So starting immediately I’ll be able to work 25-30 hours at The Goat doing newspaper-related businesses-side shit, and spend the rest of my time doing investigative stuff.  It’s not ideal; I’d rather be able to focus on the investigative stuff entirely.  But at least I’ll be learning more about the day-to-day operations of a newspaper, and (imagine) actually getting paid for it.

The best part of the portering experience was meeting Ron, the 5-day-a-week porter who trained me for 14 hours.  Porter training does not require 14 hours, rather it requires learning how to kill time so Ron and I talked a lot and perfected a leisurely gait.  Ron’s somewhere in his 50s and is fighting a relapse into cancer.  He has a real calm and thoughtful, even Zen, demeanour.  Everything he showed me on the job—whether it was changing the garbage, restocking the beverage dispenser or stocking the pool with towels—he had a methodical and exact way of doing it and, inadvertently, would insist I do it exactly like him.  He had developed a pretty logical system for doing every aspect of one of the most boring jobs I’ve ever had (“I always told my kids,” Ron said to me one shift when I was complaining, “that being bored’s a waste of time”).   Sometime towards the beginning of my first training shift with Ron he told me that he doesn’t have TV or a computer or the internet; that he spends most of his time reading.  I knew I’d like Ron from that point on.  We spent the rest of my first training shift talking about books and authors and the meaning of life.

It’s 9, by the way. The meaning of life is 9.

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