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The Grapes of Wrath: My Experience with ‘Australia’s Worst Boss’
From the moment we laid eyes on Don, his generous proportion shimmering with sweat or just an illusion in the thick of the heat (well pigs don’t sweat), mutual uncertainty passed between my three friends and I. Desperate for work, we had scoured the backpacker sites for gainful employment and when we finally struck gold (or some aluminium impostor at least) we made the move from the dazzling city-life of Melbourne down to Mil-who- what-where-dura to experience the arbitrary fruit picking foible on every backpacker’s itinerary. The stranger appeared somewhat cordial behind the opaque sunglasses despite the sweaty scrap of wife beater vest, and arms like hams that extended for a meaty handshake each. Those waves lapping at the edges of uncertainty tapered off a little. Until. He insisted we go straight to the ‘teller’ and remove a stinging sum of $450 for weekly rent plus deposit. Each. My friend Vicky and I were sharing money due to a problem with Vicky’s bank and $900 we explained meekly, was an impossible transaction. It was like a mouse trying to convince a snake he won’t taste good due to an embarrassing case of Impetigo. “Caan’t ya mates lend ya the maanee?’ he responded tartly without turning around. Those waves resumed frantic lapping and tension fermented to sharp distaste in the air for the remainder of the journey.
After about what seemed 700 miles down a lonely dirt road, we rocked up to what looked like a destitute trailer park. We lolloped begrudgingly under the weight of our backpacks through a mesh gate. Having deposited to them to a skip, we trudged to a table on a patio where a few backpackers were slumped idly about a battered 50 year old sofa. I half expected them to be chewing dead grass. Upon being instructed by this pig, genie hybrid with his hooped ears and greasy rat tail, to hand over the unnecessary amounts of cash for the non-functioning caravan in which we would sleep, the others that had fallen before us finally stirred and anxiously shook their heads, silently pleading us to save our selves from the fate akin to imprisonment at Alcatraz. Panicked, we could think of nothing else to do but hand it over and sign away our souls. Work would commence promptly at 5am the next day he told us after grasping the flimsy papers between his greedy fists. And like a voodoo effect, we crumpled along with them. Don commenced heaving his impressive bulk about the place barking orders to flurries of backpackers who scattered like startled pigeons. After his long anticipated departure, we sat about the patio based lounge and tried to make the best of a bad situation joining in some group games involving some rogue cutlery. Had there been enough, we might’ve jazzed things up with a roll of toilet tissue too. Defeated by melancholy, I trudged to bed alone but for a couple of strangers to await more oncoming doom.
Four am happened and, trying not to take my head out against the caravan ceiling, I reluctantly