Monday, July 26, 2010

Call Me

Much of my banquet work was on-call. I would anchor at one or two places and work my way up the list to establish myself as regular staff, and then fill in my remaining time with shifts at hotels that didn't pay as well or do convention work. One year I had 18 W-2s. Tax time was messy.

I captained at some of the larger venues because I could make more money, but sometimes that meant leading an entire staff of employees from temporary agencies who didn't have a clue about banquet service.
At an awards event with 1300 members of the U.S. Marine Corps in attendance, we were just about to open the doors to the banquet hall when I noticed that all 15 waiters in my section (I was one of four captains for the event) were standing at attention with their backs to the front door. I'm not sure why they thought the guests were going to enter through the kitchen, but I had about 30 seconds to get them to turn around. I was motioning with my hand, making circles with my finger and the faster I did it, the faster they turned. It's a wonder they weren't dizzy by the time they realized the rest of the room was facing the other way.

Some of the regular staff at the hotels could be just as odd. I worked with a waiter who bit trays whenever he got nervous and managed to put teeth marks in nearly all of them by the time he quit. One waitress would remind everyone after the functions that she could telepathically change the traffic lights on Broadway Avenue so "Anybody going south, just follow me." (The signals were timed for the speed limit, but we just let her think she was special.) There was another woman who had fingernails that were so long she couldn't button the top button of her blouse without stabbing herself in the neck, so she was always needing someone to "do me up" and help her put on her bow tie.

I worked with some quirky people and I worked with some that were so amazing they could run circles around me. Keeping myself "on the circuit" opened me up to a lot of different styles of service and it helped me through off-season. Sometimes I'd wait on the same people at two different hotels in the same week, and it was funny to see it dawn on them why I looked so familiar. When I busted my leg and was out of commission for four months, it was the contacts I made through my on-call work that got me back to earning enough money to pay my bills.

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