It’s always best to put things into perspective.
I once read that ‘things are never as bad or as good as they might first appear’, can’t remember where I read this but it has stuck with me ever since, of course Xanax helps with this tremendously but that’s another story.
Our year at the café reaches its parabola with the Cygnet Folk Festival.
Prospective staffs are warned that their availability over this weekend is essential to gainful employment. Our suppliers are for-warned and begin excitedly perusing exotic car and boat catalogues or scouring the travel guides in expectation of the financial windfall that will pay for their holiday abroad. Couriers and transport operators consult their run sheets to accommodate the bulk of comestibles that make their way into our little town. Extra police and security staff are rostered on. Volunteers are sought to man the car parks, school stalls and camping grounds.
It is also the time of cherries, strawberries and raspberries and so a legion of fruit pickers’ descends on the town jostling with festival goers and all seeking accommodation, shelter and food. Boats swell into the port and with them platoons of red coated yachties marching into town for a coffee or a beer on terra firma. The main drag is choked with grey-nomad wielding Winnebago’s and graffiti-sprayed Econovans packed with dreadlocked fire jugglers, their respective Old Spice and Patchouli oils locked in a melee for olfactory domination.
Even the local birdlife seems to balloon in expectation of an abundance of fallen crumbs, chips waved in gesturing but unsuspecting hands and a mother lode of food at every available overflowing bin. In short, it’s a busy time.
Our little town does what it can to keep up.
In my experience the onset of the festival can confirm two things.
One, the high turnover will help us out over the leaner trading months and two-something always goes wrong.
And it did.
The first sign of trouble percolating was the discovery that some of our outdoor chairs had been ‘appropriated’ by some jovial festival goers. I sighed that heavy sigh of recognition that parents do when their teenager comes home drunk for the first time.
The next day our new glass washer began to haemorrhage water across the floor during peak service. A quick call to a plumber mate put that spot fire out.
Not long after, plumes of blue gas-scented smoke began to drift into the congested dining room. Vincent, our French waiter explained to me in his succinct and economical grasp of English what the cause of the smoke was.
‘Fire in Kitchen’ he said in his unflustered way garnished with a Gallic shrug.
I arrived at the scene as the drip tray under the grill was alight with the grease from a thousand rashers of breakfast bacon, collected that morning. The fire blanket made short work of it.
The kitchen resumed its frenetic tempo.
Later that day as the café was redlining the kitchen extractor fan decided not to play ball. One look into the kitchen and the sweating, hollow eyed expressions of the chefs was enough to confirm that we couldn’t go on without it.
Another call, this time to a sparky and another favour called in. My nine lives were being whittled down at an alarming rate.
Soon the canopy wheezed into life and with it the pallor retreated from the cheeks of the chefs. We made it through a very busy and taxing day and Sunday was our final hurdle.
The breakfast was huge.
Our busiest yet. By all indications this Festival was going to break all our existing records for turnover and I was pleased at how everyone was holding up. The momentum from breakfast carried into lunchtime and the café was packed to the gunnels as the orders started chattering out of the printer with its maniacal mechanical stutter. Sometimes I picture the kitchen printer as one of those macabre ventriloquist dolls with the bottom jaw that moves up and down as each order gets spat out, its cruel eyes immune to the suffering it dispenses. In moments of frustration and fatigue I sometimes imagine taking to it with a hammer enraged by the service blood-lust but this time it just stopped dead mid order, a docket half printed poked out like the tongue on a gruesome cadaver.
Then I noticed the voices. I heard the tinkle of cutlery on crockery. The ting of a glass and the scrape of a chair. I looked across the room and it was full of shadows.
There were no lights. There was not music. There was no exhaust canopy. There was no power.
I immediately sprang to check all of the fuse boards and ran my finger across them like keys on a piano to detect if any had tripped. No, all were still upright.
I jumped on the phone to Phil the sparky, his number saved on speed dial.
‘Hi Phil, you know how you said ‘I hope not to see you again’ after you fixed the exhaust fan?’ and I began to tell him of our latest calamity.
Two days later and we still don’t have full power to all of our services.
The Electricians have been working around the clock to set things right and the Power company people have made several emergency visits to make sure their end is sorted.
Taking stock as I write this, it has been a financial calamity for us. The staffs have all been great as usual and took it on the chin when I had to send most of them home early. Our customers have been very understanding and patient with the unfolding situation. Our punters had to find alternative venues at short notice and this would have impacted on the remaining businesses that were open but perhaps not anticipating the deluge of people that exploded on the scene.
My hands trembled as I sipped a coffee on the couch and watched the river of people bypass the café like blood in a sutured artery, our revenue capacity quarterized by the flick of a switch or in this case, wiring that decided to fail.
Cate and I huddled on the sofa and my hand found the thicket of my sons wiry hair, he gazed over to me and said ‘Oh well Dad, there’s always next year’.
He’s right. And there is.