You know how it can be.
You work hard all your life, bringing your strong, old-world work ethic to whatever task you’re assigned. Sometimes you sell produce, sometimes you sell furniture. It doesn’t matter to you, you were built for this. You can sell anything, it’s your purpose. It makes you feel good. You shack up, maybe you get an idea that you’re going to settle. ‘This could work,’ you think to yourself. ‘I could see myself here in five years, just cruising.’
You hit that point where you’re salivating at the thought of retirement, a handsome payoff for all the hard work you’ve ever done. Sure enough, the day comes. There’s a small celebration, a cake. Gary from next door has a bit too much champagne and ruins your carpet. You laugh and shrug; you’ll have nothing but time to clean it up.
But then the unthinkable happens. Something so commonplace you kick yourself for not having seen it coming, but you never thought it would happen to you. One of your dependents passes away.
Suddenly, things aren’t looking so simple. Easy Street has taken a sharp left onto Struggle Street…which is now a five lane highway. You’ve got to go back to work if you want to make ends meet.
The first day back on the job, and everything has changed. New owners, new workers. New work ethic. As the new upstarts proceed to do all the things you never could, the taste of that cake comes back to you, suddenly very bitter. The owner can see the way things are going, and decides to get out. Just like that. Here one day, gone the next, and not even a goodbye. You know in the back of your mind it’s all your fault. How did that make you feel?
Another decade, another set of owners. The rent won’t pay itself, after all. These hip new owners watch you work, barely masking the disappointment. They paid how much for this? You’re from another time; you just can’t cut it. So out comes the new coat of paint, the new accoutrements designed to help a dinosaur compete in a modern world. It works…for awhile.
And then the 80s. You cut a break – suddenly it doesn’t matter who you are, only what you’re selling. And you’ve lucked out, my friend. Fully stocked with the latest in washers, colour TVs and video recorders. Inwardly, you can’t even begin to understand how it all works. You’re of a bricks-and-mortar mindset, these newfangled electronics baffle you. But you were built to sell, and sell you do. The money – you’ve never seen so much money! – comes thick and fast, and suddenly you find yourself with a hefty bonus here and there. It goes to your head. You’ve forgotten that no one is bigger than the business.
Which brings us to today. Colour TVs lost their novelty. VHS is barely a memory in the mind of the public. ‘People still have to wash,’ you argue. True. But there are laundromats for that. Massive department stores just up the road. While you were sitting here, the world changed, and if you ever left your comfort zone, you’d know that.
These days, you’re a sight. You cling embarrassingly to your heyday, desperate to remind prospective owners what you can do.
But no one’s buying what you’re selling. You were never the best salesperson, merely capable. Today, even that’s negligible. All you do is remind people of a past they’re happy to forget. Despite your best efforts, you’ve landed yourself a beauty salon gig, the kind that’s all too common in these strips. Well done. The saddest part is, you think it’s going to last forever.
I pity you.
The owners of Enfield’s OK Chinese Restaurant mustn’t have had much self confidence. C’mon guys, you could wine and dine there…surely it was better than just OK?
In a place like Enfield, where the competition ranges from good to great, being merely okay didn’t help the restaurant stay afloat. These days, all that remain are the neon signs which, in years gone by, would unintentionally act as the OK’s own private lighthouse, warning off hungry passers-by with the promise of an average eating experience.
There’s a silver lining, however: the businesses occupying OK’s space today have all learned the most important lesson of the OK saga. We have Mr. Viscontini Fine Italian Food, Master Kwon’s Pro Tae Kwon Do Academy and Big Clean cleaning supplies, all of which sound unusually empowered and boastful. If not for the OK’s sacrifice, we might today be looking at Viscontini Not Bad Italian Food, Master Kwon’s Intermediate Tae Kwon Do Academy and the Moderate Clean Supplies outlet.
You may be shocked, as I was, to learn that this address has been a newsagent since at least 1951, when a Mr. C. G. Sternbeck was appointed a ‘new newsagent’ for the Burwood area. To put this into perspective, his phone number had a letter in it. In 1947, this place was vacated by a fruit and vegetable store, so I’d put its period as a shoe store between 1947 and 1951, unless it predates the greengrocer and that’s the world’s hardiest paint. Jury’s out until the sample comes back from the lab, it seems.