Two days, three parties… no sleep.

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As I’ve mentioned, on the weekends I’ve been valeting on the side. This weekend was a whopper for people in LA having parties, and I realized around Wednesday that I’d been signed up not just to do one party on Friday night, but two on Saturday – one as a valet, one as a server.

For those of you not in the service industry, this is a little intense. However, it’s also cash in the bank, so off we go.

Party #1
Friday night, I hie my way over north of Franklin in Hollywood to valet a girl’s Circus-themed party. I get there & discover that I was an hour early. oops. Bright note, I had the new Harry Dresden book to keep me company, and right now I have to say Harry’s not a bad guy for a girl to spend time with on a Friday night in L.A. — tall, dark, sardonic, fellow large dog owner with a penchant for getting himself into oddly harrowing situations because he was stupidly trying to do the right thing? Yeah, I gotta admit, that’s my kind of guy.

So after I spent some time with Harry, I spent the next six and a half hours running the hills of Hollywood.

Parties in LA are an odd thing. As an East Coast native, there’s always going to be a part of me that looks at an invite & thinks, “Party starts at 8, I should get there 8:30, 9 at the latest.” In LA, people didn’t really start showing up until midnight. True. Story. And in they came, everything from Audis, Beamer, Benzes, to cars whose drivers’ side windows wouldn’t roll all the way up. (we kept that one near the door)

One of these days, I’m going to get one of those Nike Sport band watches so I can record how far I run on one of these shifts. While there was a shuttle, it wasn’t always well coordinated, so for about half of my retrievals I had to hoof it up to where we’d parked the cars, and anyone that’s driven in the rat’s maze that’s around the bottom of Mulholland Drive/ around the Hollywood Bowl can tell you that those hills are steep. In some cases, it’s damn near straight up. Forget the stairclimber, just go work a private valet shift, you’ll be all good. At one point, the girl working with me gave up at the bottom of a hill, and went, “I can’t do this, I went to the gym today.” With the derision borne of many a 2k test, I snorted and started running up the hill. Saw her walking towards her pickup as I was driving back to the client.

Finally, finally, the party slated to end at 2am got out around 3:30, and I schlepped home. Thankfully, this was one of those rare moments when the gods smiled on me, and there was a spot open right next to my apartment when I got home — odd bonus of living near a bar is that if you get home after LA’s 2am last call, there’s a crapload of open parking spaces.

Time: 4am
Tally: One party down, two to go.
Earnings: hourly pay, tip on top, & $37 cash

I tried to get up for practice on at 6am Saturday, but Kate took one look at me & made the executive decision that we weren’t even going to attempt 8 – 12k steady state. Too tired to argue, I went back to sleep for a while.

About 7, I woke up enough to wrap my heating pad around my left hip, & hazily drifted in & out of consciousness for another hour or so. Oh, whoever it was that invented the auto-shut-off switch for heating pads so I can’t accidentally set myself on fire, bless you, sometimes you’re kind of my hero – they should totally make one of those beer commercials to salute you.

Okay, okay… first up – shower. Granted, I’d showered last night before bed, but when you’re in the middle of a heat wave, there’s no way I’d be able to feel semi-human without another. Plus, the Heidi braids that would last all day have to start with wet hair. Next up, put those black Dickies back on one leg at at time, go feed my friend’s kitties since she’s out of town, deposit a check, fill up the tank, and get my ass up to Malibu for 11:45.

Party #2
This one was way bigger than last night. A charity wine tasting, we had 12 or 14 valets (after a while you tend to lose track of faces) and while 200 cars were expected, over 250 showed in the course of six hours, so we were hoppin’. Or, rather running, since the overflow parking was a dirt lot across the street. However, the fun of working a service industry gig in LA is that you have a lot of entertainment (or entertainment-aspiring) co-workers, and that sometimes results in such moments as a couple of valets passing the time before guests arrive by performing musical numbers from Grease.

At one point, I pulled up a silver Range Rover to the pick up area, and called, “Silver Rover! Who had a silver Land Rover!” M, the girl directing traffic went, “Range Rover!” and I shot back, “Rover! It’s a silver Rover! ” then remarked, “Ya know, just once I want it to be red. Just so I can say it out loud. Wouldn’t that be awesome?” And we both laughed.

Next time I pulled up a retrieval, what was in line ahead of me but… a Red Rover! I looked at M, and we both called, “Red Rover!” hah.

