Down & Under Pt4 – Cricket ground coffee

Melman is Lebanese.
If you like you can picture the animated, hypochondriac giraffe from Madagascar, but this Melman is short, dark and has no spots. Perhaps the only similarity is that like his cartoon namesake, he’s far from home and is no longer sure where home is, having moved around from America to Syria to Argentina and now to Australia.

“So why did you leave Lebanon?” He stands there, milk jug in hand, eyebrows raised.

“Did you really just ask me that question?” He inhales loudly. His gestures are all exaggerated. He’d be great at street theatre. “Let’s see…hmmm…religious extremism, shit wages, prejudice, conservatism, parents who disapprove of me, ten hours electricity a day. Need I go on?”

As the cricket match gets underway, he teaches me the finer points of barristering.
Australians like huge cups of creamy, frothy stuff with a bit of coffee at the bottom.
It’s definitely an art. If you like yours grey with grainy bits floating on the surface then you’d have loved my first few attempts. Luckily there’s a lull in service while the punters find their seats in the cricket ground so I get a crash course from an expert while we chat.

“I’m a chef really.” He tells me.
“What are you doing here then?”
“I can’t stand that kitchen environment anymore. I’d end up killing myself or somebody else.”

He was born in a country he loathes and trained in skills he hates. This industry has a habit of collecting lost people. We’re all just passing through and that’s what we loudly and confidently tell anyone who’ll listen. We’re all actors and musicians waiting for a break, people taking time off from another trade and students paying our way round the world.
We cling to the word “temporary” like a floatation aid.

According to George Orwell, all Parisian waiters are saving up to open their own restaurant. Hope is the key. Occasionally though, due to some quirk of fate or a wrong turn, some of us get stranded. Melman is one of them and after fifteen years he’s starting to despair.

“Hospitality is no place for men in their 30s.” He says.

Deep breath… I decide it’s time for my fifteen minute break so I skirt around the edge of the cricket ground and watch the brightly dressed players run onto the pitch and the wickets that flash after every ball is bowled. I’m so glad they’ve found a way of livening this game up a bit. I’m musing on how far the game has come from its village green and cucumber sandwiches origins when someone taps me on the shoulder so I turn round.

“Hello. I’m your Boss.” Says the dark blue suit.

“Pleased to meet you, I’m Barton” I say and put out my hand. He’s taken aback but basic etiquette dictates he cannot refuse.

“I’m the second highest ranking person in the company.”

“I’m the second highest ranking person in the company.”

He says this twice so he’s either recently promoted and excited about it or he’s a dick.
Reluctant handshake now over he tells me to return to the staff area and not to stray again. “…and don’t mingle with the public.” He adds for good measure.
My service industry uniform has dropped me down into some sort of untouchables class and brings to mind a line from a Kaiser Chief’s song.

“But you work in a shirt with a name tag on it. Drifting apart like a plate tectonic.”

I drift back to Melman only to find he’s closed up the coffee shop and we’re now on bar duty, pulling pints for the rest of the evening. I’ll be an expert in all types of froth by the time I leave this place.

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