Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Marks and Spencer Christmas

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, the temp agency assigned me to work at Ascot racetrack. Marks and Spencer was holding a big show, there, to premier their Christmas products to their store managers. For American readers, Marks and Spencer is a national department store chain, in the UK, similar to Macy's. To house this event, a huge temporary structure was erected. The facilities included a temporary kitchen, larger than any restaurant kitchen I have seen, so far. For the banquet on Wednesday night, an army of chefs were on duty. Me being who I am, I started wondering why they would hold this event in a temporary structure on the grounds of a race track, rather than use the banquet facilities of a large hotel?
Along the corridor from the front entrance to the event rooms, there was a mock-up of a Marks and Spencer Christmas window display. To me, it looked a bit tacky. While I like M & S as a store, their displays never seem to be as good as the department store windows I remember, in New York. This one seemed to be themed in purple. Purple isn't exactly a Christmas color, is it? The corridor was lined with purple, fake Christmas trees. There was a fashion show, with models wearing clothes that will be offered in the stores. I caught a glimpse of the clothes on hangers, in the models' dressing room. I was underwhelmed by them, but maybe they looked better when draped on a live body.
There was a "crew" break room, for all of the staff working the show. inside it was a refridgerator filled with Marks and Spencer sandwiches and salads for us to eat, free of charge. Besides tea and coffee, which I shun, there were disposable cartons of Marks and Spencer juices. Those I didn't shun, choosing cranberry. The show wound down on Wednesday afternoon. Those of us in catering packed up all the rented plates, cutlery, glasses, and baking trays, so they could be returned. Suddenly, the management told those of us working in the kitchen that we could take any of the unused food and products that were going to be thrown away. We started picking over things, like a swarm of locusts. The head chef seemed bothered by this. Why, I don't know, as he wasn't paying for it. He told us we could only take one of each thing. This seemed stupid, as there was way more than enough for everyone. It was only going into a garbage skip, outside, if we didn't take it. Then the catering manager overruled the head chef and urged us to take all we wanted. The last of our inhibitions melted away and we resumed our swarming. I got a plastic garbage bag to put all my booty in. A fellow temp, named Hassel, who I was giving a ride home to, mimicked me. The other temps tried to make do with smaller, shopping bags. To top this all off, when we were ready to leave, the catering manager gave us each four unopened bottles of wine, left from the show. Hassel and I added the wine to our bags of swag. They now weighed a lot, especially with four bottles of wine inside. We decided to put each bag inside a second bag, to prevent the bags from splitting open.
Hassel and I struggled to carry these black, plastic sacks full of stuff, to my car. We looked like two, demented, reverse Santa Clauses, with these sacks slung over our shoulders. Instead of dispensing presents, we were taking them. Besides the four bottles of wine, I managed to acquire two packages of microwaveable nachos and cheese, six bottles of dish washing liquid, two packages of scrubbers, one package of scampi and chips, three bags of salad, a container of couscous, a large avocado, bacon, and spinach salad, a ready to bake ham, six jars of English mustard, and a box of Belgian chocolates. I would have taken more if I had a way to carry it. This was not just food, this was M & S food. It felt like Christmas had come early, this year.


Post a Comment

<< Home