Tim Roxborogh’s travel bugs: Storage lockers that rip you off

A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holidays.

There are many eternal mysteries in this life. Like whether there’s a heaven, if aliens exist, just how the pyramids were built and why storage lockers are so uniformly small.

I’ll save the first three for another column and focus in on the fourth. On a recent trip to Melbourne we checked out of our serviced apartment before midday, but with a flight home to New Zealand that night, needed somewhere to keep our bags. All fingers pointed to the massive Southern Cross Station on the edge of the CBD, so that’s where we went.

A remarkable piece of architecture with an undulating wave-style roof, this is a facility caught between three centuries: its first construction in the 19th century, its major refurbishment in the mid-20th century and the multimillion-dollar overhaul it had — including that swish new roof — in the early part of the 21st century.

What this means is that you can be approaching the storage locker room thinking, “my goodness, isn’t Melbourne the most wonderful, progressive and architecturally bold city”, only for that enthusiasm to suddenly be dampened as though you’d stepped back in time to the changing rooms at Parakai Hot Springs in the early 90s.

Now, no offence to Parakai, because my childhood would’ve been all the worse had this waterpark and its two defiantly never added-upon hydroslides not been a part of it, but the charms of the place were never about being modern and flashy. And so it stands to reason the surprise of being in Melbourne in 2018 — one of the most affluent cities in one of the richest nations on Earth — and finding a storage locker room seemingly frozen in the year 1991.

What does this mean? Cash only machines. Cash! It means machines that swallow that cash you’ve just withdrawn if you hesitate for more than 60 seconds in deciphering the confusing on-screen messages. Given no staff member is onsite, this money can’t be refunded.

What else? Size. Seemingly half the lockers are for nothing much larger than an average-sized backpack. Given we didn’t realise the bigger lockers were obscured on the other side of the room, this was money down the drain. On finding the museum-piece computer to choose one of those bigger lockers, we then had to do a virtual rugby scrum to shove our run of the mill-proportioned, 20kg-style bags inside. All told, the cost (including the lost money) for several hours of storage so we could go sight-seeing was nudging $30.

The obvious and very fixable technical frustrations to one side, why are storage lockers around the world so frequently undersized? What would possess a train station like Southern Cross to build lockers that struggle to fit precisely the kinds of bags people are likely to need storing? Also, do aliens exist, how were the pyramids built and is there a heaven? All answers gratefully received.

Kiwis’ heightened sensitivities

There’s no doubt, New Zealand is home to some of the most outrageous scenery in the world. It’s beautiful here and we know it. But what we don’t know is how to deal with travellers who dare to express any hesitation in their unabashed appreciation for all things New Zealand. So often, if a tourist or a writer criticises an aspect of Aotearoa, it becomes a news story, a local mayor gets quoted with their earnest rebuttal and the online comments sections are alive with, “well if you don’t like it you can get lost!” Or worse.

The point being, why are we so sensitive? It’s as if being the self-proclaimed “most beautiful country” is so much a part of the collective national self-esteem that we feel personally affronted by anyone with a whiff of a criticism. This is not our most endearing trait. We can be patriotic and a staunch advocate for protecting our stunning environment, but perhaps if we understood we don’t have an international monopoly on natural beauty, we might be a fraction more humble with our own.

Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB’s Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com

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