You don’t realise how harmful stereotypes can be until you find yourself on the wrong end of one. Oh, this one’s mostly true, as many stereotypes are…but it can make working in the wrong industry very painful. Maybe it’s my fault for picking the wrong career, and I guess being here really codifies it. Everyone at the docks goes to the local greasy café for lunch, where they have fried egg sandwiches and potato cakes while swilling down terrible coffee. And here I am, here at Johnny’s…and I drove twenty minutes to get here, because my tastes are just higher.
What, a person can’t have an appreciation for lovely décor, quality coffee and a quiet reading spot and ALSO be into stainless steel marine fabrication? Melbourne workers aren’t all tattooed tough guys. Sure, being tough helps with the job. I’m just tough in my own way, and it doesn’t involve a lot of spitting and swearing. People give me lip all the time about how I shape my designer stubble, or how I’ve dyed my quiff magenta, or how choose to work with a flask of Earl Grey by my side constantly. If I’m a good marine welder, what does it matter? I can do the job just as well as everyone else.
No one here in this café knows what it is I do, because why would they look at me and think that? I don’t wear overalls outside of the job. They probably think I’m a stage director, or maybe a hairdresser, because my hair really is on point. I have to get up so early. But those careers didn’t appeal to me at all. I saw my opportunity to spend my life making fishing rod holders and general welding, and I took it. It hasn’t yet made me any less appreciative of a good coffee. And no, the hair isn’t going anywhere. I’ve spent too much time trying to make it this good.
I know plants like I know my own children, except better. As in, I know plants much better. I’d be pretty okay with forgetting my third daughter’s name if it meant that I could just keep that one particular genus in my head…oh, I keep forgetting and it’s infuriating!
So you could say I know trees. Tree planting, tree pruning, tree harvesting, even tree removal. Melbourne is so full of a great number of wonderful species, but I won’t say I’m utterly against the practice of removing those that are no longer serving a purpose. Even those who might not be serving their purpose all that well…a bit like those awful things lining the walkway outside the cafe. Firs have had their hay-day, and they have a certain rustic charm, but I’m sorry, they just need to go. Really, they need to go, right now. Not only are they prone to looking just horrible in the winter, they’re havens for spiders and all kinds of nasty little things. I’m not surprised if people are turned away from the cafe every day by a web to the face. I’m not just being put off by my intense dislike of spiders, either. Firs really are so very low-class in the tree world. I should know; my copy of Tree Monthly gets sent to my door every month, and I pore through its pages with such intense interest that sometimes I forget to make food for my family. One time I even told the youngest one, whatever his name is, that he needs to learn photosynthesis so he can go get his own food. I’d mixed things up in my head, but thinking back to the incident later, there might actually be something in that idea…
Doesn’t matter. What’s at hand are those ugly firs outside my favourite cafe. I’ve left customer suggestion cards in the box, but what i really need to do is leave the number of the best tree lopping company in Melbourne that I can think of. Do it for the trees. That is, the trees, that’ll be planted in the place of those dreary firs.
Everyone’s asked me enough, so I guess I’d better codify it here (even though I just made a sign): dogs are welcome in the café. This isn’t some franchise where we have solid rules. I say dogs are okay, so long as they’re definitely calm and under control. I love dogs, and while it’ll mean some more stringent hand-washing regulations, I’d like to welcome them in in a way that cafes usually don’t.
I mean, there are still technically rules. I’m sorry, fine dog walkers of Melbourne, but if you’re stopping at the café, you’re not really doing your job all that well anyway. There’s a limit of…let’s say two dogs. Two well-behaved dogs. I’m even thinking of renovating the courtyard out the back so that the more skittish animals can go there, where it’s nice and quiet. It’s a bit of a dumping ground right about now, but I can really make it work as a quiet space if I have a weekend off. Yep, that’s going to happen…
The reason I bring it up is that one of my aunts has a wolf dog, a hybrid who isn’t that great with people. I keep telling her she needs to visit, she tells me that Wolfenstein can’t be left alone for any length of time, the cycle goes on…except what if I make a place just for Wolfenstein? I’m sure he’d love being in the courtyard, secluded while Aunt Maisie drinks her coffee and actually enjoys some time out of the house. She can’t even get a dog walker in for him, since he runs away from anyone who isn’t her. It’s all a bit of a sad situation, but I think I might be able to help.
So it’s official. All dogs welcome, very much so. Though please, Melbourne based dog walkers…maybe find a more open space than my café to rest with your conga line of pooches.
Johnny’s cafe has really become part of my routine now. I pop in every morning for a coffee and occasionally a croissant. I’ve even started to leave home a little earlier so I have time to actually sit in there and enjoy it. So you can imagine my shock when I rocked up yesterday morning to find it closed! I didn’t know what to do, no sign of johnny and all the doors were locked. I got my coffee elsewhere and found a number for Johnny. I gave him a call and turns out he was having a problem with the plumbing and he thought he had a blocked drain. Melbourne has been experiencing some seriously heavy rains and he thinks something might have clogged the system because his taps weren’t working properly last night. I am glad I called or I would have spent all day worrying about him.
