By Michelle Pilar
man in pitch black glasses asked what was inside. Nothing, I said,
delivering the bad news. It's a Kate Spade toiletry bag. Emphasis
on Kate Spade. As if the designer name might have soothed him.
proceeded to open their bag right at the table. Delayed gratification
not in their lexicon. Let alone the idea that the bag might be empty.
Then the shock on discovery, the fallen face and sudden shift of
focus to the opposite sex's, grass is always greener, bag. With
eyes as wide as children they asked me "What do they get? What's
was about an hour of just these kinds of conversations when suddenly
our station was hit with a brand new problem. Party people were
approaching our table with no ticket at all.
informed our empty-handed guests that they should have received
their ticket as they entered the hotel.
no one gave us a ticket!" one man yelled.
have to go all the way back to there!" another shouted. As
if doing so would have involved a journey of transatlantic proportions.
to that a twenty-deep swarm of Veruca Salts that surrounded our
table and demanded their Oompa Loompas now!
when Target central offered up an explanation by whispering to us
the top-secret news. There were one-thousand party goers, but only
500 hundred bags. 500 tickets were given out at the door, first
come first serve. Mr. 501 and upward was going home empty handed.
they might never have known what they were missing but then there
we were. On display. Giving to those with a ticket. Withholding
from those without. I imagined this goody bag shortage would be
a disaster at a child's birthday party. But to our surprise these
deprived adults behaved much worse.
did our best to calm the disgruntled crowd. To swat back the siege
like you would in a game of Asteroids. But it was no use...
and Ethel's boss had returned, yelled "Speed it up!" and
that rapid river of bonbons was flying right past us.
was a long and bloody battle. Though we did hear the darndest things.
he was in Elephant!" one publicist exclaimed.
sure enough this sixteen year old Gus Van Sant discovery stood before
me. With indie tossed hair, dressed in a black and burgundy Todd
Oldham jacket surely not found in his closet back home in Iowa.
I imagined it was bought for him by the same publicist that was
heavily lobbying for his free bag. But he had no ticket and therefore
no bag. Still I was struck that he looked so sad. As if all would
be lost if he did not return home with one. I wanted to shake him.
Tell him it was just a bag. With nothing inside. You're so young,
you have your whole life to get one of these. And God as my witness,
even without a Kate Spade Target line toiletry bag, the sun would
then one of my very favorite actresses of all time walked up to
our table. She had no ticket but for her body of work alone I proudly
slipped her a bag. She picked it up, looked right through me, turned,
and walked away. Did she not understand what I'd just done for her?
The precious cargo I had deemed her worthy to receive?
was no time to think about it when the young girl who co-wrote Thirteen
sauntered up to the table with the kind of self-worth and entitlement
that I, even in my decades-longer life, had yet to achieve. And
wouldn't you just know she had a ticket.
were down to just two boxes of bags. And still they kept coming.
The table our only protection from a Manolo Blahnik stampede. Drunk
on Targetinis. Flashing their VIP tags and Day-glow bracelets to
no use. Bag-less, they demanded to speak to our superior. I said
the line formed just left of the free, top-shelf bar and endless
chocolate fondue fountain.
on Mr. Rogers. How he was indeed dead, and the world was in trouble
and I had kept our shocked observations to a whisper. Several hours
in and we were scolding them like a couple of preschool teachers.
Punishing the greedy. Rewarding the humble. No longer just passing
out bags. Damn it, we were teaching life lessons here!
heart was pounding. An aerobic experience. My voice almost gone
I looked out over a sea of outstretched arms, moistened eyes, bodies
bent forward at the waist.
right then it hit me. Hit me that perhaps the bags were not empty
after all. In truth they carried the night. The link to all other
gift bags. A token of having touched the dream. Of being on the
inside. Worthy. And even as the night drew to a close and another
season of self congratulations ended, they'd have their bag to wake
up to and remind them they were special. Remind them they were there.
no wonder a young actor in diesel jeans and Prada slip-ons leapt
over our table and jacked a couple of bags then made a run for it
before he got tackled by security and thrown up against a wall.
He resisted. So much so he was threatened with hotel arrest. He
went limp. Dropped the bags and eyed us like we got up early, met
at Starbucks and plotted out ways to ruin his life.
boxes were empty. The table cleared. A visual they couldn't deny.
were spent to the point of looniness. Like those soldiers tested
in the gas chambers without a mask, we couldn't have played a game
of Patty Cake if we tried.
needed to be taken off the beat. Guns confiscated. Screened for
Post Traumatic Syndrome.
they moved us on to another table. Another giveaway. But this table
called for no tickets. No rules. After all it was just a book, a
point driven home by one producer who said Touching the Void,
the title of the book, had already been made into a movie so clearly
it was of no use to him. I told him to take it and read it anyway.
That I was forming a book club and we'd all meet back here in two
poured a cup of coffee from the dessert bar and drank it in plain
site, unthinkable till that night -- all proper hotel employee demeanor
learned at a two day seminar gone. We were tossing, practically
throwing the books at them now. Aiming for their heads. Because
we hated them.
not out of envy. But for shattering the dream. The dream that kept
us going. That we would one day get there. Get where they were.
And when that day arrived... we would finally have enough.
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