Tuesday, June 25, 2013

floating thoughts

I am not a morning person and most likely never will be one. My mind is much more active in the later part of the day, which is probably part of the reason i did so well in school. I did my homework after school or in the evening, when i was most alert.

I am one of those who likes quiet in the morning, and although i awake more easily now than ever before, and although i'm far more lucid, i still do not dance as soon as i alight from bed, nor do i wish to engage in conversation. I will say good morning to the kittes and give them a pat on the head or a kiss, and i am happy to see them, but i really don't want to say much else.

They all seem to know this, and don't usually force me to say anything as they watch me pad down the steps into the kitchen and get their breakfast ready.

Doing such mindless tasks allows my mind to wander where it will, and sometimes, i pay attention to where it goes.

Today's thought train popped into my mind, as i made a mental checklist of all the spatulas, turners, and wooden spoons i have in a smallish ceramic container on the kitchen counter. How i've pared down the number of them over the years, it could probably do with another pare down, but i use every one that's in there.

The kitties were looking expectantly, knowing breakfast was coming. Jim rubbed against me, and i noticed his soft fur. JoJo blinked sweetly a few times, as did Phoebe, and i recalled one catering gig i worked when we were in our lean season.

Our lean season lasted several years, and during that time we took on a number of odd jobs to fill our meagre coffers. As i had worked in restaurants through college and for several years afterward, i found waitressing part-time to help quite a bit. As an offshoot, i knew people who catered on the side, and they sometimes needed waitstaff, so would call me or Himself (who tended bar) for jobs. Scott, a friend of Himself's who had met Himself when they both worked at a country club type place, had asked if he knew anyone who could serve as waitstaff for a Christmas party gig. They needed just one person, and everyone he and the caterer knew were already busy. I don't recall now if they had someone lined up who took sick at the last minute or what. In any case, Himself mentioned that i'd be available for the gig, and so i showed up to help.

The background info i was given was simply that it was a bank executive giving a Christmas party for his department or underlings at his home, and i wore my usual fancy dress waitstaff duds of black slacks, white tuxedo front shirt, and bow tie, and since it was a festive occasion, i also wore small pearl earrings. I was given the address, and it was in a posh, uber yuppie neighbourhood. I arrived about five minutes before the required time at the kitchen door, and helped Scott set things up. The caterer knew this man for some time apparently, and this man's dog, barely out of puppyhood adored the caterer. He wasn't a weinmarner, but one of the then fashionable designer breeds, although he made me think of a weinmarner. At any rate, i patted the pup's head, too, and he was no trouble as we got things ready.

The house looked like something out of House Beautiful. Every room was tastefully decorated, matching everything, no expense spared. The kitchen had miles of counter space, beautiful solid cherry cupboards, and everywhere around the house dripped opulence. This executive must've been pretty high up the big bank's ladder indeed.

And yet, despite all the grandeur and finery, there was an overwhelming sadness seeping in just at the very edges at first, but made headway as the evening wore on.

The caterer needed another large spoon for one of the dishes, and asked me to rummage through the kitchen cupboards and drawers to find something. Now, i don't like rummaging through other people's things, i always think it violates their privacy, but i was hired help, and needed to do this. Nearly every cupboard and drawer i opened was bare. BARE! I found a sorry excuse for a large spoon finally, and when the caterer looked in disbelief,  i showed him the empty cupboards and drawers. The few things they contained showed what one might see at a bachelor pad with a tv set that had a bent hanger for an antenna.

I came to realize afterward that no matter where i lived, the kitchen was the heart of my living place, and while i couldn't say it was well stocked with the finest of everything, it was stocked well enough with stirring utensils, at least a few knives for one to chop or slice food, cutlery, dishes, and glassware.

The host was affable to us, greeted the caterer most warmly, the way one does a dear friend, and i could see from the way he carried himself that he'd been used to having his own way for a long time. He was accustomed to people looking up to him, fawning at times, holding onto his every word.

The guests arrived at the front door soon after, all of them dressed to impress or what they thought would impress. The women wore brightly coloured print dresses, which was the rage of the moment, and most of the men wore turtlenecks with sport coats, trying to look successful without wearing the standard business suit they wore to work every day. One poor fellow, clearly eager to impress, wore a white shirt that wasn't ironed with a black vest (at a time where vests had gone out of vogue), black trousers, and a black jacket. A few guests quipped that he looked as if he should be the waiter and said it to one another, but just loud enough for him to hear. He wore a defeated look each time he heard the comment, trying to shrink a little more into himself, showing only another wrinkle in his shirt, or that his hair was just a bit too scruffy and should have been trimmed a fortnight ago. He stood next to me at one point, looking miserable, as someone made the comment again, and i'm sure, couldn't help noticing that my white shirt was really white, ironed, and my overall look was neat and trim, while his was...not.

He mumbled something inaudible to which i replied, "Pardon?" He looked up, said, "Never mind," and i said quietly, "The best way to come to these things is simply to be yourself. Thank the boss for a lovely evening, but don't grovel. If the only thing they can find to say is they don't like your outfit, they're not worth knowing. You are so much more than your job. At least you should be. I know i am."

