The waitress keeps a pen in her cleavage, nib side up. I suppose that stops her from getting ink on her boobs.
Ale comes delivered in one-litre glasses that could double as a goldfish bowl. A two-person platter of food arrives heaped with medieval-sized cuts of meat, and a sausage that should be named John Holmes. Schnitzel servings are equally intimidating in girth, covered in breadcrumbs culled from approximately four million Hansel & Gretel trips through the Bavarian forest.
Then there’s the band. If James Last reduced himself to a two-piece, he’d be these guys. A singing drummer and an accordion player romp through some German folk songs before a bizarre segue into country hits like Ring Of Fire and Take Me Home, Country Roads.
They climax with the much-reviled Bird Dance, which even the buxom waitresses join energetically in on. Somehow, they don’t lose their pens. I think that’s what you call confidence.
The restaurant is hidden up a lane in the middle of Melbourne’s Chinatown. The juxataposition of the Asian enclave hiding a traditional German restaurant is surreal.
I hit my first snag with the menu, which triggers off my anxiety. I don’t do food very well. I’ve always been surrounded by people who either love food, or whose lives revolve around it.
I deem food necessary at best, and have always been a fussy eater. The character I identified most with in Star Trek: The Next Generation was Data, the android, who didn’t have to eat. If he wanted to, he could ingest a drink that contained the precise amount of nutrients required for him to function. I like that idea. Whenever I tell people that, they think I’m weird.
I sympathise greatly with those who have eating disorders. While I’ve never experienced anything that comes close to that, there are times when I wish food would just go away. It’s irritating and time-consuming, and there are so many more important things to do.
This is the type of after-work function that I normally avoid. I’m not a fan of enforced joviality, but everyone here is really enjoying themselves, and it’s not enforced. They’re actually genuinely concerned that you’re having a good time, not trying to conduct a hollow team-building exercise. How do they manage to do that so effortlessly, I wonder, looking at all their faces. Staying in the moment is hard, and I try to take my cue from others.
Job horror stories start popping up. I hear a story via a friend of a friend about a woman who turned up for her first day of work at some unnamed place and left after four hours. After being shown part of what she had to do, she calmly said she was going outside to move her car and never returned.
It’s a bit like those stories you hear, usually in tragic country songs, about lovers who leave in the night because they can’t bear to say goodbye. Nothing is left behind but a note that explains everything, by which time they’re far away and don’t have to deal with the aftermath.
A few hours before, I’d sat in a taxi with two of my work colleagues, stuck in rush-hour traffic, looking at an ominous black cloud looming over the city. We all observed how nasty it looked, and speculated about the inevitable downpour.
It hasn’t rained yet.