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2013 November

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Real Australian Men

Regular readers may have noticed a recurring theme in recent articles.  My favourite subjects are; poor customer service, car trouble and things that can kill you.  Here is an article which combines all three.  If only the action had taken place in a Chinese restaurant instead of an Indian one I’m sure I could have found room for an angry Chinese man too!

A few weeks ago, we went out for dinner with our lovely new friends Anne and Nick.  Nick is a former colleague of Rich’s from about 20 years ago and they reconnected recently through the scary power of internet forums when Nick and Anne moved to Sydney for his work with IBM. We spent a very enjoyable evening at an Indian Brasserie with stunning views of Sydney Harbour.  The food and location were excellent; the only disappointment was, of course, the service.

When I asked for a starter of prawns, the terse reply came:  “No, the prawns are frozen.”

We ate our (prawn-less) appetizers and then ordered our entrees. I asked for king prawn masala (I don’t give up easily!)

“I’ve already told you, you can’t have prawns, they are frozen.”

It was a busy restaurant with an extensive menu that featured prawns in many dishes.  Silly me for thinking the chef might take the prawns out of the freezer at some point during opening hours.

At the end of a very enjoyable evening we asked the waiter to split the bill equally between two credit cards. He disappeared and returned about ten minutes later with only one receipt to sign.

“I forgot to put the bill on two cards.”

“Can you refund half the amount to one card and put it onto the other please?”

“No.”

You just have to love customer service Sydney-style!

Earlier, Anne had arrived at the table a little flustered because they had just purchased their first Australian car. The short journey to the restaurant had been Anne’s first time driving it and, as she parked outside the restaurant, she had smashed the wheels against the curb and as she exited the car was greeted by the unmistakable sound of compressed air escaping through a small hole in rubber.

“Oh blow,” she thought as she stood and watched the tyre go down.

Not wanting to spoil the evening, Anne and Nick had decided to forget the tyre problem until after dinner so whilst we were waiting for the two credit cards to return we started to look at the NRMA website (Australian RAC) and other local 24 hour garages with call out service.  It was going to cost about $400 to get someone to come out and change a tyre.

Rich went outside to investigate and decided it would be quite simple to fix with the spare. He took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, beat his chest, gave a Tarzan call and proceeded to change the tyre in a timely manner that would have impressed Jeremy Clarkson.  My only role in proceedings was to drive our car nearer to Anne’s car and shine the headlights in the direction of the burst tyre.  With my recent track record in these matters, I had all things crossed that I wouldn’t forget the handbrake at a crucial time allowing our car to roll into and crush our friend’s new car. Lady Luck was watching over me that day and I can happily report the incident passed without a further scratch to either car.

Anne and Nick were very grateful and Rich was glad of the opportunity to help out friends, especially as it had been Nick’s credit card that the waiter had charged the bill to!

The following day, I was talking to my friend Kate about what she had done at the weekend and she told a story of how her husband had also been a bit of a local hero.

Kate, her husband James and their four boys had been out bush-walking in the Blue Mountains when they came across two German students crouched down on the path taking photos of something. In stilted English they tried to call Kate’s children over to come and look at “the colourful lizard.”  Tom aged 6 and Lachlan aged 8 ran over to have a look, closely followed by Kate who, luckily, had the presence of mind to grab their collars before the boys got too close.

Kate pointed out it was not a lizard but in fact a red bellied blacksnake and that everyone should quickly and calmly “Step away from the snake.” (The red-bellied black snake has featured in several previous posts  as it enjoys a top five ranking on Australia’s list of most venomous snakes;  it is definitely not something you want to cosy up to and take a few holiday snaps of).

Kate’s husband James grew up on a farm in the country.  Over a bottle of wine,  he regularly amuses all of us with his tales of boyhood daring-do.   He and his brothers would play a game of “chicken” with the brown snakes that lived in the fields, poking them with sticks and trying to get them to give chase! A bite from one such snake is a sure and painful death sentence unless you can get to the anti-venom in less than 15 minutes, something that definitely was not possible in rural NSW in the 1960s!

James moved his family and the German students to safety before grabbing a couple of sticks, picking up the deadly snake and throwing it into the river, where it swam off at warp speed.

As I  told this story to Rich, I watched his ego deflate at about the same speed as the tyre he had just changed. Clearly it takes more than a quick tyre change to become a real man in these parts!