Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ms Random Task 2.0

The Racist Bar Mitzvah

Scheduled to do a catering gig in the north end of the city, a bunch of us carpooled to the event with some reluctance. Our latest quandary was a Bar Mitzvah of little 13-year-old Avi. His parents were celebrating the dawn of his manhood with indoor carnival games leading up to the main hall, a bar made of ice with small basketballs suspended therein, sweet cocktails that the children stole off of the roaming waiter's trays, vats of diabetic-coma-inducing candy, basketball-shaped topiaries constructed of orange roses as centre-pieces of each of the tables for the five hundred guests, and a dance floor designed to resemble a professional basketball court, complete with a scoreboard upon which the little man's name flashed.

With jaws dropping at the decor that met our eyes on the way to the kitchen area, all staff were immediately instructed to wear basketball jersies of little Avi's favourite teams. Agreements were begrudging at best. A server is a mascot anyway, any way you slice it. It seems however, that there are more tasteful ways of treating the staff (my costume for the AGOs Massive Party notwithstanding).

As the guests arrived and we circulated with our various duties, I was placed on hors d'oeuvres and others took their places behind the bar. There was way too much food, and on my third pass nobody wanted anything any more. I repeatedly came back to the kitchen with full trays. We were over staffed, but it had been made clear to us that everybody was to "look like they were working". My wrists were beginning to regret taking the shift.

Then I began to stand more, waiting for people to come to me. And that's when I noticed them. Large men were standing alone in the corners of the main bar room, their eyes surveying the crowd of tipsy adults and their little sugar fiends. These men didn't speak to anyone. They were clearly hired help, made all the more apparent by their referee uniforms. "What are they here for?" I asked a passing waiter. "They're the baby-sitters." He said, barely glancing at them before slipping behind the service curtain with his tray of empty glasses.

I stared at one of them. And then my eyes went to the next, and then the next. They were all black. My initial reaction was to place shame on whomever had done the hiring. But then again, hired help is hired help, and who cares? I thought to myself that my thoughts were largely symptomatic of the white guilt I've heard about in subsequent years, made hilarious by 30 Rock and The Chappelle Show. 

Dinner began without much change. After the ridiculous amount of candied booze and appetizers, barely anybody wanted the three course meal planned for them. As half of the crowd was children, I've got to wonder who needed a three courser, anyway. I remember being ecstatic when one of my friend's dad's bought us Happy Meals at McDonald's. I guess I grew up in the wrong income bracket. But seriously, kids don't know the real value of things are are pretty easily pleased. "Why go to all this trouble? This is a waste." I thought. And then it happened.

Somehow the boy of the hour had slipped away from the head table. After dessert was cleared the spot lights on the dance floor were illuminated and trumpets from the ample sound system erupted in a chorus befitting a Rocky Balboa tribute. Everybody cheered and my coworkers and I watched from the side lines as little Avi, the little prince, emerged from the curtains at the back of the stage. 

He wasn't alone. With a huge grin on his face, he was sitting on top of a basketball shaped plush chair. A kid who loved his desserts, Avi couldn't be very light either, so he had to be supported. By four of the men carrying his chair like slaves would a litter in the streets of Cairo. I could sense the jaws of the staff who "got it" dropping across the room, but the guests found it most spectacular. 

The trumpets faded away and the DJ put on the every popular "Havah Negilah," for the traditional birthday chair bounce. While extremely comical (and I'm sad my family doesn't have this kind of thing at special occasions) it was a pretty gross site to behold. There were the "baby-sitters" bouncing little Avi, who was surely that night the most oblivious and spoiled boy in town.

Perhaps it was coincidence that all the gentlemen were of (one) colour, and perhaps the boy just happened to have a smug look of satisfaction on his face, but the whole scene just wasn't right. I stood there with a pitcher of water, mouth agap. The age of political correctness seemed to be long-passed in that dining hall, as if it had come full circle to where racial stereotypes and lack of sensitvity were again, back into the realm of acceptability. Whatever the case may be, I still wish I had a camera on me. I still shed tears for the missed opportunity. 

We ran from the event as soon as they began to cut staff. Nobody seemed to want to stay in the creep fest that was sure to be the world's worse sugar hangover for those involved. I did manage to steal some candy before I left, however. The kids can't have all the fun...