The nice thing about this one was that since we were charging per car on the lot, we got paid out in cash before we left. Schweetness! WIth my newfound cash, a swag bottle of white wine, & a calendar, I hustled my booty out to Encino for party #2.

Time: 5:45pm
Tally: two parties down, 1 to go
Earnings: $87 cash hourly & tips locked in the glove box

Party #3
I arrive at the last party for the weekend. At this one, I’m working as a server, which is a new-ish service for the company, but since I’d spent the summer after graduating high school working as a banquet server at a wedding facility, I figured that compared to balancing 8 – 12 full dinners on my shoulder across many a reception, spending the evening walking around with trays of appetizers from a catering company would be tiring but otherwise no big.

Yeah… turns out, not so much.

I finally managed to make it down the 101 just in time to be in time for the party, and walk in to discover…. we are the catering company. It seems that the client’s idea of servers was that they went to CostCo, bought about a grand worth of appetizers that would basically be used for a SuperBowl party, filled this industrial-size fridge/freezer in the kitchen, & left it to the five of us that were servers to heat, prep platters, serve on the floor, bus the tables, and basically run the reception for them.

In the words of Bridget Jones – “Oh. Holy. Jesus.”

Seriously, if this was how they were going to play it, there should have been way more planning. The ovens weren’t big enough for the task, we should have been brought in at least two hours ahead of time so that the food would be ready when guests started arriving, and there should have been warming trays and heat lamps to keep things from getting cold before heading out on to the floor. And that’s just for starters. For anyone looking to do an event, let me just make something extremely clear – there is a difference between your caterers and your servers, and if you want both, you need to ask for both. Very key.

However, there we were, there the client was, and there was no way out of things, so we just had to suck it up & make things work.

After quickly finding out that I was the only one with any wedding/event running experience, guess who ended up managing things? :sigh:

If nothing else, I wasn’t alone — one of the bartenders and several of the valets had arrived from the Malibu party shortly after I did, and for some of those girls, they were pulling a double shift their first day on the job – two of the valets for the party had cancelled while we were all working Malibu, and the newbies were brave enough souls to agree to work a second party. Twelve hours of running for cars = valet trial by fire.

While those girls were running the streets & up in the event I spent the next few hours keeping two of the servers from killing one another, making sure that we kept cooking food even though there was no way we were going to be able to a) cook all the food in the fridge and b) keep up with the demand, and generally trying not to make it too obvious that this whole thing had been planned really badly.

The thing about running events is that no matter how people try to pretend, they’ve most likely had weeks if not months of family & friend drama leading up to an event, and usually by the time you get to the actual day, there’s at least one person that just can’t be bothered to give a sh*t anymore. For us, this was the bride’s sister, who it seems was sent to be the right hand of god in this case, and seemed like a fairly cool person that I would actually have been happy to hang out with if I’d met her outside of work. At one point as we were trying to sort having security place handmade chocolate truffles in the favors and get the cake down to be cut, I finally said to her, “If it’s any comfort, the day will come where she stops getting married & just is married. Swear to god, it happens.” Based on the reaction I got, methinketh that was more than a marginal comfort for her.

Also, word of advice for any bride – no matter what, do not drink at your reception or wedding. Beyond the traditional toasts, stick to seltzer water. Seriously there’s nothing less classy than a bride drunk off her ass. Have some cooth ladies, it really does make an impression, and walking up to the bartender and loudly declaring, “Okay, so I should do something alcoholic here!” probably isn’t the lasting memory you want shared with the grandkids. Granted, maybe I’m being stick in the mud, but hey – I’m just sayin’.

Adding to the fun, one of our servers was… problematic. As mentioned in the last party, working in an entertainment-centric area often means a lot of people willing to pass the time with good-natured entertainment, but can also sometimes result in people whole love drama for the sake of drama, whether they’re actually in entertainment or not. Attitudes can sometimes flare, and this can present operational problems in the areas of adaptability and teamwork, which doesn’t go over well in stressful situations. In five and a half years working at this company on & off, I had never ever complained about anything I’d ever been asked to do, so when one of the girls slipped away, called the owner, and finished her litany with, “And Claris said she was going to call you on Monday to talk to you about it.”, Monica replied, “I’m sorry, what? Claris? She never complains. Send the problem home.”

