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 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.
At some point I realised that I wasn’t going to make any friends just by sitting at home and wishing that I had some. I don’t get out all that much any more, not since Martha passed on, but it finally got too much the other day. I’m still hale and hearty, I still go for hikes every weekend, so I can’t just let myself fade away socially! Good thing Johnny’s Café opened recently, otherwise I probably would’ve had to drive a good twenty minutes or so just to find the nearest decent coffee joint. It would’ve been that, or trying to chat up that lady in the wool shop every day. She might be my type, I’m really not sure.
So I lumbered in, had a good chat to Johnny- seen him around a bit, but never chatted to him until now- and tried to see if any old fellows my age were interested in chatting about fishing rod holders and hook size variations. It’s pushing my luck a bit, I know…Martha always just tolerated my fishing habit when she was alive, never saying anything (because she was an absolute gem) but making it clear that she’d rather have a couple of friends over while I’m out on my boat. At least back then I could come home to her, even if I never tried to talk to her about snapper racks and such. Now I’d just really like some conversation. And if it can be on the subject of fishing, so be it!
I don’t just want to go and brazenly ask Johnny if any of the people who come in here like fishing. Browsing the online guestbook, it looks as if I’m not going to find what I’m looking for, at least not so far. Though not everyone has signed, I suppose. Maybe I just need to find a new hobby. Stop following the latest trends in marine stainless steel fabrication in Melbourne and start pursuing something else, though. Bridge, or bingo, or…skydiving. Don’t think I will, though. I’ll keep coming along to the café anyway, because you never know. Also, great coffee!
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.