And here, he looked at me directly. I'm sure it was an unconscious move on his part when he stood a little talller and straightened his shoulders. I asked if he were done with his plate. Yes, he was thank you, and i took it from him.

I circulated easily among the guests, clearing away things, changing ashtrays, providing stacks of clean plates and napkins. Scott was very busy at the bar mixing drinks, and i helped him a little bit.

The host had shown a hint of nervousness just before the throng arrived, midway through some of his lackeys grovelled, which made me say what i said to the Unfortunately Dressed Man, and three-quarters of the way through the evening, the host relaxed a little and enjoyed himself. He delighted in showing off his gorgeously decorated home to a few of the more attentive females.

By the time the party was ending the Unfortunately Dressed Man had had a nice convo with the host, and when one of the cattier women made the "you are dressed like a waiter" comment, he replied with a smile, that he supposed he was, and it was good to know that he had a fall back career should he need one. I was within earshot and smiled to myself, although i saw him look in my direction and smile a bit more broadly at my smile.

The party wound down, and Scott, the caterer, and i cleaned up. I'd had a few women ask me if i could work some parties for them, as they liked my service very much. A few had flirted with Scott, even though he was "the help," and he, too had a few ask if he would bartend some private events for them. I came to find out the caterer often took care of the dog since the host worked such long hours, and he had agreed to take the dog home with him since the host would need to be at work early next day.

There was a goodly amount of food left, and we asked the host what he wanted us to do with it. We usually would simply wrap it up and put it in the fridge but given the amount of leftovers and just him, we were willing to divide it into smaller portions and freeze most of it. He answered that he didn't want any of it, not one trace of food or drink. We wanted to be sure we heard correctly. Yes, we had. The caterer wanted some, but left the lion's share to Scott and me. There were unopened bottles of liquor he didn't want, either, and the caterer was eyeing the bourbon, so he took that. I ended up with among other libations, four unopened bottles of wine that made for nice Christmas gifts, and opened bottles of red and white that i used for cooking.

And the food! Scott, like Himself and me, was in a lean season. The food was a tremendous windfall. The caterer didn't want any of the prime rib or shrimp, and dividing the roast beef three ways still meant plenty for everyone. (yes, there was a beef roast in addition to the prime rib, an assortment of cheeses and salads.)

Scott and i felt almost guilty for getting paid, as the food and drink would put our households in good stead for a month at least. The host was very tired, thanked us profusely for doing such a great job, and gave us each an extra tip for making his party such a success. We both sincerely thanked him and were dumbstruck at his generosity. And sadness.

For all his house's grandeur and designer fashion, it was a lonely shell. The people who had come to his party were wowed by his position, house's opulence, and wanted to impress him in some way. But not one was a friend. The host patted the dog's head, looking somewhat forlorn that everyone was leaving him.

I drove home in my ancient Honda loaded to the gills, walked into my smallish house--using the kitchen door, as the front door was really just for show--and Himself and our geriatric cat Zerbe were in the kitchen. He was drinking from a water glass that had originally been a jelly jar, greeted me warmly with a hug, dressed in his pajamas as it was late, and Zerbe wandered over from her kibble dish to greet me, too. Himself put on a bathrobe, winter coat, and boots to help me unload the food and drink from the party.

We had a midnight/wee hours supper of cold shrimp and beef with glasses of white and red wine. We toasted our good fortune, were thankful for the generosity of the very well-to-do sad host, and as i looked around, i saw nothing designer about our house. I looked at the ash cupboards in the kitchen knowing that the plates my family had given me with their best wishes and love were stacked behind the doors. The spatula in the nearly overstuffed crock by the stove had been Great Aunt Jean's, which she had gotten as a bonus from the Fuller Brush man in 1950-something. The vibrancy and love of our home met me as i entered, and i wouldn't trade it for all the big, executive, heartless haciendas with perfectly coiffed rooms sporting nearly empty cupboards.

I blinked and looked again at the crock near the stove. Hard to believe where my thoughts get to, early in the morning, when i've gotten out of bed but am not really awake enough to do much more than say hello to the kitties and get them breakfast.


  1. How beautifully you assembled your floating thoughts, when you came to set them down. I must make a note of good floating thoughts when they go by, or they are lost in a blink.

  2. I was just reading about Bernie Ecclestone (a miniature English Billionaire) who said he'd never really known what happiness is. Surface wealth and happiness can hide an awful lot of pain.

    I, by the way, am definitely a morning person.

  3. Megan,

    This is a beautiful essay.

    I, too, am not a morning person. When I was small, I'd come down in the morning refusing to make eye contact with anyone, yet also watching them closely, from under my brows. If I caught them looking at me, I'd holler, "Don't look at my face!"

    I am pretty much still like that.

    The thoughts about the wealthy man and the badly dressed man were also beautiful. Boy, I've been the badly dressed one soooo many times ....

    My husband once met a very wealthy man who enjoyed giving out big tips, like a $50 bill to a cab driver. He told my husband that the money doesn't really mean much to him, but he knows it means a lot, and can possibly make a big difference, to others. My husband and I aren't in this guy's league at all, but we have managed to get enough money together where we are not, ourselves, worried about making rent. And you know what? It IS very gratifying to give someone more than they were expecting. I wonder if your wealthy man knew that?