Friday, July 13, 2012

Clubbing

This is my real job.

Yesterday, a coworker and I went to sell books at an offsite event - at a country club. Knowing that, on its own, without knowing what kind of country club or anything, made me think, Yeah. This is going to be interesting. And unfortunately, I was right.

Country clubs can be good things, but generally only if you're a wealthy older white man with a nose so long you have no choice but to look down it at people, or if you married someone who fits that description. True, there are many nice people who belong to country clubs, people who give to charity and appreciate and respect all life, but they sure as hell weren't coming out of the woodwork yesterday.

We arrived at the club and pulled our massively unwieldy cart to our display table. I'm telling you the truth here: a lady with terrible (but probably expensive) taste in clothing came up to me, before I'd taken anything off the cart, and shoved her reconstructed nose in my face.

"How much are they, so people who want to can start writing checks?"

Because clearly, I was being very slow about my job. How dare I. We only had a whole hour before the event started, and there was a gigantic line at the table filled with nobody.

She backed off after being told that such information was still in the car (which it was, along with the calculator). After finally getting everything set up - including book prices - a well-dressed gentleman approached the table. He was perhaps 70 or 75.

"If I were to purchase some of these now, could you hold them for me until after lunch?"

Being a country club, this was a luncheon event, and I could understand him not wanting to keep the books under his chair while he ate. Despite that, we generally don't hold things for people at offsites - if one asks, others will seek similar treatment, and we'd end up with a mess of paid books mixed with unpaid books, a copy one person had paid for being shuffled away in the madness to someone else's stack. There were 200 people at this event - we just couldn't do it.

My coworker apologized. The gentleman said, "I've been here five minutes, and there's already a problem!"

He said it with what looked like a twinkle in his eye, so I smiled at him - a joke! Friendly banter! Maybe this place isn't so bad, I thought.

"So, you can't hold onto them?"

"I'm sorry," my coworker said again. "I don't want to be responsible -"

For losing them, she would have continued to explain, for your property being damaged. But the gentleman stopped her with a wrinkly finger in her face. "See, you're what's wrong with America today. Nobody wants to take responsibility." And he walked off to eat his three-course meal.

My coworker and I looked at each other, mouths hanging open.

I should point out here that the woman he said this to is about 60 years old. Such phrases are usually reserved for my generation and younger - if she's what's wrong with America, I don't want to know what I am. (Also, he seemed to have missed the fact that he was avoiding responsibility himself.)

That in itself would be enough of an experience at such a place. But more happened, as it always does.

After the luncheon began, we had a temporary respite until after the event, so we sat and listened. Observing people is something I've always loved, especially in such an unusual environment. One thing I noticed for sure was the head waitress: her all-black outfit set her apart, as did the running back and forth and her stress level, apparent on her face.

There were about 15 people on her wait staff, moving as quickly as they could to feed the growling masses, weaving between tables, working from front to back so that no one was missed. Any more people serving would have resulted in deadly collisions, lettuce and fruit bathing the diners in a rather unsavory manner. (Several of those collisions nearly happened anyway.)

One thing was certain: they were working very hard. And then someone got up to introduce the author.

I couldn't see the man from out in the hallway, where the help was seated. I had no idea what he looked like, or who he was. He could have been the mayor, for all I know. As he began speaking on the PA, loudly, I realized I didn't need to know who he was.

"May I have your attention? Don't feel like you have to stop eating - the service is rather slow today, so just go right ahead and eat while I talk."

No jest - he said it in all seriousness. With some of the wait staff in the room. I didn't need to know who he was, because after he said that, I knew he was just a mannerless slob. With such an incredible number of asses in one place, you'd have thought it was a barn instead of a country club.

But the irresponsible gentleman did come back afterward, to buy three copies of the book. I guess that's something.

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