Baseball Cap Koan - part 1

At the prompting of Patti Digh (and life, and timing, and the universe), I'm doing one thing every day for 37 Days, and sharing that journey here. You can read about what I'm doing in this post.

I got this hat several years ago - well, on the back is the date; it's almost exactly 5 years ago - at a wedding reception where I was bartending. It was at a country club here, one of Charlotte's oldest, home to Charlotte's "old money" and the Charlotte elite. I was working for a temp foodservice agency; basically, I was a "cater waiter" and I'd go wherever the agency needed me to. There were aspects of the job I loved - meeting all kinds of people, getting to go to all types of events, even if I was working. I enjoy bartending, too, and was good at it. I don't think I'd be so good at it now, what with all the new flavored specialty liquors out there. Watermelon-tini? What? But it was enjoyable, and I had lots of flexibility.

That business goes through phases, though, and there are times of the year when work is basically nonexistant. It surprises me, now, when I look back, at how little money I was making, and it was never consistent.

I kept this cap because I experienced something at that wedding that I wanted to make peace with. I was in a particularly struggly time, there had been very little work, I was behind on ALL of my bills, most pressing was the rent. I was so stressed out.

Anyway - I got this assignment, and was really glad, because it was a lot of hours, and sometimes at weddings, I might get tipped. People think bartenders always get tipped - not so for temps, especially in country clubs. A tip gets included on the final bill, but that tip gets divvied up among the permanent employees of the club who had worked the event; I'd never see a dime of it, even though frequently the temps were the ones doing the sh** work, the hauling and dumping and cleaning. But there was a chance! Sometimes out-of-town relatives who don't know any better will slip a tip in. We could not put up tip jars, we'd get fired if we did.

So, we got everything set up, and it was just hitting me, the contrast between the people who were celebrating, and my financial situation. Knowing that what they spent on one pair of shoes could have paid my rent for at least one month, those kinds of thoughts. Not helpful, really, but there I was. Running through numbers in my head - hmmm... club members have yearly dues, monthly minimums, for the wedding there was the cost of the space, the cost of the food, the staff, the band.

I was feeling resentful. I was feeling indignant. What good is it? I thought. If these people weren't spending their money on this stuff, they could donate it somewhere where it could really make a difference! I was judgmental, my friends, very judgmental.

I have to add, this was after I had called our housing authority here to see if I could get put on their waiting list for housing assistance. My plans to watch children after my husband and I had split did not work out, and I was living on very little income each month. I had no doubt I would qualify for help. I picked up the phone, made that call - and got laughed at. Literally, laughed at. I found out the waiting list was at least 3 years long, and they weren't taking any more names for it. I made the call in desperation, and was scared about what I was going to do.

I was not in a good place.

So there I was, at the wedding reception, watching the bride and groom hold each others' shoe up to answer cute questions, listening to toasts and the clink of silverware on crystal to make them kiss. The family was going to have a formal reception, with 250 people and dinner and drinks for 3 hours, then they were going to open it up for a more informal reception for 500, with passed hors d'oeuvres and open bars. While we were clearing tables and restocking our bars for the after-dinner party, the groom's mom came in with all these boxes. She'd had these caps made, and wanted to give them out to all of the guests, and could we help with that? Very nice baseball caps, with custom embroidery, the bride's & groom's name and the date on the back, how sweet. My stomach turned over.

What?! 500 baseball caps? And these were not people I could see wearing baseball caps, either. She said it was kind of a joke, because her son loved to fish so much. She was giving away 500 baseball caps... as a kind of a joke.

My head was spinning. Numbers were racing again - at a conservative estimate of $4 per cap, that was $2,000. Two. Thousand dollars. Rent for over three months. For a joke.

I HATED those caps. Hated them. I couldn't believe it. At the end of the evening, when she saw that lots of people were leaving their caps behind, she said all of the employees could each have one. My, how generous, lady.

I was pissed. Even more so, when I got home and looked up the brand of cap, and found out they were closer to $8 each. So - $4,000. For a joke.

I couldn't believe it.

to be continued


david mcmahon said...

The next post will, er, cap it all off!

Jewels said...

I hate waste. Why not just donate the money to the food bank, or the humane society, or cancer research? Grrrrr.

Great post!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Hi, I'm over from authorblog. Congrats on the Post of the Day Award!

Jen said...

First off, thanks for taking the time to "find me". Secondly, as a nanny who often works for wealthy families (or at least way more wealthy than I am), I sometimes struggle with jealousy. I NEED to read the next part of this. Can you let me know when you post it?