I’m avoiding mirrors and shiny surfaces. If I catch one more glimpse of myself in an ill-fitting service industry uniform pushing a drinks trolley, I’ll drop everything and run out screaming. Getting shouted at whilst wearing a chef’s outfit was preferable and less hazardous to my mental health than this general, faceless work. Einstein was bang on about relativity although I doubt he based his theory on the catering milieu.
I feel the George Orwell-esque experiment – see Explanations & Excuses for the original brief – drawing to a swift close. I’ve infiltrated, listened to people’s life stories, I’ve become part of the furniture in order to better observe those who think no one’s paying them any attention, I’ve gathered anecdotes and catalogued enough mannerisms to create several character led sitcoms and furnish a few albums worth of songs. Some would even say I’ve pretended to be someone else entirely this year. But that’s enough of that. I want my old life back.
The gong has sounded on the Australian part of my odyssey. The only question that remains is how to wrap it up; with a quiet bow or a firework display.
As a teenager I loved those books where I could choose my own adventure. So…
To see me ejected from the hotel by two large bouncers, turn to page 26.
To see me get the sack for slacking and polishing the same glass five times, turn to page 35.
To accompany me down an Aboriginal dreamtime wormhole I stumbled across in the walk-in fridge unit, turn to page 43.
To see me elevated to the status of national hero following my exposure of the health risks present in large hotel kitchens, wait at least 20 years.
To see me finish my shift, hand my uniform in and exit quietly through the staff entrance, read on…
We all want to go out with a bang. In the film ‘Let it be’ Ringo bemoans the fact the police didn’t come and arrest them all on the rooftop as promised. He wanted to be pulled off his drum stool kicking and screaming. Now there’s an end – a proper full stop.
It seems fitting tonight that I’m the last one serving and the last one to clock off. So after exiting the hotel, I find myself alone on the tram in need of a conversation; a dialogue that would help me make some sense of it all. I feel like I’ve filled a bottle up to the top with a strange liquid and now I need a stopper, a cork – a proper full stop. Bret would know how to do it. Easy.
“So how should I feel after my last shift?” I’d ask.
“What do you mean exactly?” He’d say.
“You know…now there’ll be no more chasing up recruitment calls and texts, no more sore feet and chafing parts and no more stuck-up arseholes telling me what to do the whole time.”
“Oh that. I don’t know…well, I guess you’ll only see the good side of it after a few months. You know, like women who’ve given birth; you’ll say you had a great time, that everyone should try it – that it builds character.”
Then he’d look out the window and find some thoroughly appropriate words of wisdom.
“Happiness only exists in the past, once time has washed it clean of the inconvenience of suffering in the present.”
Yeah, that’s probably what he’d say.