As unlikely as it sounds for two veteran journalists, we recently found ourselves with a cold bottle of Redden Bridge sparkling pinot grigio with a crown cap and no bottle opener.
It was our second day in this particular caravan park and our neighbours seemed pleasant enough without being intrusive, so I sauntered over to beg the loan of an opener.
When will I ever learn!
Hi, just wondered if I could borrow your bottle opener.
“Here, I’ll do it,” says he, making a grab for the bottle. “That’s a funny-looking beer.”
It’s not beer.
“Right, anyway this is just like when I was in Borneo in ’64, had to wait till I got to ’Nam to lay my hands on a stubby opener.”
God, there are a lot of boring old buggers in caravan parks and this one had been lying in wait with his stubby holder clamped to the arm of a fold-up chair and now I was hooked like a trout.
Foreseeing a monologue longer than Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in Ulysses, I wrestled back the bottle, unclipped the bottle opener and promised to come right back with it.
It was dark before I dared set foot outside the campervan again, and snuck past the neighbour’s van to the amenities. There I found myself in a shower cubicle in between two German women who began conducting a very animated conversation over my head.
It sounded interesting in a Swedish chef kind of way: “hausen, rausen, mausen”.
Excuse me ladies, can you please tell me what you are talking about – I was in the middle of it after all.
“Ah,” says one, “I was just saying how sad it is for the nice people who run this park that things keep getting stolen.”
The next morning, I went to drop back the key and asked the woman in the office about the “thefts”.
“Oh it’s endless,” she said.
“We stopped putting hand towels in the men’s bathroom altogether because they never last more than a minute.
“We had individual pump soaps at every basin but had to go for wall dispensers because they were always swiped. In the cabins, the jacks between the TV and DVD routinely disappear and people even replace our nice new pillows with their manky ones.”
While they don’t like to talk about it, all accommodation providers from caravan parks to luxury hotels have to deal with light-fingered guests.
While it’s difficult to find hard statistics on what petty theft costs the accommodation industry, more than a third of hotel guests admitted in one international survey to having hotel property in their luggage when they checked out.
This was not the shampoos and toiletries, mind, but books, magazines, towels, bathrobes, bedsheets, dressing gowns, pillows, cushions, shower heads, plus ornamental knick-knacks, cutlery and utensils.
Basically anything not screwed down is at risk, and sometimes even if it is that’s no help. I got into a lift in one Melbourne hotel recently with a repairman who reported he was replacing a stolen light fitting.
But now we’re on the road again, I’ve just realised I’ve at least left our neighbour in the van park with a new story … about the day his bottle opener was swiped.