Saturday, August 24, 2002

Mugg & Bean, Eastgate

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Service: * *1/2
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * *1/2

The two-day script development masterclass is over. I'm sitting in the Mugg & Bean with my spread of index cards across the table. They form a map of my movie script. I've got Clare Downs's notes open, and I'm checking whether my instincts were right on my story. Seems like I'm spot on.

I've been waving the menu around while studying the cards, and now I want to write a bit. It's been -- I kid you not -- six minutes and thirty-seven seconds since I started waving the menu. (My palmtop computer has a handy timer on it.) There is a cluster of six waiters and waitresses standing neart the entrance. I'm near the cake counter.

At the eight-minute mark, the manager happens to glance my way, and springs into action, pointing at me. A waitress scurries up to me, bright smile, hands clasped in front of her. "May I please have a decaff filter coffee --"

She almost runs off to get the coffee, before I can order the Beef and Chicken Pockets. But I manage to call her back before she hits the kitchen doors.

While I wait, I write a short correction to one of my early scenes in my script, and the waitress arrives, sans coffee.

"Did you want beef AND chicken?" I'm baffled. That's what's on the menu. Why should I want anything different if I didn't actually stipulate? She notes my nodded 'yes' and rushes off.

My timer's no longer on, so I can't really tell how long it takes to get the coffee. But it arrives. It's a decaf cappuccino, not a filter coffee. I say nothing, cos I actually like cappuccino. But it's not what I ordered.

When the waitress comes back to bring my beef AND chicken pockets, she doesn't take away the little open brown sugar packets. But hey.

What I don't really enjoy is the fact that here at the Eastgate Mugg & Bean, they give only a tiny amount of guacamole dip to accompany the food. And they've already spooned sour cream all over the pita sachets. And the tomato salsa sauce is very wet, so the pita is already getting soggy. When I had this dish in Melville, they had all three accoutrements in separate bowls, in generous portions. Maybe rent is more expensive in Eastgate.

Despite all this, the food is delicious, and I'm seriously hungry.

So I eat up like a good boy, and take the time to study the people around.

It's not very busy for 9 o'clock on a Saturday night.

There's a group of 13- or 14-year old girls beside me. They have Linksfield King David accents.

One of them answers a cellphone with a long, exhaled, "Yeeeeees?" Must be her mother on the other end. "Ya, we're all at Eastgate." She's subconsciously rubbing the underside of her fledgling breast, where the trainer-bra strap is cutting in. "Later." Click.

One of them is really tall and slinky, with a very pleasant shape to her face. She's got an alarmingly husky voice. She's the reverse of the boy-with-a-breaking-voice. Hers has gone down to a low tenor. She's going to be the man killer when she grows up.

At a certain point, all the girls lean towards the centre of their table, elbows on the edges, their heads almost touching. "It's Mark's hair I like," says one. "His HAIR?" squeals the tenor, followed by "Shhh!" from the other three.

At another table, a married woman, out with her three friends, is playing with her wedding ring. She's been taking it off and putting it on all night. She catches me looking at her, and pointedly puts the ring back.

Moments later she's studying the cakes, her midriff right near my nose. But for some reason I can't smell her. She's anonymous. A married woman in the sexiest labia-parting jeans I've seen in a long time, leaning over my table to peer at the cakes. My palmtop computer's on, its screen glowing green. I pretend I'm not interested, and type a few lines of dialogue in.

She swaggers away after a while, a married woman who knows she's goddamn irresistible. I hope for his sake her husband knows the goldmine he's found. But judging from the way she's been playing with her ring, I don't think he does. She makes quarter-eye-contact with me all evening until the four of them leave.

I sit there for a total of four hours, leaving only when the waitresses theatrically bring out the mops and the manager starts checking his watch every thirty seconds. I'm not the last to leave. The restaurant is still a third full when I saunter out, doing my best to look like a single screenwriter on the up-and-up.

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