‘Order as much food and drink as you want. You don’t have to pay for it.’ The bearded stranger looked at me: I don’t think he expected a hotel manager to say this. Last night we’d also given his family great rooms, 3 large suites so he, his wife and the three teenage daughters could spread out a bit. This morning, after they had had the buffet breakfast with full extras, I arranged a mini-bus tour of Johannesburg for them. They went off to Mandela’s old house in Vilikazi Street, saw the World Cup football stadium, climbed the Carlton Tower, downtown, for the views, and visited the monument to Hector Peterson, killed in 1976, and to all those who ‘Laid down their lives for freedom, peace and democracy’.
It was now late afternoon and they had to be at the airport in a couple of hours. I drew them from the reception area into the bar and told them to order what they wanted, to get nice snacks and sandwiches, and as much drink as they wished for.
A delayed plane connection elsewhere in Africa had made them miss their flight home last night: all this was on the airline’s bill and I didn’t want the family to stop spending.