|THE TURBULENT WORLD OF MOTEL MANAGEMENT|
|October 28, 2005 11:00 pm|
Pilot story and photos by Joseph Friedrichs
As a series of dark clouds gather overhead just before noon, he finally stops to rest.
It's only for a minute, of course, but the chocolate bar he's able to consume in that time will provide fuel to keep his legs pumping through the afternoon.
"My wife doesn't know I keep these in here," he says of the candy bar's secret drawer. "She'd kill me if she found out."
Nilesh Amin, the owner of the Wild Rivers Motorlodge and the Spindrift Motor Inn in Brookings, is smack in the middle of his daily "grind."
Life in the motel business can be a never-ending cycle of cleaning, customer interaction and paperwork, he says.
"The worst thing to me is when someone tells me I've got it made," he says. "Look at me. I've got what made?"
In the time it takes for the nearby traffic light signals to transform from red to green twice over, about three minutes, Nilesh's break is complete.
He tosses away the candy bar wrapper and bolts across the parking lot of the Wild Rivers Motorlodge. He moves quickly, as though he was being pursued by a pack of starving hyenas.
It's the only way to get all the duties accomplished in a day, he says, by walking at this wildly fast pace.
In a quick turn, he disappears into room number 110; like a mouse diving into a hole for safety.
At least inside it won't be raining.
Nilesh Amin moved to Brookings 17 years ago. His plan upon arrival was to stay for a decade.
Each passing day breaks that promise.
"When I first got here, I used to cry myself to sleep on Friday and Saturday nights," he says. "There was just nothing to do."
Nilesh was born in East Africa, along the Ivory Coast, in 1962. His family is from India and he speaks the native language, Gajarati, with some fluency.
When he was ten, he moved to England and spent 16 years there, also on the coastline.
While attending college in England, Nilesh experienced racism on a regular basis. Eventually, it is what drove him from the country.
One afternoon, as Nilesh was walking down a busy sidewalk in the town Bournemouth, a group of young men began screaming racial slurs from their window. A police officer was nearby, but did nothing. The officer simply turned his back and pretended not to hear.
"He heard. He heard every word," Nilesh says.
The incident would prove to be the end of his days in Europe.
Nilesh decided to come to America. His uncle was living in Crescent City at the time. He came to meet him there and took pleasure in what he saw. While Nilesh was on his tour of the West Coast, his uncle showed him a motel that was up for sale in a small community called Brookings. This was the Spindrift.
After receiving his green card in 1982, Nilesh bought into the motel, with support from his father, who was now also living in Oregon.
"We loved the coastline here," Nilesh says. "It reminded me of where I was born."
The Amins were the first people of Indian descent to settle in Brookings. The community was very kind and welcoming, he says.
"I have a high respect for the whole family," says Leanne McCurley, a business owner in Brookings and a friend of the Amins. "They have developed a good relationship with a number of people in the community."
Although the Amins have had a good association with Brookings' residents, the same can't always be said of outsiders, or all the hotel guests, Nilesh says.
If a customer at one of the motels has problem with rates or conditions of the motel, it seems always to come back to race.
In his years spent in the motel business, Nilesh has seen the lowest of the low. A former California sheriff, with possible ties to the Ku Klux Klan, once threatened him in the motel office.
"He asked me how I, as a foreigner, could charge these kind of rates," Nilesh says, shaking his head in disgust.
As Nilesh grabs a load of clean sheets from the drier, his small frame nearly becomes lost behind a wall of white cotton.
"And there's been worse than that," he says.
In one incident, he was punched in the face by a drunken man who wanted a room. Nilesh had suspected trouble and denied him at the door. This prompted the attack, both physically and verbally.
There have been people who have driven up to the front door and looked in the window to see Nilesh or his wife, Vinanti. At the sight of their skin color, the people have driven away.
Other people have walked into the front office and, when Nilesh enters from his sleeping quarters, they turn for the exit.
