I came to this country to look for gold. I found a number of other good things- really weird wildlife, great coffee and the know-how to barbecue basically everything- but no gold yet. I just reasoned that people in Australia had all lost interest in the gold craze, mostly because the market has moved on to other things. Coal, for example. And it’s not like the gold rush unearthed EVERY lick of gold under the soil, right? There had to be loads of it left.
Well, maybe. Haven’t found any of it yet, hence why I’m sitting in a coffee shop trying to make adjustments to my metal detector instead of returning to Seattle a rich man. So far I’ve managed to find a bunch of tin cans from the seventies, a cache of rusted coins and a lot of building sites. Makes sense, I suppose, all those steel and aluminium work platforms throwing off my readings. As it turns out, Melbourne has a lot of construction going on, hence all the work platforms, and hence why I’m trying to rework my metal detector to avoid certain types of metal that may be a bit more…common. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.
The guy who owns this place suggested that I go and look in Ballarat, which is a legitimate strategy if I get desperate. But I reason that if there was gold in Ballarat, there has to be gold elsewhere. That’s the thing about the formation of gold; it’s a random occurrence. And then there’s Ballarat, and I can guarantee that a million people are already scouring the place. It’s been picked clean, so I’m looking further afield. Also, they probably have aluminium platforms up there and I’d really rather avoid them.
So that’s why I’m down here, in this rather rural area of Melbourne, whacking my metal detector against the desk and desperately trying to make it find gold and not bailey ladders. We definitely have those back in Seattle. Useful as they probably are, they’re not going to make me rich.
I can’t be the only one motivated by classical music. Classical music is wonderful in general, but I work in copywriting, so I’m constantly writing product reviews and descriptions that can be so dull they drive you into a coma. That’s why I try to give myself as much extra kicking as possible. I’m here at the cafe (which has free wifi, thankfully!), I’ve got my extra-strong espresso, and my earphones are in playing some really terrifying classical music to keep me in a state of readiness.
My preference at the moment is with Beethoven- you really can’t beat him when it comes to pieces composed to get your heart thumping- but I’ve recently discovered Mussorgsky. Something must’ve happened in that man’s childhood, because phew, all of his music sounds like it was composed at gunpoint. Perfect for me, though!
I’m on a major project at the moment, actually. I’ve been commissioned to write reviews for all kinds of Melbourne steel products, and since I’m no steel expert I have to do my research. I’m technically kind of a foreign correspondent, since the company is in Hungary. Why am I writing on Melbourne-based steel? No idea. But it’s a big job and I’m their only correspondent in Melbourne, so I got first dibs on the job. Helps that I live in a pretty industrial area, so there are just steel lintels and fabrication all over the place. Also, a really nice cafe that doesn’t make sense with the surrounding area.
It makes a lot of business sense, don’t get me wrong! This place is a hub, but also a place people pass through a lot…and everyone wants a great coffee. So you get a mix of locals, regulars, passersby, construction workers and visitors. I’m a regular, myself, but it can be hard to get a table in the peak times.
Anyway, better focus on these quality Melbourne structural steel fabricators. Maybe I can just talk to one of the construction guys. I know pretty much ALL the regulars, and Johnny definitely knows them all.
A year or so in, and I’m pretty happy with how things are going! Just putting the finishing touches on the plans for the Christmas party, but I already have a bunch of RSVPs from regular café visitors and I’m wondering if we’re going to fit everyone in. Might have to clear the chairs and open up the space out the back. Ah well…at least this means that people do like the place.
Someone suggested that we add games to the event, which is taking things a bit far. I want everyone to come along, drink coffee, have some mulled wine, eat mince pies and just enjoy themselves. But that’s Dale…he’s one of my regulars, teaches cricket down at the park. The kind of guy who’ll talk your ear off about cricket nets for hours on end; or he would, if I didn’t remind him about his own appointments. Sometimes I wonder if people rely on me too much! I have a good memory, and if someone tells me they’re doing something or working somewhere, I’ll remember it. My short term isn’t as good, but that’s just swings and roundabouts, right?
Take Dale for one example. Basically, he comes to the café now to have his life run. We feed him brunch, coffee, remind him that he’s got to pick up the sports netting for today’s lesson, give him a nudge that it’s his wife’s birthday or anniversary (Sara comes in as well…) and generally kick him out when he needs to go to work. It’s the same with a few of our regulars; they treat this place like a second home. I really like the idea, but it’s as stressful as parenting sometimes. Feels like playing den mother to a bunch of well-meaning coffee addicts.
Well, if people love the café, then I’m happy to go beyond. It’ll be great to chat to all the regulars at the party, even if Dale spends most of the time on cricket netting and forgets his kids when he leaves. They’re a funny lot down here. But they’re our customers. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I became a beautician for a reason: to make the world beautiful. I mostly deal in nails, so I’m not quite there yet, but I can’t help but sit in the café, sipping my coffee and thinking longingly about what I’d do to people walking by if I owned a café and they came in, sat down and said ‘make me look fabulous!’.
