On The Cusp Of Silly Season


On the cusp of silly season is lost on those without an inkling of what my job entails. The magnitude of Christmas party season poised to ignite defies explanation. I could say I’ll be busy, I’m always busy, busy isn’t silly. Silly is working 18 days straight, working 80 hours a week, getting home at 4 am, showering and heading back to work. Silly is loading and unloading 3 cargo vans in the middle of night, silly is brewing hot chocolate at 2:30 am, loading 7,000 pastries out at 6:30 am and serving canapes to 2,400 guests at the ballet. Silly is how many pounds of turkey and bottles of wine we’ll transport in the next three weeks.

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Those of us crazy enough to embrace my profession live for silly season. Surviving Christmas party season is a badge of honour, we live for silly season. The more extreme, physically challenging, convoluted, impossible timelines or elaborate execution, the better. Bring it on! It’s silly season and I’m stoked. See you in a few weeks.

Pondering A Life Of Hospitality


Recently a client asked if any one situation stood out in my hospitality career. Hmm, that’s a loaded question.

There was the groom who begged for a make-up miracle to conceal his black eye. Pimps don’t care if it’s your wedding day – any man who slinks out between nuptials and reception to bang a hooker and refuses to pay, deserves more than a black eye.

Standing between drunks and free flowing alcohol is a barrel of laughs – “I thought they gassed all the Jews” stands out as one way to guarantee a call to security is handled promptly.

Being hired to manage a “birthday party”, arrive to find a Bris, explain politely we could have provided a loaf of bread to “break” had they bothered to ask, negotiate compromise with the Rabbi (technically ceremonial “breaking” of sliced bread for the spinach dip fulfills ritual requirements, right? ) Post party clean-up – realize the coffee cup in my hand contains blood soaked gauze and foreskin.

Applying red nail polish to a bowl of raw chicken feet (Metallica dressing room), assuring Neil Diamond I would fire any staff who made eye contact with him. Asked to deliver a bottle of Jack Daniels (won’t say whose dressing room) moments after they trotted in a sheep on a leash. Jack in hand, walked in on rock star performing a sex act with said sheep. Brushing lint off Elton John’s jacket. Giving Robert Plant a stern piece of my mind for ignoring tour protocol regarding production company approval of any additional expenses. His “sorry ma’am” still rings in my ears.

Joe Cocker wearing nothing but boxer shorts, mesmerized by imperfections of his vulnerable shell, I set dinner on a table. He strikes up a conversation, for 30 effortless minutes we discuss the cosmos. Myself, Tina Turner, Bonnie Raitt and Sarah McLachlan post show in a dark, empty arena – four ladies talking until the wee hours of morning. B.B. King holding court after his show, not a “meet and greet”, nothing formal, seems he just felt like hanging around. An hour passes, another, it’s after 1 am when he calls me over – “Darlin, I could really use some BBQ chips”.  He takes my hand, presses something into the palm and holds on for a peculiarly long time. He lets go, I open my hand to find a 14K gold pendant commemorating B.B. King’s final tour.

Menstrual calamities – cutting out red stained section of hysterical brides’ wedding dress, fashioning faux lace from white tissue paper, hand stitching in place with 10 minutes to spare before she walked down the aisle. Young Asian women with limited English, “help” drew my attention to blood running down both legs from crotch length spandex to 4 inch stilettos. Couldn’t find a feminine product but offered a jug of warm water and 2 clean bar rags. “You clean” she replied. “Wash your own legs” is universal in any language, she shrugged as I led her out the back door to tidy up in our cargo van. Hunched over, wobbling on stilettos, she used one cloth to wash, stuffed the other in her panties, ran back inside, jumped on stage to sing a karaoke rendition of Lady Gaga, I Was Born This Way.

Work is why I’m fearless, the reason my then teenage son once declared “Mom, you’re the MOST” (Master Of Small Talk). Amusement, satisfaction and unusual strokes knock without invitation. Truth be told, the stand out situation of hospitality life is recognizing the moment adrenalin flips a switch at “go time”. Unfazed, daunted, hesitant or perturbed, go time is my time to shine.

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Notes Can Be Broken


Age is a state of mind, or so I thought until 57 years kicked me in the ass this week. Work has always been physical, I credit on the job activity with keeping me healthy, it never occurred to me I could be broken.

