The other night, at job #1, was The Gala— the event of the season, the one that society attends to see and be seen, and even some people who can’t actually afford to attend, somehow scrape together to money because it is important. I know these things because I worked that morning and was in charge of labeling the placecards with the correct table number and alphabetizing them.
One of the ladies that I work with is Southern and therefore cares very deeply about the social hierarchy. It was hilarious to call out names so someone else could tell me what table number, and then have this woman gasp “I certainly don’t know how they can afford this”, or “She created the scandal of the decade back in the 60’s by marrying him– the newspaper headline read ‘Heiress marries Negro‘, or “Make sure that you have III not IV– IV is her son and his wife, they’ll be attending as well, of course.” It was fascinating and odd and gross and completely unlike what I grew up with.
Part of me wishes I had stuck around to really see the big show and ogle the fancy people, but I quickly found out that the dress I have been wearing at work all day was far too plain (not that anyone would actually take notice of me), and I’d left my house at 8:30am– I wanted to go home.
Our delightful cleaning lady showed up in her fanciest duds ready to give the bathrooms a quick wipe-down and then volunteer her services. She was shocked at the way we’d gone through paper towels and toilet paper over the course of the day.
“We had a lot of people in from the Black Ships Festival,” someone explained. The Black Ships Festival is an annual event that celebrates good relations with Japan by promoting their culture (I think)– either way, some events included: Sumo Wrestler Meet and Greet, Sushi Making Demonstration, Ninja Demonstration, Tea Ceremony, etc.– many other things that I really would have liked to see and see the kind of people who go to them– my lower class version of seeing and being seen, I suppose.
“Oh, I forgot about that,” the cleaning lady replied, “but I was going to Talbots today, and I kept seeing Chinks everywhere with their paper umbrellas. Get out of my way you Chinks, I kept thinking.”
The three of us averted our eyes and said nothing, one laughed. I’m not really sure what to do in a situation like that, but part of me wanted to say– you know, “Chinks” are Chinese, not Japanese.