Oh, the possibilities. But with the way beauty therapy is going, I’m going to need more than a TAFE degree to keep up with the latest tech. Nowadays in Melbourne, cosmetic tattooing is all the rage. We never even learned about that when I was doing my beautician course, either because it was barely a thing or it hadn’t yet reached Australia. And don’t get me wrong: I love it. Gosh, cosmetic eyebrow tattooing…that sounds thrilling to have done and do to someone else!! But right now, I’m just not qualified. Maybe I could learn- I’ve done a lot of that in the job so far- but I don’t know…the whole procedure sounds so permanent, I’d hate to mess it up. Like, sorry honey, you now have eyebrows that look like caterpillars. But we’ll make this one free. See you next time!
I was never that good at the ‘school’ part of school. I was always a girl who got more done by doing, and learning from that. Always got top marks from all my practical exams, not so much when I had to write stuff down. That’d be why I went to TAFE in the first place. I asked Johnny and he said he’s the same: always had to be doing, not so good with writing. And look how he turned out: best coffee shop around for miles. He’s basically a businessman, and all he had to put in was hard work.
I can do it. I know I can. I’ll wrap my head around Melbourne’s new anti wrinkle injections, laser hair removal…and then I can really start making the world a more beautiful place! Just don’t ask me to write stuff.
Customer service tip: chat, but not TOO much. That’s especially applicable to me, because I’m baking goodies for the enjoyment of all café patrons, and I can’t be loitering around stuck in a conversation while my vol-au-vents are going from crispy and delicious to charred rubbish. It’s a waiting game, but also one of timing.
I’m mostly reiterating this to myself, because I had a bit of a disaster yesterday. I understand that Johnny’s is the kind of environment where everyone feels at home, and that’s really lovely, but it does make people chatty and when someone doesn’t leave you any breaks to slip away…well, disaster. We had a lady in this morning who does official inspections of Melbourne pool fencing to make sure it’s up to standard, all the children are safe, etc. I don’t know if she’s terribly lonely or just the type who loves to talk about her work, but I got my ear talked off for a good twenty minutes on how she visited a home that morning and they’d painted all over the fence so you couldn’t see inside. I could really see her point, though; that’s just not on. These folks had children as well, so…well, all pool fencing is made to see THROUGH. No point if you’re blocking the view.
So that happened. Half of my brain was in the kitchen, thinking about the gingerbread family that should’ve been brown and crispy, but I just couldn’t escape. There’s so much to learn about pool fencing, clearly! Anyway, I lost track of time, finally managed to excuse myself and returned to find smoke leaking from the oven. My gingerbread family came out looking like they’d been in a horrible house fire, and nobody had any gingerbread that day. Oh, I just HATE messing up a bake! I learned plenty about Melbourne’s glass pool fencing industry, to be sure, but in the end I’d rather have some well-baked gingerbread men. That’s my job, after all.
Don’t judge me, but I’ve kind of been hiding out at work all weekend. I know, that sounds a little pathetic, but I’ve got a pretty good reason. Adelaide has been going through a very typical, completely out of the blue, heat wave. There was a blackout a couple of days ago, the pavement was so hot I swear I saw someone’s thong melt into it before my very eyes. Anyway, I don’t actually have any kind of air conditioning. Adelaide, like I said, is as hot as all hell, and I’m stuck at home sweating away. Frankly, it’s disgusting. So yeah, I’ve been holed up at a cafe pretty much all week. I’m just waiting for the heat to die down a little, it’s nothing bad, really, just maybe a little creepy.
So far, Johnny hasn’t caught on. I mean, that’s not unusual, the man is what some might call a little ‘slow’ and he’s always happy enough to have a staff member who arrives early and leaves late. Under most circumstances, that kind of activity would be seen as a particularly high level of dedication to your job. The thing is, though, I’m not sure exactly how much longer I’m going to be able to keep all of this up. I mean, I can only come up with so many plausible excuses/reasons for hanging around, and it’s going to be another week or so before I can pay for any kind of air conditioning repairs. Adelaide is expected to be horrible and toasty for at least that long, so I’m going to need to keep seeking refuge in the well-climate controlled cafe.
Of course, I could always find somewhere else to hang out after hours that isn’t so obvious, but let’s be honest, it’s hot and I’m lazy. This is really the best outcome for everyone involved.
Don’t tell the wife, but I’m mostly here to watch sport. Yeah, people usually go to the pub for that, but if I come home smelling of alcohol than Bessie will have my hide. She absolutely hates it when I’m out drinking with the mates, even if I don’t do any drinking myself! Johnny’s has all the TV channels, there are a few tables free that face the screen and so he knows now that I’m there for one thing only. It’s shameful, I know. I keep having to tell Bessie that I’m meeting with clients, which isn’t even a real thing I do in my job.
It’s my fault for marrying an aggressive Luddite, I guess. We had a short relationship, an even shorter engagement and then suddenly she’s coming out with all this stuff about technology ruining the world, and how she wants to go to the offices of all the antenna installation places in Melbourne and cover them in angry leaflets. That was a bit far for me. Some of my best workmates started in the antenna industry and they’re good blokes. No one really deserves that many leaflets shoved in their letterbox!