In all the years he has been open I have never known Johnny to take even an afternoon off work. He said he had arranged for the plumbers to come round today so all being well he should be back in business tomorrow but he’ll let me if it looks more serious. I hope he doesn’t need any drain repair in Melbourne, it can be very costly and although Johnny does do well at the cafe I know he doesn’t get a chance to save a lot. Johnny hasn’t called yet but I fear it is bad news. Those drains are worked pretty hard and it’s an old building that I doubt has had much maintenance over the years. I remember a few years ago some hoodlums smashed the front windows of the cafe and the community go together to raise the money needed to fix it. If the drains turn out to need extensive repairs I will organise a community fund.
I don’t often feel the need to dress up too much for work. I mean…I work in a cafe. Sure, I have to look clean and nice, but when I’m making sandwiches and steaming coffee, I don’t want false eyelashes falling in or…I don’t know, my makeup running when it gets too hot. I’ve made that mistake precisely once so far, and it’s not one I’d like to repeat. A simple ponytail, that’s all I need. Please, I’m fabulous enough as I am.
Still, work-life balance gets in the way, as it tends to do…like for Shara’s wedding. I managed to get the afternoon off so I could come to the reception, which worked just fine for me because I don’t really like Shara and the less time spent with her around the better. But I was told there there are places in Melbourne that do eyebrow tattooing, so I wanted to be all over that. Because that’s how it works when you have to be around someone you don’t like: the trick is to look as fabulous as possible to make them look worse by comparison. A tricky thing to ask when the person is all dolled up for their wedding, but I felt like I was up to the challenge. I was confident that my eyebrows were the only thing holding me back, because they’ve always been sort of thin…like, two caterpillars who don’t quite reach each other. I got that eyebrow tattooing and was incredibly happy with the results, but I was told to stay away from heat sources for a while.
Um…well…okay then! Sure! I broke that promise almost instantly. I was in the kitchen for that morning, and it can get pretty hot in there when things are cooking. Fortunately I noticed before I ruined someone’s baguette, but my eyebrows were dripping. See, this is why you should listen to the experts, kids…
I managed to mop myself up and Johnny’s put me on the tables, but the damage was done. All that treatment and I go and ruin it. Oh, and for the rest of the day I looked like the caterpillars had been brutally crushed and had dribbled down the sides of my head. Melbourne’s finest cosmetic tattooing: not even once (if you don’t plan to listen to what they say).
Well, this is a fun new development. I only just listed the café as available to hire, someone already said that they want to have their wedding reception here. Naturally, that was briefly terrifying, but as it turns out, it’s a very intimate event and there will only be about thirty. We can definitely accommodate that much! They even said that they’ll be bringing their own barista and caterers, so all we really have to do is set the place up and put it back together again. I’m guessing some people won’t be happy about us closing slightly early on a Saturday, but…well, it’s some really good money for moving a couple of chairs around!
I’m really wondering what this place will look like in the wedding video. I mean, I know a few people who do wedding video in Melbourne, and they inevitably transform their creations into something you’d see on that channel 72 show, Darla’s Day of Dreams. Okay, look, I caught it a couple of times when I was at home with the flu and so fevered I didn’t know what I was watching. Basically, Darla comes in (usually in a bridezilla situation- got to get those ratings!) and fixes up an unhappy couple’s special day to make them totally content. They actually looked pretty good, too. Perfectly fixed for television, but…still good. And I know Mum and Dad used a videographer for their wedding, even though that was back in the day before photoshop and…I don’t know, Final Cut Pro. He made the whole thing look really flash, too. Just goes to show what you can do with a bit of simple editing and steady camera-work.
I wonder if I’ll get to watch the wedding video? I’m really hoping so, since then I can point it out and tell people “that’s my café!”. Maybe I’ll get the bride and/or groom to share me in on Visage-Tome. Because that’s what all MY friends want to see, right? A video of a random stranger’s wedding? Ah well…if he’s still in business, I know a good videographer in the Melbourne area. But they probably have their own. I’ll just focus on getting the chairs set up right.
I was recently at Johnny’s cafe having a coffee with my ex-boss. We have made a real effort to stay in touch as we got along so well when we worked together all those years ago. He suggested Johnny’s cafe as it is a favourite of his and conveniently located right by my new place. I am so glad we ended up going there because the coffee was unbelievable and I had one of the best muffins of my life; glazed apricot and chocolate! The only thing that put a little dampener on the experience was this awful woman sitting next to us who was having obnoxiously loud telephone conversations about her blocked drains in Melbourne. Apparently she has been dealing with various plumbers for days trying to get her blocked drains cleared and she hasn’t found any plumber local to her. You might ask how I know so much but honestly everyone in Johnny’s cafe that day now knows the entire story of this woman and her blocked pipes. She thinks it was her grandchildren when they came round to play, apparently they were playing with clay outside and started stuffing it down the drains. I almost got to the point of asking her where she lived so I could find her a local Melbourne plumber and she could finally be done with it. I always marvel at how people seem to lack awareness of their surroundings, it was obvious she was disturbing the entire cafe, or at least it was obvious to everyone that wasn’t her! Eventually Charles and I managed to find a seat outside so we weren’t disturbed by her but almost as if she was intentionally annoying us she came outside to have a cigarette while she finished her seventh phone call, and stood right next to us!
