When Daniel Andrews graciously restored Melbourne’s hospitality and retail industries on Monday, a few thoughts ran through my mind. Firstly, I can finally expose my calloused heels to the rose-hued light of my Smith Street nail salon, something they haven’t seen in a sacrilegious amount of time. And secondly, I’ll finally get to see if my sister’s new South Yarra apartment really does have a rooftop sauna, which I’ll soon officially be permitted to spend an entire Sunday in, steaming away my lockdown sins.
After months of labyrinthine trajectories, quashed plans and emotional landslides, I guess I’m been rendered kind of numb to anything other than Colin Jost’s smile on SNL’s Weekend Update. For months in isolation, we’ve been forced to meditate on our existence, what isn’t in the fridge and a global public-health catastrophe. Traditional reactions are just not a hallmark of 2020.
Yet, moments later, as I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram for the 12th hour that day, my mood changed. My friend Ellie had posted a “Melbourne Out-of-Lockdown Starter Pack” meme featuring a screenshot of text exchanges between friends organising a dinner party, teamed with the lyrics from the classic kick-on anthem Back to Life by Soul II Soul and Caron Wheeler. And, lastly, a booking confirmation at Marion.
Marion Wine Bar. You know the one.
Suddenly, my stale, lukewarm, dumbstruck state dissipated. Pupils dilated, hands clenched, I realised: I could finally book a table and go out for dinner. This Saturday. Possibly in a full face of contour and a pantsuit, no expense spared.
Knowing 110 per cent of my fellow inner-north compatriots would be sharing the same desire, there could be no doubt the race was on. With no care for eye-contact, courteousness or rational thought, I screamed at my partner: “Grab your laptop and get a booking anywhere! How about Napier? You still have their number from last time right? Call them!”
Seconds later, temples pulsing, I watched with horror as he slowly picked up his phone, shook his head and mimed, “No worries, mate”. No worries? My life was on the line!
I sprang into action myself, navigating the tabs of my favourite establishments – Capitano, Marquis of Lorne, Grace Darling – switching between my laptop and phone with the same dexterity required to put out a house fire on The Sims.
The next 25 minutes saw me so meticulously focused on the task at hand – getting a booking at a restaurant – that I may as well have been bidding for Lauryn Hill’s vocal cords on eBay. A glass of water spilled at my feet goes unnoticed. Friends posting their booking confirmations create an endless stream of painful spikes to my psyche. I exist in a bubble of endless calls, waiting lists, wafts of hold music, desperation. I lose all feeling in my legs, all sense of space, time and place, and my partner’s concerned voice disappears into a nebulous, background fuzz. But for all my efforts, I have no luck. It’s too late. I’ve missed out.
Then, I stumble across a beacon of hope. A 2.30pm spot at Neighbourhood Wine. Fingers flying across the keyboard, I enter my details to secure the booking. Thank god for auto-filled credit cards. I click to confirm. I inhale.
My phone next to me flashes white: “Booking for two. Neighbourhood Wine. Confirmed.”
Heart racing, I screenshot, crop and post straight to my stories. No longer numb to emotion, I feel alive. I am victorious. All is well in the world.
I can’t wait to see you this Saturday, Neighbourhood Wine. And you better believe I’ll be tipping.
Lauren McCurry is a freelance writer and founder of content agency Ballet-Season.