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Irregular writings

February 2013

  • Dave Graney

The future is Springvale

I dropped my phone and the screen went dark. I only use it to get calls but it’s pretty handy – an old model a friend fished out of a bottom drawer. The camera is quite good and it has more storage than my first computer by a dozen fold. So I thought I’d get it fixed. Looked all over the magic box for ideas and clues as to the problem. Went to several forum areas and even watched a YouTube video on how to replace the screen for that model. It all looked so easy but I have been involved in that kind of pile of dead parts of a machine in front of me, suddenly like an incomprehensible puzzle, many times before.

So I found myself at a little hole-in-the-wall shop in Springvale that promised to fix problems like mine.

Springvale is an area many people read about in the papers. To do with scary stories of unknowable ethnic crime and the like. It’s in those people’s minds more than as a place they go to very much. Footscray (Footscary!) has the same stories about it with its successive waves of immigrants changing the tone and flavour of the place over the years, but people actually know where that is. Springvale is not in Dandenong, but it’s on the way there. It is actually quite accessible to where I live in the hills. Just a roll down the highway and a turn at Springvale Road. This is one of those long and winding avenues like High Street Road (the south eastern one) or Burwood Highway, which must have been aboriginal walking tracks at one stage. That’s just a vibe I have, understand? Don’t quote me in an essay or anything.

So Springvale Road tootles along, past the posh mall that is Waverley Gardens and Wellington Road and Princes Highway and then you are in an area of unmistakeable ethnic variety. For me, it’s like a fantastic holiday, as the hills are so totally Anglo.

I find the shop and drop my phone off. They tell me to come back in an hour. I have confidence in them. I walk along the road. Great Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Middle Eastern grocery stores. Furniture shops and bath and kitchen utensil stores. Stuff for people building homes and businesses. After fooling around in a junk shop for a while I make my way back to the shop. One fellow takes care of the customers and he enters and exits the backroom through a door behind the counter. Who knows how many people are back there? One? A dozen? The thing is that everybody who comes in is at their mercy. This beguiling smartphone technology is a mystery to all.

Except for a few initiates who are in on the source code. These guys have us by the short and curlies. And who are “we”? Well I find, sitting in the cramped, stuffy room, that I am pretty much the only Anglo guy in the team. A couple of other grey haired, white van driving geezers come in.

Tradespeople. The rest of the clientele is a veritable United Nations. The Vietnamese are running the show. A young African girl comes in. They give her a quote as to the repair of her smartphone. She says “I’ll just go and ask my personal assistant.” (She had walked in with an even younger, but taller young bloke with no shoes on.) Two Sri Lankan guys come in with their phone, then a Sikh with his exotic headwear. This trio all sported skinny jeans though, and were all in their twenties. Hipster ethnique. Then a young Chinese woman with her son. She had dropped her smartphone too

The place specialised in waterlogged phones, “unlocking” them and cracked screen replacements. See, everybody is taught that these things will either never break or, if they do, that it’s only right just to toss them away (or give them to a cheapskate friend) and get a new one. These guys were onto that scam.

Most of the young men affected clothes that clearly came from an R&B or hip hop aesthetic. A guy from a more Balkan or Mediterranean background was told the people out back would be working further on his phone. “I will push them,” said the capable, smiling guy at the counter. “Well push them harder!” said the customer. He wore sunglasses and a cap. He had no more time to spend on this. I wanted to wait around to see what happened next but I was told my phone was still dead but they would try some CPR overnight.

The joint was never empty. Can-Do people!

A day later I got the call that my phone, it lived! I went to pick it up and took the moment to have a further look around this suburb and how its reality compared to its illusory reputation. Hey, it was like being on holiday in the near north. A food market presents the most beautiful array of fruit and vegetables (watermelon seeds and green gauge plums) and then a startling pile of flesh in the meat section. Mounds of pigs’ tongues, heads and casually layered offal. Strange cuts of pork and lamb and chicken. A seafood area with glass cabinets of crawling crabs and all kinds of sea creatures.

I make a note to come out here more often. It’s the future! Or actually the present. Different from the dormitory nature of a lot of the more Anglo suburbs.

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