Derham Groves

Mexican Stand-Off

After leaving University in the early 1980s, I worked for a short time as a storeman and packer at David Wang’s warehouse in Melbourne. David Wang imported cane ware from China. The warehouse had an international workforce. Roger Yap, a Filipino in his early 30s, was the foreman. Nevertheless, he loved toilet humour (as many of us who worked there also did) and playing practical jokes. For example, out of the blue, he would rush up to Tony Amhad, a Lebanese worker, and fart on him. Then, in a fit of laughter, he would loudly declare that Tony had ‘felt the pressure’. Despite how this may sound, Roger wasn’t putting Tony down (in fact, they were the best of mates). His antics simply helped to ease the boredom of filling countless orders for, say, kitsch cane chickens. Bizarre! Con Berkan, a wiry little Dutchman in his 60s, would single-handedly drag big heavy boxes across the warehouse floor. Because of this, we used to call him ‘the human ant’. However, Con didn’t have Roger’s sense of humour – in fact, quite the opposite. One day Roger was searching for something (probably a cane chicken) in the bottom of a box, and making a terrible mess. Straw was flying everywhere. This greatly amused him, and he began saying in his heavy Filipino accent, ‘I’m a messy cunt, I’m a messy cunt,’ over and over. Con and I were watching this from the sidelines. But Con wasn’t amused by Roger’s antics. He turned to me and said in his heavy Dutch accent in a disgusted tone, ‘If he’s a Mexican, then I’m a Turk.’