Sure. The lounge at the Blue Train Cafe looks all innocent during the day...
I thought it would be appropriate to write this post today, as I feel that hazy memories are best accessed through a similarly hazy hangover.
After 10 years of waiting tables and pouring beers, earlier this year I managed to escape the iron clutches of the hospitality industry for my dream job. I thought I would never miss the late nights, the aching feet and endless dry cleaning of red wine stained white shirts of my waitressing days, but lately I think I do miss it, just a bit.
For just over four years, on and off, I worked in Melbourne at the Blue Train Cafe (BT). Taking a break from the severity and responsibility of fine dining while I was studying photography at uni, I decided I needed a little cafe culture. Little did I know, that the few weeks I planned on working at BT would draw out to years. Even today, I still can't rule out ever going back there just for a cameo.
Working at BT shaped almost every aspect of my personality because I met and became good friends with what probably amounts 100s of people over my time there, some of whom I still consider to be my good friends even today. If you can't afford to go travelling, go and work at BT, potentially one of the biggest cultural melting pots in Melbourne. From Sima, a 45 year old Iranian mother of two, to Little Dave, a 22 year old pint-sized British backpacker, BT is roughly the United Nations of hospitality.
Now I believe that drugs and alcohol are the best bonding aids known to man. And the best time to do drugs and drink alcohol? Knock-offs. And knock-offs at BT were (and surely still must be) the stuff of legend.
At BT, everyone wanted to work on a Monday night. Monday night was the night to clean the beer lines. After last orders had been called, the barman would start filling up pint glass after pint glass with beer. Then he would put all those pint glasses into a big blue tub, and put that blue tub smack bang in front of the staff. I have absolutely no idea what cleaning out the beer lines actually involves. What I do know, is the beer-line night meant one serious knock-off session.
Over these seriously debilitating drinking sessions I formed friendships with many people I would ordinarilly not have been fortunate to meet, as well as improving my tolerance to alcohol. We played card games, smoked way too many cigarettes and generally behaved appaulingly.
Knock-off drinks are the number one reason I would go back to waitressing. Not because I am a booze-hound (that's irrellevant), but because I miss the company. After 8-10 hours (sometimes more) waiting tables, slaving over a hot stove or pulling pints, there is nothing better than a drink and a chat with the other staff, because they understand exactly how you feel.
It's a kind of mate-ship that I really took for granted while I worked in hospitality. At the end of every day there were always willing participants. No ringing anyone up, no organisation, no pre-planning, just easy, relaxed spontaneous socialising.
Sure, there were the really big nights, the weddings, birthdays, the Christmas parties, but the nights I remember the best (or perhaps, don't remember that much at all) of my 20s just involved sitting around in the lounge at BT talking shit with the staff. Now when I go back there (and I do try not to I know what goes on behind the scenes), I hardly know anyone. Those days are long gone. But I won't forget.