I’ve made some expensive mistakes during my travels – my trip home was a cost I ended up not really being able to afford and Sydney was a money pit. So with this in mind, I returned to Australia with one motive in mind. Money, money, money. First stop, Base Hostel in Central Brisbane and their desk for Australia Job Search. It costs $125 to join for 3 months, but you don’t need to pay until they find you a job. I’d only been in town a few hours before sitting at the desk, and the gentleman told me of a job in a town called Morven.
About 700km west of Brisbane (approx. 10 hours by bus), there was an opening for an Allrounder at the Morven Hotel Motel. In the mornings you would be cleaning rooms, in the evening tending the bar, with $300-350 a week plus room and board – and its the middle of nowhere so can’t spend the money you make.
I admit the cash was a little less than I’d been hoping – but with no hotel or proper bar experience I can’t be choosy, especially when this job is available right now. So on Monday I hop aboard Queensland Bus and make my way West for the next 2-3 months.
I’ve been in small rural towns before, but Morven definitely takes the prize for size. Its essentially 2 motels, a newsagents, shop, post office and school lining the main road, with a scattering of houses hiding behind them. I’d be surprised if there was more than 100 people living here.
My employers are Rod and Fran, who have been running the motel for 8 years along with their daughter Sophie (who was away on holiday until Friday). Their normal clientele is generally oil workers and builders who work in the area – although this has been the quietest March they’ve ever had due to the oil crisis echoing through the world. As a local of Aberdeen, I’ve sort of been rolling my eyes at the whole oil breakdown and how the majority of people in oil can’t really complain considering the cash they’ve been making up until now, but it never occurred to me that there’s an awful lot of people who relied on those wages to make a normal living outside of the money towns.
The motel has 6 rooms, but they vary from being completely full to having only 1 or 2 full. They still get the migratory workers, but every now and then a traveller comes through looking for shelter for one night too. In the mornings I’ll be working as a housekeeper, and then from 4 till closing (which depends on the customers and how much is being spent). The time in between is mine to do as I wish.
As of this point, I’ve worked 3 days, and the shifts have varied in levels of successfulness. There hasn’t been a really busy night (which I’m both relieved and frustrated by), so there’s a certain amount of twiddling one’s thumbs while you try and find something to do, but it also means I have time to learn the ropes. Most of the customers are fairly patient and used to backpackers, but Rod is very much the type to teach the bare basics and then let me learn via the sink or swim method while he’s outside. So for 2 days I was desperately using my own initiative and trying to get through without asking a dozen questions (which is difficult when the price list has been amended but not updated to the new prices, and doesn’t include every drink). I was rather relieved on Thursday when their daughter Sophie arrived a day early and came to help me behind the bar. Got a lot more help and aid with her there.
However, her presence may have given me some false confidence, because as she was trying to get the last few customers to leave, we were joking around and fooling about. I ended up saying something to one of the customers which he took deep insult to. I honestly didn’t mean it that way, and thought I had the correct tone and actions to denote that it wasn’t to be taken seriously, but I clearly misread the situation because the customer in question decided he never wanted me to pour him another alcoholic drink again. However incidental, it was a major problem – this customer happens to be one that spends a fortune, and he’s normally a great guy – to have upset him that much means I’ve clearly missed something.
Later that night I apologised, and we had a discussion about thinking before speaking, and Australian humour – which I clearly do not understand. Exactly what you can say is dependant on how familiar you are with the person. My comment (which wouldn’t have even batted eyelashes in Scotland) might have been okay if I’d been there a few months – after 3 days it was completely inappropriate.
Think I might just go for painfully British politeness from now on and save myself any further humiliation or insults. And let Sophie handle any and all customers who are reluctant to leave.