You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat waitstaff. Do they click their fingers at waitresses across the room? Do they insist on calling everyone “waiter” regardless of gender or the presence of name tags? Do they deliver really annoying, unreasonable complaints like “the ice in my drink is too cold”?
The fact is that when people go into restaurants and behave like jerks, it’s usually because they’re jerks. There’s something about the food service industry that just brings out everyone's true colours—which makes restaurants an interesting petri dish for examining the personalities of our elected leaders.
There are 634 restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops in Canberra, according to a quick tally on Zomato, and many of those places employ staff who regularly serve politicians. And as we’ve just gone through an election, we thought it’d be nice to find out who we’ve elected. Not on a surface level either. Like who have we really elected to power? So we asked some of Canberra’s hospo workers to review Australia’s politicians.
And just before we begin, please note we’ve excluded identifying details of all waitstaff and venues, just so we don't affect any businesses in Canberra.
“I was working at a cocktail bar on the foreshore on one of those nights where it was definitely late enough to close but Scott Morrison was there with some miscellaneous cabinet minister and they just wouldn’t leave. This is when he was the treasurer. Eventually they came up to pay and he did the whole, “oh shit I forgot my card” bit. His colleague had to pick up the bill. He started teasing him about the fact that he’s in charge of the country’s finances but couldn’t handle his own.”
"I’ve served Peter Dutton in a few different venues. He was noticeably nicer to my manager (who was a male) than to me: a casual, female employee. He rolled his eyes at me a few times when I was explaining the specials of the day. He just wanted his food and drink and then get back to his conversation. He was the loudest one at the table, speaking over his colleagues."
“Tony Abbott ordered a skinny mocha in his cycling gear at a café I worked at once. Imagine Tony, in green lycra, with all his cycling buddies. A bunch of white men in green lycra is a funny sight, and then the skinny mocha on top of that—I feel like it truly speaks for itself. I’ve only had the pleasure of serving him once, but I’ve also served Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten! They’re good but boring customers.”
“I worked at a place in Canberra where most of our customers were public servants with very high positions. I knew they were politicians but I didn’t know their names. They were some of the rudest people I’ve ever met. It was a general attitude thing; they had this aura of being too good to interact with anyone. There was never a “please” or “thank you,” and most of them would clap their hands or click their fingers to get my attention, or refused to be seated by me (which I was required to do). They would insist they choose where they wanted to sit. I honestly don’t know a way to explain it that will do it justice. Politicians just make it very clear they feel they exist in a higher realm than the rest of us.”
“Tony Abbott came in one morning, and returned his coffee four times! Three times for not being warm enough, and the fourth time because the milk tasted burned. Apparently we, “couldn’t get our balance right.” The place is super well known for its coffee. He was a regular, and that kind of behaviour wasn’t uncommon.”
“I used to work at an Italian restaurant, and one time Tanya Plibersek came in with her young son. They were waiting for her partner to park the car and her son was being really naughty. I had to strip the table of all the cutlery and glassware so he wouldn’t break anything. She was so lovely about it though, she kept apologising and giving me the sorry mum eyes, so I really couldn’t be mad at her.”
“Malcolm Turnbull is potentially the most boring, depress-o politician I’ve ever served. Like he sat at the bar drinking a red wine by himself, barely looking up from his phone. Every time I topped up his water he’d look at me as though I’d just killed his cat or something. I’ve honestly never served a person, in a public place, that was so unwilling to interact on any level. He wasn’t rude per se—I actually felt sorry for him, thinking back on it now. He didn’t look happy. It made me wonder what all the fuss is about politics. I honestly hope he’s okay.”
“I’ve served Pauline Hanson a couple of times in this café I used to work at. I hate to say it, but she’s actually always been super lovely. She always said “please” and “thank you,” she always smiled at me, she never waved me down or clicked her fingers. I definitely don’t vote for her, but she’s nice to serve in a café. I’ve just always thought how strange it is—the perception politics provides, versus the experience of an everyday human interaction.”
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