On the one hand, I had planned to just have a quiet word with Monica on Monday, since at that point I needed every set of hands I could get at that point, even the only half-working ones. On the other, it’s kind of a heady feeling to know that just the news that I would be willing to have a chat about someone would be enough to get them booted. Wacky, that — if it wasn’t for the fact that I still had this half-assed reception to finish & a kitchen to move, I’d have been tempted to go mad, mad with the power power. ;)

At one point, the guy who had just started renting out this private residence for events walked up to one of the servers and basically stated that he expected us to cook all the rest of the food and leave it out for everyone when we left. When that news got back up, I do believe I laughed out loud, considering there was still enough frozen taquitos to feed a family of five for a month and a half.

It would seem that we weren’t the only ones to share that opinion. Word got passed up from the valets that the guests that were leaving were also less than impressed, since while waiting for their cars to arrive they shared with the valets their views on a bride who didn’t give notice of the fact that the whole facility was grass so the women wouldn’t wear $300 4″ heels, and that they were going out to dinner instead of eating “fucking cheap-ass CostCo food.” (guess her friends came to the same shopping conclusion I had)

I finally made the decision that we were going to shut the ovens down at 11:30, keep a couple of trays prepped to feed people, and get the bartenders done by 11:45, so I cleared that with the more than slightly plastered bride whose new husband had taken a “Hey, I don’t know what’s going on, Bride is the one to ask” hands-off approach all evening.

With the kitchen cleaned, the grounds bussed to the best of our ability, and everything tied up as much as it could be, I made sure that the hourlies were written down, checked with the TC to make sure the contract was signed, and at the stroke of midnight, we were outta there.

I hoofed it up the hill to where I’d parked my car, dug out my glasses, and slogged my way back to the 101 south so I could find my way home. While at that point, I would have dearly liked to take off my sneakers, I also knew that if I did so, they’d never get back on, & the thought of walking up a sidewalk in West Hollywood on a Saturday night in my socks wasn’t one condusive to avoiding stitches on the bottom of my feet.

As I got on the highway at 12:15, I could see the wildfires in the distance, and it gave all the appearance of the world being on fire, which made me feel like I was ending the day by driving towards Mt. Doom.

Remember how last night living near a bar was great for street parking when you get there after last call? Well, before last call… not so much. I ended up parking three blocks south of my apartment & shuffling home, where I vaguely grunted in Kate’s direction, stripped off my clothes, and got in the shower.

After a day of first running through a dirt field and then tromping through someone’s backyard, there was a literal line of dirt on my legs showing where my socks had covered.  The skin above my sockline was a dull brown color which contributed to the dirty gray of the water which ran off me & circled the drain.

I have this soap that I got from the Hilton at ComiCon last year – it’s just the regular bar soap that they leave out in your room. I don’t know what the heck is in this stuff, but it will strip everything that’s not skin off your skin to the point where you are literally squeaky clean. On the way out of the hotel, I’d happened to run into the housekeeping cart, & the maid was nice enough to give me two new bars of it.  I hadn’t use them since then, but tonight, I broke one of the packages open and had at it. I swear I think I stood in there for a full half hour until I finally felt clean again.

In a great moment of TMI, while leaving a heavy conditioner in my hair, I took the pumice stone to my poor feet in an attempt to undo the effects of 20 hours on one’s feet.  In doing so, I finally gave up on the dead skin on my little toe and grabbed the toenail clipper to just cut it off — turns out that underneath was a rather large blood blister the size of the bottom of my little toe.  Oh yeah – in a sick kind of way that really only comes from being the kind of athlete whose sport regularly causes your hands to bleed, I have to say that I was oddly proud of the small crater which would no doubt prevent me from running for at least three days. :sigh:  Must remember to buy more Band-Aids at Target. yay Target!

That accomplished, I set my cell phone alarm for 6am so I could get up for practice and crawled into bed, and in the middle of a heat wave, once again wrapped an electric heating pad around my left hip – while it might be too hot to sleep under a sheet, I’ve discovered that sheet works great to bind the heating pad to my leg thereby freeing my hands so I can end this adventure the same way I started it – spending a time with Harry Dresden before I fall asleep.

Time: 2:00am
Tally: three parties down, thank f*ck
Earnings: hourly wages & a tip on top
(eta: the tip on top would later be revoked by the bride who called on Monday to tell Monica we were all incompetent… ah, what a sweetling.)

Lesson Learned: I really need a new pair of black Nikes. 

Who says life in LA isn’t glamourous, eh?  Gods bless making your way in the big city. And just think – tomorrow, I get to get up & figure out how to do it all over again.

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