The enormity of off site catering is difficult to explain. We can’t run to a shelf for equipment, everything we need is loaded into a truck, loaded out when we’re done. On arrival rented tables, chairs, glassware, ice, plates, cutlery and ovens wait for distribution. Roll out tables, set them and place chairs. Build bars, kitchen and buffets. Four hours of hard labour under our belts before the first guest arrives if we’re lucky, a frenzied hour and a half if we’re in deep shit. We build, adapt and improvise spectacular parties without complaint. Guests remember the meal and libations, nobody cares about logistics.

Funny thing is, my job is to ensure guests don’t care about logistics. I’m a Swiss Army Knife – sturdy, reliable, a tool for any situation. My strokes come from putting clients at ease and comradely moments when staff exhale silent acknowledgement of our work ethic. Before today thoughts of reaching physical limits capable of breaking me down were inconceivable.Now I face a sobering truth, Notes can be broken.

Seven day chronology of a shattered Notes – Last Friday was day one, a 300 person plated dinner under a tent on a sports field. Day two ran sixteen and a half hours, 265 guests on a rural estate for a quarter of a million dollar wedding. Fitbit equipped staff recorded walking over 25 kilometers back and forth from kitchen to party tents.At least the valets got golf carts, my staff operated on stoic determination.I don’t remember driving home at 5 am but won’t soon forget catatonic day 3 unable to get out of bed. Day four demanded 13 hours, the first 8 humping lunch deliveries all over town followed by a 250 guest reception. Day five’s plated dinner came with stairs, mere mortals might cry, we laughed at the irony. Yesterday was day six, 700 guests at an animation studio. 12 themed food stations spread over 4 floors. Routine day seven dawned without adrenaline, driving to work I wondered what was wrong with me. Denial stalled inevitable until a few hours ago when processing realities of the next two days off erupted in spontaneous tears.

Solace kindly reminded me how many staff half my age were broken this week. Thank you solace, point taken. Come Monday morning glue on  shattered edges will dry. My job is like childbirth – forget the pain and look forward to doing it again.

 

4 AM Birthday Party


Throwing myself a birthday party at 4 am is complicated. Not complicated in my existence, more justification for pouring another glass of wine between laundry’s wash and rinse cycle. Strictly speaking my 57th birthday expired at midnight, I say it’s history when sleep delivers a new day. Half an hour ago pre-dawn wine glow launched an ambush of conscience – everyone knows how much I work, so what if my birthday falls on the 12th straight day in a row and tomorrow makes 13. Why did I tell co-workers it was my birthday? Was I feeling sorry for myself?

My 57th birthday, 12th work day without a break started at noon and didn’t end at 2:30 am when I walked in the front door with a bundle of uniforms to wash for tomorrow’s parties. Oh crap, I’m feeling sorry for myself! Quick, wish me a happy birthday because laundry is done and my wine bottle is empty. Never mind, I’m going to bed 🙂

Baby Ran My Day Off


Waking to an imaginary unplugged serenade of 54 40 Baby Ran proved I had a day off work. Playing gently in my mind, I stretched and went back to sleep. After ten straight days of screaming alarm clocks I was free. In truth freedom began the night before when I rushed home from work to shower and change for the 54 40 concert. Since the 1986 release of Baby Ran, 54 40  has played background vocals in my life. Attending a know every word to every song concert was exceptional. Capping it with an unplugged banjo plucking rendition of Baby Ran made me forget how tired I was.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/54-40

Not once did I look at my phone or care what time it was. Much as I like my job, Baby Ran reminded me how important time off is.

Ghostbuster Caps The Day


Work can be tedious. Dwelling on matters of daunting physical exertion, tricky timelines, spur of the moment demands, sloppy drunks, mothers of the bride, uppity executive assistants or barbecuing in torrential rain are pointless. Not dismissing the probability of needing my head examined, I remain steadfast in belief – attitude is everything. Every so often inexplicable moments of joy remind me why hospitality puts a smile on my face.

I saw his hands first, trembling with effort as they struggled to grasp a burger. Looking up, assistance with cheese, tomato and mustard found the man who made my day. I swear his eyes twinkled when “I like your hat” left my lips. “Thank you” he smiled. Eons beyond “liking” an eighty something year old gentleman gangster rocking a 1980’s Ghostbusters cap, I turned and walked away, happier than I’ve been in a very long time.

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Work Views


I love my line of work. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, along comes a twenty five foot circus marionette dangling wine faeries from each arm. Kicking myself for not capturing clearer images – understand it required considerable effort to take pictures at all – we had work to do. As upwards of 200 guests poured into the concourse of Vancouver Public Library, our service staff offered an empty wine glass to each guest. “David” the marionette from Underground Circus dropped wine faeries from above, filling out-stretched glasses.

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http://undergroundcircus.ca/