The last job I had (which I liked) didn’t pay very well. I was on a temp hourly salary far lower than what you need to survive in DC. You need to be earning at least $40/hr to pay the bills in this town – especially when you have bills built up for 3 years of un- or underemployment. Anyway, before I lost this job, I had already been exploring ways to earn extra cash on the side. Stripping is out of the question, as I am now old and fat like BrettCajun, who no one wants to see rolling, undulating layers of beef on a stage. Turning tricks is actually hard work, and you have no control of your schedule. Being on call is always a pain in the ass. So catering seemed like a good idea. I had heard the pay was pretty good and the busy DC holiday work party season was fast approaching.
However my only experience in a serving situation was at Dairy Queen in high school and serving beer for rugby team fundraisers. Fortunately I’m cute and made it through the catering interview with Igor. But I needed a tuxedo, which cost money that I don’t have. It was clear that catering wasn’t going to meet my immediate needs to pay the rent since buying a tux would negate any holiday earnings.
So I put out an all-points bulletin out on Facebook which is the only thing Facebook is good for these days. My network did not disappoint, and I was able to put together a passable catering tuxedo for free that ended up being quite comfortable. Thanks y’all!
Tux in hand, the next step would be to wait for a gig. You’re on call and whoever responds to the call first gets to work. Since I’m on the Internets 24/7, I got my first gig offer which was a work party held at a prominent Smithsonian museum on a Saturday.
Now this was the Saturday after my last day at my last job, so I was already pretty much emotionally drained and not ready for greeting guests. But I need the money so I took it.
The first challenge was to find out where the caterers enter the building. Because we are “The Help” we are not to be seen as humans or at all by the party guests. So we must enter through alternate means. But the alternate entry was not shared by the team leader, so it was an issue of walking around the perimeter of said museum in my white polo and black pants – the required setup uniform for caterers before you change into your tux when the guests arrive.
Did you know if you are cute and Caucasian and arrive at a museum or government building at dusk during the holiday season, you can get in anywhere you want? I flexed my White Privilege and got in through the loading dock without an ID and made it to the orientation on time. It was clear when I burst into the room I was pretty much the only speaker of English as a first language.
Sorting took place, much like in Harry Potter where they put the sorting hat on your head to figure out which House you are in. Since I most resembled the hot Bulgarian bartenders, I was put on the bartender crew. I was flattered. They were all hot and probably would get a lot of tips – at least at a gay bar. If I had to fake it, Russian sounds a lot like Bulgarian and I could pretend to be a Bo-Hunk for more tips. In fact when I was in Kazakstan I was mistaken for a crazy person from the Caucasus – my coworkers would later tell me I was basically called a “Wild Caucasian Mountain Brute” by people on the train who I had pissed off trying to disembark.
So anyway my crew leader was Victor, a cute scruffy Bulgarian who clearly had a grip on the situation. The logistics for catering is bewildering and incredibly complex. I was seriously impressed by the pre-party planning involved in throwing a holiday party for a thousand people at a museum. And my respect for those people vilified by current G.O.P. candidates and that party has increased. If you are afraid they are coming to take your job, you should be. Because they bust their ass harder than anyone at a Trump rally could.
One of my initial tasks was to cut lime and lemon wedges for the bar, which I did furiously. I asked the bar lead Atilla if there was anything else I could do for him, and he curtly dismissed me. Atilla was MEAN.
Later I was assigned to serve drinks on a plate. Which was fun the first hour, but after that my bicep started quivering from fatigue. Those glasses are heavy, but I was good at describing the evening’s unique signature drink, the “Jingle All The Way” featuring vodka, lime juice, champagne and a sprig of oregano. Honestly I thought the drink was gross but the guests loved it. Because vodka.
And the guests were quite fabulous for an established internet company. One of the employees had a straight orange silk gown with a cherry blossom sprig and I wanted to tell her she was fucking fabulous but I couldn’t because The Help must not speak to the clients. But she was fucking fabulous let me tell you and she won the evening. Props to that young hipster in the fabulous orange silk gown. You. Won.
Salvadoran women worked the hors d’oeuvre table. The men brought in more food. Bulgarians and other Eastern European laborers served drinks. The racial and gender segregation of tasks was downright blatant. As the evening went on it was time to clear tables, which is like doing laps in an Olympic stadium. Round an ’round you go picking up plates and glasses. I had helped some guests get extra Jingle All The Way drinks earlier on, and they remembered me and kept asking me for more. I tried to help them but we ran out of oregano.
As the evening wore on the laps took a toll on my lower back. I could tell it was wearing on the other caterers too. That shit is hard work and those fucking Mexicans and bohunks are working hard to get your fucking food to you, so you should show some respect in the next election and not vote for Trump, because he’s a fucking racist yo.
Anyway, soon it was Midnight and the guests were leaving. I hadn’t gotten any feedback so I went up to the mean bar leader Atilla and asked him how the lemon and lime wedges worked for him. “They were great,” he said dryly. “I knew there was something special about them when I served the drinks.” Thanks Attila.