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Away from the Desk - May 2016

26 Apr 2016

Away from the Desk - May 2016 Image

The arrival - On being a Docklands newbie

 “Oh, you poor thing.”

“But, there’s nothing there. Nothing.”

“That’s it. We’re never going to see you again.”

These were comments I received upon telling my old workmates that I was abandoning them for a new gig in Docklands (or “Dearthlands” as one of them dubbed it). Indeed, my knowledge of Docklands before I started working here last year was limited to Etihad Stadium (see last month’s column) and the “will it or won’t it” dramas surrounding the Melbourne Star (I’m pleased to say it did and my sprogs think it’s pretty ace).

One of the concerns I had about accepting my new job was knowing I’d be leaving behind everything I loved about the CBD – good, cheap coffee (farewell Bowery to Williamsburg, how I loved thee), buying bagels in bulk for my beer-bagel-and-footy Friday-night ritual, and lunchtime retail therapy. Where would I quench my caffeine thirst? Have they heard of bagels in Docklands and do they even know what a real one is? Where’s the nearest Gorman?

And what about the people? After eight years in an arts organisation, how would I cope surrounded by corporates who couldn’t give a rats about the Oscars?

I’ve now racked up seven months as a Docklands worker and in that short space of time I’ve come to realise that “Dearthlands” is a big misnomer. After some trial and error I discovered that the coffee at Kenny’s is not only cheap, but tastes good and is served with a beautiful smile (even at 7am) that warms even the grumpiest cat (ie me).

While I had to wait a few months to get my fix, I heralded the opening of Schmucks Bagels like it was sent by the bagel gods just for me (and their bagels are the real deal). And while there’s no Gorman in Docklands, there is an Australia Post outlet with 24/7-accessible parcel lockers for online shopping deliveries.

And the people? Most Docklands workers are corporates (including me, now), but that doesn’t mean they’re not human. Okay, so my boss keeps confusing the Oscars with the Grammys, but it turns out that he is as obsessed with Survivor as I am. I’ve bonded with my other new colleagues over food, footy, books, sprogs, life. Seven months into the job and I’ve already made firm friendships I’ll cherish forever.

One lunchtime I was heading back to work with one of these friends when I heard someone calling my name. Who would know me here other than a work colleague, and if it was someone from my office why would they be calling my name out on the street?

I gasped in unbridled joy when I discovered the voice came from a very old and dear friend I worked with at my first job almost 20 years ago. We’d stayed in touch on Facebook, but we hadn’t spoken in years due to him moving back to Argentina and me being, well, a slacker. He, too, was a recent Docklands arrival, and I felt at that moment that I wasn’t really a newbie anymore, that I could actually say I belonged.

As I walked back to work after the impromptu reunion, I realised that every fresh arrival, like me, will be followed by even newer arrivals, evoking the following passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby:  “It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road. ‘How do you get to West Egg village?’ he asked helplessly. I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighbourhood.”

The thing is, Docklands is a growing community. It doesn’t have the history of the CBD, but look deep enough and you’ll find it has heart. Even my old workmates are jealous.

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