And of course, we can’t have a TV at home. Bessie barely even uses the stove and she’s taped up all the power outlets. So yeah, we’re living in the dark ages. The only release I get is when I’m out and about without her…so basically, just work. With the amount I’m ‘working’ now you’d think I was a CEO with an evening job, but I spend a lot of time at the café. All the sports channels, and Johnny just listens, you know? He’s always got an ear for my problems, even when he’s in a rush and making six double-foam cappuccinos with different amounts of sugar and textured chocolate dusting. Mostly I just drink tea. Keeps it simple.
Maybe I’ll meet some nice girl in here involved in the Melbourne TV antenna industry. Agh, shouldn’t talk like that…
This is where I come to recover. This café is my only sanctuary, or rather…it feels that way sometimes. Not that I hate my job or anything, but I DO need places to recharge. Children, seriously. Children are wonderful gifts who bring so much joy, and so, SO very much exhaustion. In some ways I think I have it even harder than parents, because I’m the one they call on when they want their kids to be entertained. Throw in the fact that apparently clowns are a dying breed and you have the perfect storm of feeling underappreciated and stressed out, every day.
The job comes with perks, sure. Kids are great, when they’re behaving and not trying to pull your nose off. I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of indoor play centres. Canberra, Strathclide, Bentleigh…I’m basically the go-to person in my group of friends for intel on how to keep your kids happy and entertained, especially if that place also offers tea, coffee and a sit-down. I guess that’s the good thing about play centres. You can let your kids run loose and they make their own entertainment while you supervise. Some parents don’t even do that much, to be honest…
I’ve seen a lot, as a clown. I’ve had parents who drop off their kids and just leave me with the lot of them, as if their duties as parents are official over the moment I walk in the room. Um, no. I dress up and entertain the children I’m not a legal guardian! Balloon animal creation skills do not qualify someone for a parenthood, unfortunately. Although my future kids will probably love them. And then there are the parents who do nothing to stop the children kicking me and trying to set fire to my wig.
So I need this place. Here I’m not a clown, dashing around Bentleigh East indoor play centres and pouring out my energy in song and dance. Here I’m just ordinary Joe, enjoying a good coffee and not talking to anyone. The best.
Okay I think I may have seriously misjudged my condition. For a while now I’ve known that something is seriously up with my feet. A while back they just started to look a little … well, I guess ‘off’ is a polite way of describing it. In any case, they were definitely not what you would call normal, if any feet ever really look normal. I’m a pretty lazy person, and most of the time I’m pretty happy to let a problem like this just play it out. Usually, that works fine for me, so I guess I’ve just never had a problem quite this serious.
I think it must be some kind of toenail fungus infection or something crazy like that because it’s starting to be really painful. Just getting socks on in the morning is starting to be a struggle, and the fact that, as a waitress, I’m on my feet practically all day isn’t helping either. I’m just trying my best not to grimace as I give our regulars their morning lattes. That’s certainly not the level of customer service you expect at Johnny’s. Actually, a lot of my time is spent trying to look and act normal.
Obviously, I realise that all of these are clear signs that I really need to get this checked out. I know that, I’m not an idiot. But I’m also poor and lazy and those two things are not a good combination. I had a look online and I reckon it might be Athlete’s foot, but it looks like I might need some kind of specialist cream for that so … better just to wait it out. After all, it’s not a really burning pain, like when I broke my arm in high school, but more of a dull ache. I can push past that. Anyway, what’s the worst that could happen, right?
I really like Johnny, don’t get me wrong, but his family is weird. Every time I come to the café, it’s like I’ve walked into a wacky sitcom where some foreign people who don’t understand Aussie culture try to run a business, and it ends in hilarious, episodic disaster every time. Johnny is the lovable everyman who gets along with everyone and has to defuse the situation, the cook is the matron who turns into a tyrant when people don’t do things her way, the shop assistant is the snarky, socially-active drama queen and…well, Johnny’s dad just keeps trying to chop down the trees out the front. He used to work for a arborist in Melbourne somewhere? Old habits must die hard, but more on that later. I guess I’m just one of those patrons who always hangs around in the background and occasionally gets to react to something. Maybe a line if I’m really lucky.
Argh, sorry…I’m doing that thing where I mix work and leisure. I just finished working on Week of Our Lives, and I’ve moved onto what I think is going to be the next big hit comedy: Friendly Misfits. It’s about a bunch of people who are all around each other’s homes all the time, or hanging out in a coffee shop very much like this one and getting themselves into hilarious scrapes. And now I just can’t detach myself; I come to the café to relax, but I start casting everyone in the show and I can’t stop. You’ve got the mother, who cares a lot but shows it in really strange ways, like buying an official café cat. The foreign cousin who’s a total ladies’ man with insecurity issues. It all just falls into place and if nothing else, I’m getting a load of inspiration. Seriously, this is great material.
The father is definitely getting worked in, somehow…a well-meaning member of the Melbourne tree stump removal industry who can’t let his old job go. It’s like tree lopping, but…it’s stump removal.