Friday, 6 January 2012

Working way out west

Now I have a car, the commute to work is a whole lot easier. Brooklyn (next door to Altona) is well serviced by the Geelong Freeway; public transport not so much.

There's a reason my workplace is located at the edge of the freeway. Trucks. Lots of them. That's what you get in the transport industry. Especially big double and triple semis. And car carriers. These massive vehicles thunder along Millers Rd, and rumble on and off the freeway, by the hundreds.

The Brooklyn/Altona area where I work is all concrete and steel and fumes and rubber. Apparently there is a park (of the flora kind) nearby somewhere, but I haven't found it.

It is not, I have to admit, an ideal place to work. Even if the commute is rendered less annoying by a car (and I'm yet to suffer the grind of regular peak hour -- the traffic at the moment is at about 50%), nothing can really overcome the industrialness of Brooklyn. There are no shady green streets down which to walk, and nowhere worth walking to. There are only trucks and traffic.

Definitely culture shock for me, used to working in Elwood and East St Kilda and then the CBD. In those locations, coffee was not only plentiful but exceptional -- if you knew where to go. And the food options were fabulous. I don't think I took my lunch to work in 10 years, and I never got bored. We used to eat together as a team and chat. Lunch used to be the highlight of the day.

My food options in this new job are terrible. OK, so there's Altona Gate shopping centre. If not for Altona Gate I would possibly be slitting wrists. It's walking distance -- a noisy, smelly walk with too many traffic lights per km -- but most of my colleagues get in the car and drive down. Once you're there, the options are fine -- it's a standard foodcourt -- but the round trip consumes most of my lunch half-hour.

For the first five weeks of this job I was eating Light n Easy meals for lunch, so I didn't need to think about it; but this week I've been exploring other options. I took an avocado in and smeared it on Sao crackers with smoked salmon for two lunches. Once I drove down to Altona Gate to get some supplies in Safeway (yoghurts and muesli bars etc) and grabbed some sushi. I realised almost immediately that it was stupid to drive, but plead the novelty of my new car as my excuse.

Today I decided to walk down to Altona Gate -- to get some exercise, some sunshine, and most importantly to get away from my desk. The awful culture in my workplace is to eat lunch at one's desk and I absolutely loathe this practice. It only makes me stare at the screen of my iPhone for social networks, surf the Internet -- or, worse, keep working. Half an hour isn't really enough of a break. And it definitely isn't a break at all if you remain at your desk. (I consider staring at my iPhone in the foodcourt acceptable...)

So I think I will endeavour to walk down to Altona Gate most days, for the same reasons as stated above. It gets me out of the office, and if I take 45 mins instead of half an hour, I'll wait until someone comments. I don't think they will. I work at least an extra 15 mins a day, after all.

But this brings me to the coffee situation. I developed a habit in 2010 of two flat whites a day -- one first thing at my desk in the morning, the second sometime after lunch. And then last year with my Nespresso machine, I pretty much abandoned instant coffee all together.

So what do I do now? A few times on public transport I grabbed a coffee on the way in, but I like lingering over it at my desk, not juggling it on the train. Fortunately I soon discovered the morning coffee ordered from reception. There's a drive-through coffee place nearby that actually makes decent coffee and -- best of all -- delivers if the order is large enough. So it was in my 3rd week I think that I negotiated my standing order at reception and resolved to pay my $20 coffee fund on the Monday of each week. I still have to bear with instant for my afternoon coffee, but by then I can handle it.

Except this week and next, our coffee place is closed! So I've been making a stop at Altona Gate before arriving at the office. The coffee there is variable. Today I tried coffee from Michel's pastries and it was better than the bitter brew I had yesterday from one of the other cafes.

Before I end this ramble about my life working in the wild west, I should mention that we are quite close to Seddon and Yarraville and Williamstown, where there are nice cafes. So far I've been to Seddon a few times with some of my colleagues, usually on a Friday, and it's been wonderful to go somewhere with a little more groove. I should also note that we are nowhere near the centre of Altona, which is actually quite nice too, with cafes, parks, the beach and even a wetlands. But everywhere decent requires you to get in the car.

It's fair to say I'm still working out my routine at the moment, trying to work out what will work long term. I daresay I'll get annoyed with the traffic on the way to Altona Gate, so it might need to be a mix. I may need to bring my lunch in on occasion -- and then I'll see if I can find the park. I think the only way to escape my desk at lunchtime is to get out of the building. I think I'll be on a quest to find a lunch buddy as well.


  1. I also like to have a change of scenery at lunchtime, but the Dutch are particularly bad at just eating in front of the computer. However, I have found a few willing participants (mostly non-Dutch). But even if I can't leave the building, I still like to go somewhere else other than my desk - and sometimes I bring along a book to read...

  2. How about a small plunger and some coarse ground coffee kept at your desk for your afternoon brew?

  3. Actually, plunger coffee is supplied! But to be honest, I'm not such a fan and would as soon have instant.