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A Drrrty Job

If the service industry were a sport, then waiting tables would be track and field.

If the service industry were a sport, then waiting tables would be track and field. It’s You vs. Them. And speed. Speed, speed, speed is key. If you have the section by the kitchen, you’re in the 200 meter dash. If you’re by the door, it’s more like the 400. There are relays: the hand off of hot food to table, of dirty dishes to busboy, of fresh martinis from the bartender. Biting your tongue with a difficult table and mustering enough charm for a decent tip: certainly a hurdle. Trays--discus (just don’t throw them; no matter how tempted). And, um, cantaloupe is like shot put.


So if waiting tables in a restaurant is like track--follow me so far?--then catering is like cross country. You and the other caterers are in a herd, all going the same distance, in the same race. You’re in uncertain territory--there are no all-weather tracks in catering. There are mansions, patios, banquet halls, chartered ships and backyards. It’s a test of endurance, catering. There is no being cut early. No asking someone to pull a double for you.


But there is hiding in the kitchen, and walking around as if you are very busy or talking to the bartender or finishing nearly empty bottles of wine in the back by the trash where you are “throwing them away.”


So I haven’t been catering for this company for very long but I like it. I usually only work one day a week, so it’s convenient to adjust my schedule around, and the people I work with are always different. As is the location, the party, the host, the manager, chef and menu. And on the way in, my mapquest directions on the passenger seat with my black tie, I always repeat the mantra “If I can’t find it, I won’t go.” Which affords a certain peace. Because if I don’t go, well hey, I have a free Saturday night and that’s always cool.


And this company is great because they let you eat while you’re in the kitchen so you’re never hungry, or have to carry a Cliff Bar in your apron pocket or buy a meal (for half price.) And o-my-goodness but they have GOOD friggin’ food. I mean, so very yummy. The last job I worked was ridiculous: there were fresh brownies and an ice cream BAR. Where you dipped ice cream in a chocolate pot and covered it in the likes of Reese’s Pieces and crushed Oreos and sprinkles--rainbow or chocolate--and nuts. There’s almost always quesadillas (my favorite) and sometimes edamame, wedding cake, cookies, fruit, salad, fish or seafood, and amazing appetizers like deep fried olives stuffed with cheese. Yeah. That’s my JOB.


Er, rather, serving this is.


And usually there’s someone as completely normal and down to earth as I am and thinks our host is corrupted by wealth and beneath us, the working stiffs. So I can commiserate. And laugh at the expense of others. And basically have a jolly time.


The first party I worked was a wedding/reception in the backyard of some mansion in Calabasas. The bride was tan, thirty-something, blonde, in an ill-fitted slinky silky sheath, and r e a l l y liked vodka (and what the bride likes, the bride gets.) The groom was a balding, mustached man who was tall and boring. I don’t know what he drank because most of the night I mistook him for another, more handsome, more rugged, wealthier looking man. They met in Hawaii, were moving to Hawaii, and had a pseudo Hawaiian theme to the bash complete with oysters on the half shell and hot pink flowers floating in the pool. A dance floor was set up under hanging lanterns, a big Buddha smiled serenely by the Jacuzzi and organic marshmallows to “toast” the newly weds were stuffed in crystal vases by the outdoor fireplace (near the Jacuzzi, behind the pool.)


There were two bars (three counting the one in the house), a house keeper, a barista, and ceilings so high you could anchor a trapeze.


My second affair was the 75 birthday of a gentleman in Pasadena. I much enjoyed our hostess, and shared lengthy conversation with her regarding the Joffrey Ballet. During the party, as I passed a tray of fresh figs stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped in prosciutto, we had a giggle about something relevant, and I had just uttered the words, “I’m a vegetarian” when she plunged one of those little morsels into her mouth, rolled her eyes in ecstasy and uttered, “This is fabulous.Just like the first time I had foie gras. I thought I’d died.”


Indeed, if I had foie gras, I would think I’d have died as well. Double entendre, nicely done, if unintentional and unrealized.


