The coffee shop auntie and her colleagues at the Imperial Cafe & Pub on McCallum Street were busy trying to entice pedestrians to sit down under one of the makeshift umbrellas and have a cup of coffee or a nasi lemak.
Her frown unwavering, one of the coffee shop aunties mutters in a monotone, “Hallo handsome, lai, want to eat what?” to a CBD worker who brushes right past.
“Hallo lao ban, got nasi lemak, nasi briyani, chee cheong fun, kopi….”
“Hallo mei nu, want to eat what?”
“Hallo, handsome, hallooooo”….
But of course, there are people (like me) who sit down and dine at the Imperial, though the aunties continue to wear their frowns. There two other kopi stalls along the same stretch, and it’s a ‘see who gets a customer to sit down and order food’ contest between them.
It’s almost 11am as one of the aunties places a plate of rice and veggies on the table I’m seated at, and before I can say, “sorry auntie, I din order”, she mutters, “sorry ah, I share table with you” and tucks into her lunch. Then she looks up and asks what I do for work in the office block across the road. I tell her I do a lot of stuff, because I don’t know which one of my jobs is my day job.
She says, “wah, money very hard to earn hor?”
I say “yah”.
She motions to the table behind her and says, “that uncle over there also, daytime contractor, night time drive taxi”.
“A lot of people here also drive taxi you know! Money very hard to earn ah!
“Last time not like that ah! Dunno why this year like that ah!
“Government always say economy growing lah! Where got?
“Maybe you also have to drive taxi ah!
“But lucky still got taxi to drive ah!”
I know she’s not kidding, because she’s still wearing her frown.