"One person told me that they didn't want a room from me," he says. "That we're fighting you people'."
Nilesh says people often mistake his family for being from Iraq or Iran. This misconception is very troubling, he says. Not because he dislikes people of Arab descent, but simply because he is proud of his own roots.
"If people would only take the time to ask me," he says. "They would find out."
Nilesh lives by a code of ethics that do not allow him to retaliate in violence against those who show him aggression or hatred.
"You swallow your pride. You get on with life," he says.
Nilesh believes that Brookings is growing too quickly. The amount of labor available exceeds the people who can fill the slots right now, he says.
"I've never seen the help wanted section so big," he says.
Every day is a struggle to find help at the motels. Often, Nilesh is stuck cleaning the rooms, checking guests in and out and handling the paperwork by himself.
This busy schedule leaves him little time to spend with his seven-year-old son, Shaan.
"I want to be able to spend more time with him," Nilesh says. "But when you work until midnight, it's tough."
Parents of Shaan's friends have been extremely helpful in helping Nilesh make sure his son is able to get to practices, soccer tournaments out of town and other precious events in his young life.
"This is a 24-7 job. It drags you down," Nilesh says. "It's to the point where I am just doing the same thing every day. I feel bad for my son when he gets stuck here."
The Amin family lives in a room at the Spindrift. They cook their meals there. They are raising Shaan there.
They do own a home in Brookings, but rarely, if ever, sleep there.
Nilesh himself has only been to the house once in the past month, a quick visit to grab something from the garage.
"No one lives there; it just sits empty," he says of the house.
The family has tried to hire hotel managers to watch after the motels and allow the Amins time off.
After several experiments with managers, business began to suffer and the rooms weren't getting cleaned well enough.
"One thing about motels is, if you're not on hand to deal with the rooms, they are going to be trashed," Nilesh says.
So, after a brief stint, the Amins took back full responsibility.
"You can't ask for a harder worker. Most people do their job and go home," McCurley says. "He never goes home."
Eldon Gossett, a family friend in Brookings says that Nilesh pours his heart and soul into the motels. This includes a tremendous amount of upkeep and expansion.
"He's a commanding man," Gossett says. "He makes things happen."
Eventually all the hard work will pay off, Gossett says. And in a few years, Nilesh and his wife will be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Nilesh and Vinanti have been married for seven years. It was a marriage arranged by Nilesh's father. After a series of interviews, Nilesh chose her to be his wife.
Vinanti was born and raised in India. She says that she enjoys her life in America, although she wishes there was more for her to do socially. English is still hard for her and she sometimes has trouble communicating with guests, which can be frustrating, she says.
Next week, the Amins will celebrate Diwali, a Hindu holiday similar to Christmas. Hindu is the family's religion.
"It was never an issue for us, moving to a place where there are not other people from India," Nilesh says. "I've never lived in an area where there were a lot of people from there."
Nilesh says that his brother's recent move to Portland has sparked his need to move on with life, and leave Brookings behind.
"I do like it here, the peacefulness, not having to hustle and bustle for parking ... and the people.
"Eventually, I'll be out of here."
When he leaves, Nilesh dreams of not working 14-or 15-hour days. He dreams of a life where he can have weekends off and take his family out to eat for dinner.
It's not the escape from racial predators that he craves. Those people seem to live everywhere.
It's the peace of family life he desires.
As he suddenly reappears from room number 110, he shoots back to the laundry room.
Nilesh has lost a lot of weight this year. He attributes it to a lack of help at the motels, and his constant running around trying to do the work of three or four people.
"My wife yells at me sometimes and says I can't sit still," he says. "She says I'm a workaholic."
In the time it takes the nearby traffic light to change from yellow to red, he is back in the parking lot.
His arms are full with towels as he climbs the stairs to the motor lodge's second story.
Tonight, he plans to work on some tax papers and company records.
"I've given up my social life," he says. "It's not a personal choice. It's just the business I'm in."