I visit Melbourne once a year for a business conference two weeks in July, and oh boy…I don’t look forward to it. I’m an absolute sun lover and I’m not afraid to admit it. I just can’t believe, year after year, that Melbourne gets this cold in the winter. How do people even live here? WHY do they live here?
Alright, maybe there’s a bit of getting used to it, but I have no intention of doing that. This is my last day before I go back to Adelaide, central heating is for emergencies and the sun provides most of our heating needs. Well, that’s not entirely true…we just have different standards for when we turn the heating on. A friend recommended this café, so I’m hiding out here for a while during the wait for my flight back home. It’s nice, and we don’t have much like it in Adelaide. Melbourne and its coffee culture, and all that business…but the heating in here is splendid. If I sit facing the wall, I can almost convince myself that it’s summer, and the air con in here is broken but just keeping things at a reasonable temperature.
No, I can’t actually convince myself of that, I lied. At least all the conference rooms I’ve been in have had their heating services straight. Hotels are totally fine in that regard as well. It’s just whenever I have to wait outside, things get…unpleasant. I splashed on a good winter coat this year and everything.
At least the coffee is warm. And yeah, I can sort of see the appeal of sitting in a well-heated room and looking out at the wind and rain outside. It’s the definition of cozy. ‘Cozy’ isn’t sitting inside with the air con going while it’s sweltering outside, after all. Still, I’d like to get back to Adelaide, split system heating is fine and the median daytime temperature is finer. If only I could take this awesome coffee with me…
I wonder if this is the right place to put this…
Doesn’t matter! It has to be said, and I’d like people to know that I’m doing my best. So I’ve been working here for a couple of weeks now, and everyone’s great. Even the customers are great! There really seems to be a culture of regulars, even though this place hasn’t been around for too long. Maybe that’s why they’re sort of okay when I don’t remember their names or orders…even though I see them every day.
You see, I’m pretty bad at multitasking. I get things done quickly, but I can’t keep more than one task on my mind. I keep leaving plates of food, they get cold, people are sad, I’m sad, Johnny is sad…so much sadness. It’s really my most consistent problem, forgetting coffees and hot food. But there could be some salvation, as I was reading on iflippinglikescience.com last night. Apparently, the powers of Perth ducted heating have been harnessed into one super product for people who are either forgetful or can’t really sync their tasks.
Yeah, some guy tried for ages to make a plate that would keep its warmth, so he could have bacon and eggs on toast. Early attempts were met with failure- apparently he made a sort of crude gas heating set-up, but it kept melting the plate- but now he’s based the tech on ducted heating. The bottom of the plate is hollow, and heating floods the hollow parts in a manner similar to ducted heating. A minimal level, just keeping it warm. So now I just have to convince the boss to get some shipped over from whichever heating and cooling place in Perth is endorsing them. It’s not just for me- customers can take as long as they like without their food getting cold. We could be pioneers!
Hotplates, they’re called. Though I feel like that name is already taken…
We’re not particularly near the ocean, so it’s not often we get sailors in here. I imagine they have all their dock cafes and such, where they have low-priced food for lunch. Hmp
But it’s not my place to judge. I mean, I WILL judge, silently, but it won’t get any further than that. Hopefully this fellow goes back and tells all his sailor friends, and they all come and get some REAL food from someone who actually knows how to cook. And yet, somehow I doubt it…honestly the effort I put into his panini, he’d BETTER come back, or else!
He talked a lot about his job, hence why I know. I had food items cooking in the kitchen, but it took me a good fifteen minutes just to serve his coffee because he had an opinion on the marine trailer repairs industry and how materials have been hard to find, and how not as many people are casually sailing as they used to, and how he thinks the entire sailing industry has reached a point where people’s priorities have changed and it’s just terrible. For some reason. Now, I don’t usually have a problem giving anyone some serious side-eye when they’re wasting my time, but Johnny said that I need to tone it down when I’m talking to the customers. Oh, so they can waste my time with impunity? Yep, that sounds fair. Customer service, seriously…
So here I was, smiling through my teeth at the grizzled guy drinking his coffee and talking like he’d just stepped out of the golden age of piracy. To be fair, I love the sea. I grew up near Lorne, even had a little boat of my own: the Moon Princess, because I was very young and didn’t know how to name things. Also, it never actually sailed; I just got in it and pretended it did. Not that I was adverse to actual sailing. It was always something I enjoyed, hence why I couldn’t help be interested in all this boat posturing. How annoying.
But food called, I excused myself and the grizzled sea captain eventually up and left. Made me wonder how all that stuff was going down at the docks in Melbourne, with the trailer repairs and the boat catches. I should take a day off and check out the docks…