And I quote Wikipedia:


Foie gras [fwa gra] (French for "fat liver") is the fattened liver of a duck or goose that has been overfed. Along with truffles, foie gras is one of the greatest delicacies in French cuisine—it is very rich and buttery, with a delicate flavour unlike that of a regular duck or goose liver.

All animal rights organizations, and nearly all animal welfare organizations regard the production as cruelty to animals because of the force-feeding and the health consequences resultant from enlarged livers. Foie gras production is illegal in several countries and in several U.S. jurisdictions.


(When I lived in Chicago, there was a heated debate regarding foie gras and I’m not certain but I think it was outlawed. Essentially, froie gras is made by putting a funnel in a duck’s throat and force feeding it. It’s the foul equivalent of veal.)


(“Foul” ha ha.)

But my latest job with the ol’ catering company was the ringer. This one was interesting for sure.


It was a Halloween party in Calabasas (always Calabasas for the tactlessly wealthy.) Big house, backyard, waterfall in the swimming pool.  But the majority of the night was tragically foreshadowed when the 12 year old daughter strutted into our kitchen area in her costume.


She was Snow White, ala Boogie Nights. In a yellow mini skirt, plunging corset and red velvet stilettos. Yes, I am given to exaggeration, I’m the first to admit to it. But I’m not exaggerating when I tell you this costume was bought from either Frederick’s of Hollywood or Foreplay.


Apparently, Snow White was just the teaser. ALL the women at this party were dressed Age Inappropriate, as one of my fellow servers dubbed the look of the evening. And all of them were wearing some sort of vixenish interpretation of what they were supposed to be: a sexy Police Officer, a sexy Bride, a sexy Swiss Miss, a sexy Princess, a sexy Witch, a sexy Devil and OH YES sexy Pirates. The sexy pirates. Let’s just toss this holiday aside and dub it “Sexy Pirate Day.” It appeared as if every woman attending had a gift card for the same seedy racks of the stripper shops on Hollywood Boulevard: their skirt hems all came to the bottom of their butts and they all wore garters and they all showed cleavage and most wore stilettos and fishnets. And were married. With children. The teenagers tended to favor the Naughty School Girl look.


Oh yeah, this was a child and adult party. 150 adults, 50 kids.


And toddlers. There were toddlers there. Little Dalmatians, ducklings and bunny rabbits. Toddling unattended down patio steps and nearly getting skewered by oblivious spike heels in the yard by the makeshift bar.


Most of the men were dressed as--surprise--Jack Sparrow with some Cowboys and Pimps tossed in the mix.


These were mothers, daughters and fathers all at the same party. I don't mean to sound like a bumpkin, but they don't throw parties like this in Ohio.


It was maybe four hours in when the first rumor started and then later it was confirmed:  this was a swingers' party.


Bow chica bow wow.


We stared, stacks of gooey plates and stemware balanced in our arms, as these wealthy oversexed suburbanites, drunk on apple martinis and Corona, grooved in their skimpy costumes on the rented dance floor beside the children’s playhouse (situated on Astroturf) to a rap song about the Bloods and Crips.


These people were your typical Money people. They liked to crowd you, step in your way, drop extra plates on your haphazard stack and turn so their stupid wings knocked against you. I disliked the Hispanic Cinderella and surly clown the most. Next to the host's stupid husband who went as, I guess, a "good angel/bad angel" as half his costume was black and half was white, right up to the ill fitting halo. He was the one who got trashed and broke a glass and asked me to clean it up.


Look, I know, I realize I'm with the catering company. But you broke your own glass in your own home.


Where I come from, we clean up after ourselves in our own home when we break our own glass because we are way too blasted to have coordination.


But then, I don’t come from Calabasas.


I mean, at least it wasn’t the kind of party where they just have sex in front of you, on any available surface. Some drunk Witch confided to one of our own that they were “behaving” themselves “because of the children.”


When I close my eyes, I see trampy little she-devils and horny old Jack Sparrows. I hope they stay out of my dreams. I'm tired. It was a long night. I don't know how those little ducklings and bunnies will ever make it. Not in a world where mom and dad mutually dress like sluts and cart them off to a swingers' party.


It sure is a dirty job sometimes.

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