I’m infamous for being moody in the morning. So when I jolt up, throw on my shorts and sandals and walk out the door to go to the rec room to eat cereal, I don’t normally, nor do I want to, see anyone. Because my schedule is quite unique to camp (12:00pm-10:00pm) most people are already working when I go to have breakfast around 9:00-10:00am.
Until Thursday morning.
I started sweating on my walk down the pathway to the rec room, braless, groggy-eyed and bad breathed, when the chef, who Karen (my previous workmate in the kitchen) calls “Lucky Lionel” (because he seems to have a way to pawn off all of his tasks to his inferiors), came up beside me and started walking to the rec room, too. Then on my other side, I was joined by a grounds man. Further up near the rec room, I spotted the plumber, the electrician and the bus driver. I looked behind me and saw the mine site cleaning crew. I was surrounded.
“What is everyone doing here?” I asked Lucky Lionel suddenly panicking, “Where are you all going?”
“A safety meeting,” he answered me, “the same one they have every Thursday at this time.”
Ah, yes. A “safety meeting.” When I was on the right schedule (you only have to go if your work hours coincide with the meeting time), I usually savored the safety meetings. Air con, a chance to drink tea and sit down. They were normally a bit boring, but I could handle that.
What I especially liked about them, was that instead of talking about real safety concerns, they were usually just an excuse for management to passively aggressively point out their “pet hates” about each other. In one meeting, a British manager from the head office said, “Oh and don’t worry, I know I do this too,” [probably not. You probably just hate when Joe, the other manager does it] he explained, “But, it’s really important that if you are checking your email or sending a message that you don’t walk with your head down, looking at your phone. Just stop and finish what you’re writing, then walk again.”
I said goodbye to Lucky Lionel and went inside the rec room. I was suddenly greeted by 20 people sitting inside in their work uniforms. While everyone got up to get their tea, coffee and Milo, I’m sure they were plotting how they would bring up their biggest irritations. I was pouring milk into my tea when one of the mine executives came up beside me and said, “Ah, thank you! Did you make that for me?”
“No,” I told him. And with a very fake laugh and smile that hid my annoyance, I grabbed my tea and got the f*ck out of there.
New Week, New Crew
Luckily I had another few minutes to calm myself down and come back to a rational state of being before I headed to the mess, for my first day of my third week of working.
This week I’m with a new crew. Lucky Lionel, Natalie (Jon’s niece) and myself. Tensions are high, as normally Natalie and Lionel don’t get along very well. His off sense of humor (“I’m going to kill your pet snakes. Just kidding!”) doesn’t mesh well with her idea of a good time. He must either have a weird crush on me or is giving me a grace period before he really starts to act like himself, because he’s let me play my music on my his speakers.
Lionel also has a reputation for going out for smoke breaks every 10 minutes while he forces the kitchen hands to do his work, but since I’ve been there he hasn’t done so. Natalie seems to think it’s because he got a written warning, but I’m more convinced that it’s because he doesn’t have his own cigarettes. Neither Natalie nor I smoke. Karen told me that he usually gets his cigarettes from coworkers because he’s too “lazy to buy his own.”
New Ways To Smile
Because it’s my third week, I’m exhausted. But I’m trying to continue to make my work fun. Like, for instance, when I have to label food for takeaway in the fridge, there were 10 boxes of chocolate cake. I took the liberty of writing a different version of “cake” on each one. For example, on some of the labels I wrote “cake cake cake cake cake” and on other “cake, so yummy!” and even on one I got instagramy and wrote “C A K E.”
I do hope someone enjoyed that.
I’ve also taken to reading the comment booklet. Some people seem to get very emotional about their lack of options.Below is a photo that I took of one I really enjoyed. This person must have just had a terrible day, and the lack of meat pies was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Later, the plumber (the one who makes inappropriate comments) came in and tried to get hot chocolate from the coffee machine.
“We’re out of chocolate powder,” Natalie told him.
“What?!” he said, exasperated.
“Go write a comment about it,” I told him.
Later, when I looked through the booklet, I found he had written this:
If it’s not the comment booklet bringing entertainment to my day, it’s the two bus drivers. In attempts to curb fatigue, the company has recently rearranged the bus drivers’ schedules. Instead of working 3:30am-9:30am and again at 3:30pm-9:30am, they work full 12-hour shifts all in one block of time. In order to do this, they had to diversify their tasks, so that now after, or before, their bus runs they have been giving cleaning tasks. This is something that is a great disappointment to some of the veteran drivers. “Yep, don’t like the cleaning bit much,” a 65-year-old bus driver from Brisbane recently told me over dinner.
I was stocking up the fruit fridge when I saw that same 65-year-old bus driver slowly saunter over to me, mop in hand. “Hey, Allison, looks like you’re doing a great job,” he said. I noticed he was walking slowly, talking slowly and inventing things to talk about. He had his hands behind his back and seemed to linger near me.
Then, his workmate, an aboriginal bus driver from Cairns walked over to us, a cheeky grin on his face. They both laughed and looked like naughty children.
“So what have you guys been doing?” I asked.
“Well, we’ve cleaned two toilets in town,” the indigenous bus driver said, grinning. “We’ve been doing a lot.” They both nodded, agreeing with what the other said.
“What time did you guys start?” I questioned.
“Ah, around 10:00am,” the man from Brisbane said.
I looked at the clock. It was already past 2:00pm. That’s what Australians call doing “f*ck all.” F*ck all, as in, nothing. I laughed and told them to have fun and be good boys.
The amazing thing about this camp, and about life, is just when you think a task is mundane, there’s always something to spice it up a bit. A little mystery, a little intrigue. Like, for instance yesterday I was bringing back all of the rubbish bins from where night shift sets them out to for collection. When I put them back near the door, I have to put new bin liners in all of them.
I noticed the black bin liners- the bigger, easier ones to use- were all gone, and we were left with the more annoying, smaller green ones. The ones that don’t tie around the edges well, making it so that it rips or falls down into the bin when you put something heavy in it. “Hey, Jon?” I asked the head chef, “Where are the black bin liners? Why are we using these green ones?”
“Well, that’s because you can’t hide a body in a green bag,” he said.
“What? Is that a joke?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “That’s for kitchens across Australia. You can hide a body in a black bag but not in a green bag.”
Featured photo: my morning commute to work.
Read the last post from the kitchen, “I never want to do dishes again.” Didn’t read the other posts from this round at the mine camp, “It’s Round Three And These Chicks Are Crazy, Part 1” or “Part 2”? Well, get on it! Missed the Mine Camp Diary before those? Here it is. Read the rest of the diaries here. Very confused? Read the first Mine Camp Diary entry!