It was a Monday morning, Labor Day to be specific. I woke up at about 7:15 and remembered we were out of coffee. Luckily, there was a café nearby that sold the coffee I really like, so I put my shoes on and away I went.
Due to it being a public holiday the café wasn’t open yet, so I went for a bit of an extended walk, and ducked into Woolies to buy some stuff for brekkie. The café still wasn’t open when I’d finished shopping, so I found a place to sit outside the café and patiently scrolled through my social media.
It was a quiet morning, something I wasn’t used to, considering there were three cafes and a train station; all bunched together on this little side street in Flemington. When it’s this quiet, you tend to notice when someone walks near you. When I saw Dave across the street walking towards me, I immediately prepared myself. He was carrying a tray with two coffees in one hand and a plastic bag filled with Lipton iced teas in the other.
Was he going to ask for money, or for a lighter? Was he just after a chat? I had no idea. When he asked me, “You here for the interview mate?” I knew I was probably in for a stitch up.
“Ahh … I don’t think so?” I anxiously replied, not knowing what was in store for me.
“Yeah, the interview … you know … the job interview? For my company, Cowbell Corporations. We go around to music festivals, weddings, birthdays, whatever, and we ring cowbells.”
“Oh” I said. “No? That sounds good but I’m not sure that’s me mate.”
“Mate, Luke Beveridge told me you’re the guy and that I’d find you here.” Dave said confidently.
Luke Beveridge, for the non-footy lovers of you, is the coach of the Western Bulldogs – the current AFL Premiers. Dave was sporting a Western Bulldogs Christmas-style sweater, so I figured he was a huge Doggies fan. The Bevo reference made sense. He then asked me what I’d bring to the job, apparently a janitor’s position. It was obvious now that Dave was having me on.
“If Luke Beveridge says I’m your guy, then I think I’ve got everything I need!” I say, going with the joke.
“No no no …” said Dave. “Like what equipment are you gonna bring? I’m talking a mop, a bucket …”
“Rubber gloves?” I say.
“Yeah, bloody oath! You know, these are pretty big events. I get pretty wasted, so I need someone to clean up all my shit!”
Dave’s reached his punchline, and promptly begins to laugh hysterically.
I just laugh nervously.
“Right.” Dave says, as he puts down the coffees and iced teas on the bench next to me.
“I’ve got a few jokes for ya, you’re gonna love this.”
He lights a cigarette, takes a sip of the coffee and stands in front of me.
“You’re gonna love this!” he repeats.
He then tells me a few jokes, although I can’t remember what they are. I begin to relax, and share one of my own.
“What’s red but smells like blue paint?” I say.
Dave loves it, and laughs again. “You’re alright” he says.
He then sits next to me, and extends his hand. “I’m Dave.”
“Tyler, pleasure to meet you mate.”
Dave then tells me about himself. How he got divorced two years ago, and moved to West Footscray. We talk a bit about footy, the Bulldog’s premiership win, and about Hawthorn (my team). He then informs me about a few great local pubs, and tells a few stories of houses he used to live in nearby. He asks me to look him up on Instagram and Facebook, and I promptly do so.
“Yeah mate, Dave MakoShark. M-A-K-O-Shark. Just chuck me a follow or whatever, it’s a public profile so…”
Then Dave asks me how old I am.
“Twenty” I say.
“Mate, I tell you what, you have the greatest times of your life coming up.” says Dave.
“From now it’s just 21sts and weddings.” He whistles and waves his arm in an upwards fashion.
This was when Dave gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.
“I tell you what though mate, when you have your 21st or your wedding, make it yours. Because if there’s one thing I learnt after getting divorced, it’s that life’s way too fucking short to not be yourself. Mate, look at me. I’m wearing a Russell Coight hat, a fucking Doggies sweater and shorts, what kind of idiot dresses like this? Me. I dress like this.” He takes a draw from his cigarette.
“Don’t be a fish or a sheep like everyone else, they all follow the herd. You’ve got one thing above everyone else and that’s that you’re you. There’s no one else in the world who has that. So I’ll tell you now, don’t wait until you’re bloody 34 to be yourself. From right this second, just be unapologetically yourself. Fuck everyone else, do what makes you happy. Because being yourself is the key to happiness.”
A complete stranger just delivered the most honest advice I’ve heard from anyone.
I told him that I would, and he said he’d hold me to that.
“Anyway, I’d better get moving.” He said, picking up his coffee tray and bag. “Wicked meeting you mate” As he shuffled his cigarette, tray and bag into one hand so he can shake mine.
“The pleasure is all mine” I say, still trying to process everything Dave had just said.
Dave then starts off down the road, before turning and saying “You got the job by the way, you start on Monday!” and we both laugh at each other, before I enter the café to buy my coffee.
Just be yourself.