Friday, April 25, 2014


Just reading a feature inThe Age about comedian Jennifer Saunders on the launch of her biography Bonkers: My Life In Laughs (which sounds like a bloody good read). In one part it says, 'Yet Saunders was a serious-looking child, enduring the well-meaning advice of adults to cheer up. "The thing that's absolutely guaranteed to make you miserable is someone saying cheer up! There's nothing worse. You can't help it. I have a face that looks serious if I'm not smiling."

Man, do I know where she's coming from. As a younger person I used to get that a lot. Cheer up - you look like your best friend just died! Or, cheer up - it can't be that bad!

I don't get it so much now, although I suspect that that's because my older serious-looking face can look a bit intimidating. During a Late Night Talk About Absolutely Everything I had a friend confide that "You do look a bit scary. I wouldn't fuck with you."

I hadn't thought about all of this until recently when chatting with a customer, and she said quickly and in passing, "Yes well the others all say but you're a bit serious and I said no he's just focused."

She quickly moved on but I was left wondering who the others were and what else they might have said about me. And bugger it if I didn't feel a bit annoyed. I wanted to tell them that when on the job, yeah, I guess I am serious and the customer was right, I am trying to focus. Customers constantly walk up to the counter and assume that if they've given you their order it's going to be the next coffee you make without realising that all those people seated at tables they've walked by? They are all expecting their orders too, and the couple sitting over at that table are also waiting for take-aways. I need to get all the orders right and roughly in the right order, and sometimes I get irrationally annoyed with how particular everyone is about which milk they want, how strong or weak or extra hot or how many sugars or fucking decaf - if you don't want coffee don't have coffee because that decaf grinder is slow and messy and...

Sometimes, you gotta concentrate. I try not to let any of these internal monologues manifest themselves physically. Often I hum or whistle to the music to maintain calmness, especially when it's busy. It's just not in my nature to smile with no reason. I can't help it if I have a naturally serious-looking face.

At another cafe I used to work at, the owner told me he was really very pleased with the work I did but could I please, please smile more. I told him I can't, I'm not the kind of person who can just wander around smiling for no apparent reason. (He later gave me a pay rise and said don't bother about the smiling thing).

Same still goes. I'm not a big smiler. I'm not a big laugher, either. Which is ironic given how much I like comedy, and how my favourite thing in the world is to make people laugh. I'm Grumpy, and I like to write silly shit.

As The Dreaded One pointed out, I've pre-empted any accusation of being overly serious in the name of the cafe. It's not called Oh-So-Happy & The Dreaded One's Little Cafe Of Awesome, is it. It's not called Cheerful & The Dreaded One's or Fluffy & The Dreaded One's.

Still, for the hell of it, as an experiment, I might try smiling more this week just to see what happens. It will probably just make everyone think I'm up to something. "Ooh - Grumpy's smiling a lot more all of a sudden - he must be on the drugs."

Perhaps I'll have to introduce my smiling to the world gradually. Occasional shy smirks at first and gradually ramp it up to friendly chuckles, then open laughter until they don't bat an eyelid when I double over, point at them and piss myself hysterically as soon as they enter the cafe.

Maybe I'm just not cut out for this.


Bright Precious said...

I didn't pick you for a non-smiler. You seem very cheerful in your writing and online persona. ;)

Lee Bemrose said...

I'm not much of a smiler. But I can be cheerful and smiley and even laughy when I'm with the right people and in the right mood.

My online persona is reasonably accurate, I think, if you read it all. We all have our dark stuff.