I started working at The Basement because I hated my job at the café. It was supposed to be all about organic, slow-cooked, fair-trade, ethical cuisine… Sometimes it was some of those things. Plus I was sick of getting up at 6am for the weekend breakfasts, hungover or sometimes still drunk from the Friday night before, wrapping my arms around me tight as I plugged into gnashing electro and walked fast to keep warm down Cleveland Street, though not as fast as the delivery lorries, the hissing buses carrying blank-faced early commuters.
So I wandered into that wooden-framed room with it’s low-hung ceiling and poster-papered walls with my bare bones resume. That was my philosophy in those days – keep your resume as clean cut as possible. No mention of what my hobbies were. No mention of what score I got for the HSC. Just what hospo jobs I had worked before, a couple of contacts for references, and yes, I have my RSA.
They called me back. They were looking for a drinks waitress. I went back and Amanda the manager whisked me around the tables and got me to recite which numbers they were afterwards. I passed so I started.
Working as a drinks waitress was fantastic in those first few months. I’d recently shelled out on this amazing red lipstick. It seemed to get me tips. I wore my drinks apron high around my waist, cinching it in. Red lips and swaying hips, topped off by a steady strong stride. My tongue was never tied. I spoke back. I walked through crowds barely causing a ripple, I would weave between the black-jacketed backs of lurching businessmen and their heavily-scented, tottering wives while the band kept the entertainment engine rumbling. I would tap them on the shoulder, ‘Excuse me, excuse me,’ and glide past like some sort of long-spined reptile.
It was like slipping into costume, working those night shifts at The Basement. I wasn’t myself – I was witty, I was cool, and I wasn’t about to take any shit from any overweight, over-moneyed punter. It all worked somehow, the wooden floorboards, my plastic drinks tray heavy with half-empty tumblers and highballs, the obstacle course of tables, chairs, the panicky maitre d’. I would lather a layer of my creamy/bloody lipstick, flare out my hips with a tight, quick knot and give the bastards icily efficient hell. I received more compliments than I’ve ever had from anywhere else.