Lunchtime-laziness hit me pretty much at the same time the cold air did. Could I really be bothered going far for food - and in these shoes? I crossed the road to a cafe that had always suffered the disconnect of looking scungy, but with solid, reasonable fare.
The faces behind the counter were different - the accents changed from soft Chinese to Mediterranean Melbournese. The food looked the same - sortof - if a little.. tired. Moving to the warming counter, I requested a small plate of lasagna.
The old people used to bring my order to the table. These new people made me wait. If there had been more customers, the counter would have been quite congested, but the cafe was uncharacteristically quiet.
Making my way with my lasagna, I pulled a too-close-to-the-wall table into a better position, seated and rummaged for my book. Forking the lasagna, it too seemed to be suffering from fatigue. It tasted okay, but not the top-end of okay.
The Mediterranean Melbournese was easy to hear from their kitchen. Besides a quiet, unpopulated cafe, the voices had a natural pitch to travel.
The voices were wondering why the cafe was so quiet. Paranoid ideas surfaced regarding local competing cafes and restaurants offering free lunches to lure customers away from their establishment. I looked around properly this time - there were only three of us in this cafe where many times before it was hard to find a seat.
Ideas and conspiracies changed to topics about the food, and why the banana bread wasn't selling, and why they had so much salad left over.
Then, and this is why I'm telling you this story, the question was asked - clear, and to the point "Do you think there's salmonella in the lasagna?"
I doubt the new owners of this once prosperous cafe will ever figure out why their business is dropping off - they may continue to dream up conspiracies of their competitors giving away free lunches - when all they have to do is stop talking.