Last night I met up with some friends at a pretty nice restaurant in Melbourne’s Southbank. The type of place where the meals aren’t ridiculously expensive, but each table would probably rack-up a bill in the few-hundreds-of-dollars range.
We had ten people with us, and our waitress had done a really good job of managing our food and drink orders, maintaining a friendly attitude in what looked like a busy, stressful night for the staff. As we were finishing our meals, she came over looking distressed, asking us if we’d seen where the people that were seated on the table behind us had gone. We’d noticed earlier that the table was occupied by a family with children. The table was now empty. It soon became clear that the family had done a runner on paying the bill. The waitress then revealed that if a bill is unpaid, it has to be covered by the staff member responsible for the table. The poor girl was trying her best to hold it together, and her voice was shaking as she told us that it was one of two jobs she was working to try and make ends meet. I can’t believe people could set such a bad example for their children. The girl would almost certainly been left with a $150-$200 bill. We tried our best to tip what we could, and the only consolation was watching her manager let her keep the excess bills we had tipped, while the coins went into the communal tip jar.
After heading out for more drinks, we caught a cab home with a young, friendly Indian driver. After the girls were dropped home, I chatted with him about driving cabs and what else he was doing with himself in Melbourne (as you do). He told me that he normally wouldn’t have been driving that shift, and that he’d had to skip university class to work. He revealed to me that his wage is paid fortnightly in cash, and he’d been paid the day before, leaving his wallet with $1,300 in cash in it. That night he’d picked up a passenger from Carlton to Middle Park (a long fare), and when he arrived at the destination, the passenger had quickly opened the door and ran without paying. Worse, the cab driver had then realised his wallet, which had been placed in the centre console under the radio, was missing. This all in a week where the driver was supposed to be paying rent and a $2,500 uni bill. He told me he’d rung his parents and almost booked a flight back to India. As he dropped me home, I tried my best to pay him a little more than the fare and told him “Hang in there, mate. It gets better.”
I hope our waitress and cab driver have a better day today.
Be good to each other kids. Everyone is fighting their own battle.