Popular culture has embraced many former Coat-Check Girls. These include: Liverpudlian songbird Cilla Black; willowy blonde starlet Gretchen Mol and Fabulous Disaster Mariah Carey. Any reasonable history of coat checking could not, of course, overlook celebrated Exotic Dancer Blaze Starr. Apparently she was ‘discovered’ while sitting behind her Baltimore counter. How, exactly, one demonstrates a talent for burlesque while sitting in a booth is a question I regularly attempt to address. This fascination is due less to my interest in nipple pasties and more to my recent induction into the Cloaking Sisterhood.
Coat-Checking is not, altogether, an unenviable arrangement. Certainly, the position description is more succinct than some and the job title may not command the same line of credit as, say, Chief Executive Officer. However, the pay is reasonable, the coats are, oftentimes, intriguing and, when I think about my former stint as a Senior Public Servant, the complete lack of meetings called to discuss which letter-head the Corporate Mission Statement should be printed on is refreshing.
I am, for the moment, quite content to add Coat Check Girl to my Résumé. I quite like people, for the most part, and I enjoy guarding their possessions with lady-like brutality. I am warmed by their gratitude when I produced their unscathed garments and I am often politely amused to see their coats depart with a coat they have only just met. Further, the confessional aspect of my booth permits all sorts of truths. I am the trustee of more secrets and venal sins that your average Father and, according to Cloaking Code, far less likely to reprimand.
So, work as a Booth Bitch is fine by me. I provision a dependable and useful storage-and-risk-minimisation solution to coat-wearers AND there’s enough down time to get through one decent novel per night. However, my first service industry experience in fifteen years has given me cause to recall: Some People Have No Manners.
There is a handful of people in every well populated room that live, quite simply, to Lord It. These are the sorts who love to rub one’s low-income earning nose into a big pile of crude humiliation. They like to shout at Call Centre staff, tut inscrutably at busy bar staff and roll despondent eyes at anyone near a cash register. Whether this amply expressed frustration is the by-product of Hating The Capitalist System or just a really rotten week, I am unsure. All I know is that I am aghast at the tendency of a few to make the servile feel really servile.
Two to three times an evening someone will just HURL their garment at me. At least one of these people will say ‘watch it, I paid a lot of money for that’ as though it were my habit to drag lesser raiments through a pig-sty of stinking disrespect. One of these errant customers may also (a) blow cigarette smoke into my booth (b) ash said cigarette into my tip jar and/or (c) insist ‘you’ve got a GREAT job, haven’t you?’ without a hint of empathy nor cheeky wit.
I do understand that many people wade through their weeks feeling trammelled and alone. I also understand their need to ‘blow off steam’ – or smoke into my booth as the case may be. It befuddles me, however, that such people choose to relieve themselves on relatively powerless institutions such as Coat Check Girl. Why not pick on the Big Boys?
In my effort to cleanse the world of poor manners and ill-feeling, I have now devised an information sheet for my more troublesome customers. Entitled ‘Yo, You With The Coat: Use Your Rage for Good Instead of Evil’ it suggests a number of bodies to which they might more profitably address their anger such as the World Bank, President George W Bush and the Advertising Standards Agency. (To date, this document has confused all but one parton into silence and has encouraged the emergence of at least two anti-globalisation activists.)
Respect the servile. Or you never know what kind of pamphlets they may produce!