Wednesday, 26 February 2014


I need to tell you about my Saturday. I hope that in 5 years time I may be able to look back on this post and laugh. Hopefully it makes you feel better about your Saturday in the meantime.

A 9.5 hour shift, alone, in the Wine Shop With No Wine is predictably long, tedious and reasonably depressing. But it has advantages: plenty of time to read Gourmet Traveller or whatever wine text I am browsing at the time, time to chat to some of the nicer customers, even just the opportunity to do not terribly much for a while. Just in case my manager is reading- This is after I have made sure the shelves are stocked etc (which doesn't take long enough sadly).

What is not supposed to happen is the spontaneous explosion of a bottle of beer, suicide bomber style; taking 2 of his compatriots and a bottle of shiraz with him, splattering the shop with alcohol and glass. My initial thought when I heard the pop was that it was a drive by shooting (there have been a few pizza shops targeted recently, I though the crims might be branching out). A customer less than 1 metre away from the vengeful beer was miraculously unharmed and only lightly sprayed, astonishing given the state the rest of the stock was in. I checked the customer was OK and ushered him away from the broken glass and towards his family with the poor fella repeating "It just exploded" to all within earshot.

Despite the length of time one has worked in a bottle shop, I'm not certain that the moments that follow A Major Breakage ever become easier. There is the glass which splinters into tiny, pointy, finger-threatening  shards; then there is the beer, or wine, or in this case both, snaking its way across the floor and shelving, coating everything in it's wake with stickiness. Add to that the customers who invariably become focussed on the fact that the enormous puddle of fermented terror is wetting the bottom of a nearby box and feel the need to provide commentary in an increasingly hysterical voice.

As an aside, why does alcohol smell so much more fermenty when it is spread all over the floor? I'm sure it is to do with the increased surface area, but never do I find myself admiring the aromatics at this point, which also theoretically should be amplified, it is always just the smell of rotting fruit and yeastiness.

Humans are inexplicably drawn to disaster and the desire to jump and splash in puddles is deeply ingrained so the first few moments after A Major Breakage always seem to involve encouraging people not to walk through the fermented terror. I can never get to them quickly enough though, resulting in fermenty footprints throughout the store.

I cleared the lemmings and shut the door, optimistically jamming the 'Back in 10 mins' sign onto the glass as I listened to beer drip through the shelving onto everything below. Then I realised the rest of that batch could be planning a similar fate. Fortunately I have seen "The Hurt Locker" and employed a similar level of care in placing the offending brand into a box, surrounding it with cardboard (to absorb the impact) and taping the box before transporting it to the distant back room. I may have even used a trolley for the transport (not one to get carried away....).

I found the mop. Naturally the sponge had separated itself from the squeegy bit (probably in protest at its lack of industry). As I exited the store to beg a mop from a nearby storeholder, a barrage of customers met me at the door- attracted to disaster I tell you. Among them were small children in thongs (flips flops if you aren't Australian, no child porn here) just waiting to have their feet sliced open. I provided a bit of a drivethrough (walkthough?) service, not allowing anyone in, but selling them liquor prohibition-style, handing over brown paper packages and collecting cash at the door. All this time the ferment of terror was making it's way under and into more stock.

Finally I escaped and managed to borrow a big old-school extra-drippy mop. What follows is always a confused mess of sweeping up glass, alternating with mopping up ferment, encrusting the mop with bits of glass and on this occasion adding a decent slag of sudsy floor water to the fermenty puddle, allowing it to infiltrate further. My 'Back in 10 mins' sign was becoming a bit fibby at this point so I had to do a bit more drivethrough service. We have 2 sinks- one for cleaning duties and the other for washing glasses. As I was filling up the bucket for the third wash of the floor I noticed the automatic tap wasn't working. Unfazed I used the kettle to transport water from the 'clean' (glass-washing) sink to the bucket, mopped for a third time and reopened the shop. I was drying the floor with paper towels when a women in impossibly high heels tottered in (think Barbie shoes) and headed straight for the bit I hadn't dried yet. Amidst multiple warnings about the wetness of the floor, she selected her wine and tottered to the till which, I realised, also had no power. I managed to open the till to give change and tottered the customer back out around the puddles. Some brief exploration revealed that the back half of the shop (including the automatic tap) had no power. I looked at the meter board and couldn't see the problem, rang my boss and of course, with him on the phone, I looked a little closer at the meter board and found the tripped switch.

By this time the floor was dry. Time to start on the shelves. Glass, a Chux cloth and naked fingers, what could possibly go wrong? This part took another hour or so because not only had the beer dripped through onto the shelves below; it seems the shelves are on a slight slant so it had made its way surreptitiously along the entire lower shelf, hiding out in the dimples at the bottom of the wine bottles. It had also splattered the botttles on the other side of the store (5 metres away).

Finally at about 3:30pm I sat down for lunch and surveyed my efforts. Apart from some slight staining on some labels, everything had been cleaned, the floor wasn't sticky and I had retrieved as much glass as I could find (it hides out, the sneaky glass). I returned the mop to the Florist, made a cup of tea and opened the wine textbook I had been planning to read. Then I remembered that I needed to put some more cider in the fridge. As I picked up the six-pack, a cider jumped to the floor and smashed to smithereens......

Happy Saturday

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