In front of the stage in this Brunswick hotel, a group of women stand quietly, clearly unsure as to why and how they ended up here. The band sets up behind them. The waitress at the bar takes a while to pay attention to customers, and when she does, she’s annoyed at the thought that she would have to speak to them.
Interestingly, she seems most annoyed when the only brown person in the room wants her attention.
The menu is full of burgers-apparently that’s what this hotel bar is known for. You order and pay at the bar because the general vibe here is that the waitresses are too important to come to you. There’s a man at the bar asking if beers come in a package with food. The formerly unsmiling waitress answers him patiently, as if speaking to a toddler.
The man asking is white.
The food is as forgettable as the alcohol. The baked chips are possibly the worst ever, and that’s saying something. Bland, lacking seasoning or crispness, they are the kind of chips produced by children just learning that you can make things with potatoes.
I remind myself–this is white people food.
The band starts playing a string of songs that only old, white men would term ‘music to rock to.’ The ladies at the front attempt to dance.
In between all this, three people of colour sit in the back room. They are talking about race and racism in Australia, keenly aware that the subject of conversation can be easily discerned simply by looking around the room. They stop.
Why talk about something when you can just contemplate it?
A second waitress appears. She knows how to smile. This is a surprise to me. I ask her for a takeaway box for those godawful chips, and she kindly obliges, even giving me a delivery bag.
The two waitresses were clearly trained in different schools.
This brown person bids her friends goodbye, taking the chips she won’t eat but didn’t have the heart to throw away. Walking out of the bar, I am relieved to leave this place, happy never to return.
And unless you’re a fifty year old white man with no taste, neither should you.