Monday, September 24, 2012
What is it about working in the food service industry that makes transvestites so angry, uptight and aggressive? In most other aspects of daily life, cross-dressing men seem to be the life of the party; for instance, stick ‘em in a pair of sparkly, pink-sequinned, eight inch heels, pack ‘em on a bus and send ‘em into the Australian outback and they’re everyone’s heroes; wrap ‘em in a powder-blue feather boa and send ‘em out on a carnival float and the crowds will flock for miles to see their happy grins; or simply whack a diamante g-string and a fruit-laden headdress on ‘em and watch Australian bogans on bucks’ weekends in Bangkok descend upon their lively floorshows like shit-hungry flies to exchange clumsy homophobic slurs for witty, gregarious taunts delivered with a flirtatious wink and a quiver of a massive Adam’s apple.
But what is it about dressing transvestites in civvies and standing them out front-of-house in classy restaurants and eateries that makes them so friggin’ surly and offensive?
My first experience with a grumpy transvestite waiter/ess was many years ago while working as a lowly volunteer in wonderful Samoa. In those days, Apia wasn’t quite the bastion of fine dining it pretends to be today, but even then, with the right financial backing, one could aspire to some quality fare in either one of the two-and-a-half star hotels overlooking the harbour.
I can’t quite remember what the occasion was that saw the yet-to-be-Mrs Donkey and I deciding to splurge three week’s pay on a slap-up, pool side lunch, but it was with great excitement and culinary anticipation that we found ourselves deliberating at length over what seemed to us to be an extraordinarily diverse menu. In reality the selection probably wasn’t all that spectacular given that on this occasion I opted for a BLT, and I was already salivating like Pavlov’s dogs the day the dinner bell got back from the repair shop when the grotesque fa’afafine waiter/ess finally condescended to lift her enormous muli off her groaning stool and to waddle over to take down our order (which she did with a frosty scowl and neither small talk of her own, nor acknowledgement of ours).
An age later, we were alerted to her return by the air of inky black storm clouds her demeanour impressed upon the atmosphere, and despite the warning, we both jumped with fright as two catering-strength crockery plates angrily crashed onto the glass table top.
Immediately I noticed that my BLT had lost some ‘L’ along the way, that its ‘T’ had been replaced with orange processed cheese and that the ‘B’ had morphed into a thick slice of Spam. I turned to my happy waiter/ess to alert her to the mistake, only to discover that her massive behind was already thumping off into the distance to get as far away from anything resembling a customer as possible.
After some minutes of mundane deliberations with Mrs D about whether I should alert the surly old cow to the mistake or just to ‘suck it up’ and eat the congealing mess before me so as not to offend, I finally decided, in recognition of the cost and excitement of the occasion, to stick to my guns and ask for my BLT. I strode purposefully across the concourse to find our congenial Miss, who barely listened to my complaint before dismissing it with an offhand, yet aggressive, “You ordered a cheese and ham sandwich”.
At this I nearly choked on the angry sobs leaping to my throat, but I reined-in my fury by firmly assuring her that I certainly did not, and heaved against her anchoring bulk to drag her over to inspect my soggy meal as some kind of proof that I would never have ordered such a mess. Firmly, and with no small hint of steel, I demand she take the dish back, and return with my “Bee-Elle-Tea!”.
Perhaps sensing that my levels of anger and aggression were approaching her own, she tried one more sly parry to ward off the exertion of having to walk the full ten metres back to the kitchen. “Well who’s going to eat this, then?”, she spat, to which I finally lost all composure, “I don’t care … why don’t you eat it?”. And she literally stamped her massive hoof in anger as she ungraciously snatched my plate off the table (sending a congealing glob of orange cheese across the condiments and onto Mrs Donkey’s glasses) and tut-tutted off to the kitchen.
After what seemed many hours, my BLT finally arrived and was smashed onto the table in front of me with a thundery stare that made it all too clear what sort of response I’d receive if I dared any further exchange on the issue of my meal. I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that while lettuce and tomato were now present on my plate, the ‘B’ remained a thick slice of Spam with curious orange butter-knife striations along its surface.
Upon our exit, our wonderful hostess mumbled one last grumpy remark regarding our failure to leave a tip … I wish I’d thought to retort that an untouched BLT was more tip than she deserved … but I’m no Oscar Wilde.
Jump ahead 12 years, and the culinary delights of sunny Port Vila, with its French-inspired cuisine and bustling tourist traffic, is bound to entice. But there comes a time when even Donkey can have too much of a good thing, and after 10 weeks straight of eating lunches of Vanuatu beef sautéed in butter and drowned in blue cheese sauce, I was looking for something a little … less heavy.
So I wandered along to the most popular patisserie in town and stood for an agonisingly long time to be noticed by the surly maître’ d, who when he eventually turned his heavily-shadowed lids in my direction, gave me an unimpressed once-over and simply walked-off towards an empty table. Upon reaching his destination, he turned and fixed me a filthy stare in reprimand for my failure to follow, and as I clumsily closed the space between us, he had already slapped the menu down on the table and disappeared.
Menu read and decision-made in 1 minute and 17 seconds … waited to place order with angry transvestite waiter for well over 7 minutes (he only consenting to leave his podium when I stood up and waved him over). He managed to take my order without ejecting upon me the bile that my presence seem to be generating in his throat, but I waited for almost an hour for my sandwich to arrive. When it did, it was delivered to my table with all the aggression and clattering pomp that only seven years of study at the Pacific Regional Hospitality Training College for Surly, Disgruntled Transsexuals can instil.
Owing to the lack of choice for reasonable lunch options in the town, I have become exposed to this waiter’s angry countenance at least twice a week, and I run into him in the town at least every couple of days, yet despite my attempts at jovial exchange, his demeanour remains unhappy, unimpressed and decidedly unfriendly.
These are just two examples of grumpy transvestite waiting staff I have encountered throughout the world. There have been others; the grimacing burger flipper at the Elwood Fish ‘n’ Chip shop, the huge café proprietor in Kolkata who unashamedly serves up whatever she wants to timid, pasty backpackers, regardless of their order, or the young transvestite working at the Phuket eatery who simply refuses to wait on any white male unless he is quite openly gay. This is not Donkey’s imagination, nor is it some kind of homophobic slur … I am just surprised that these lady boys bother with food service when it quite clearly doesn’t agree with them. Let’s face it, there’s nothing glamorous about serving sandwiches to upstart white tourists with too much money, but surely there are other jobs they could be doing? Alternatively, if transvestite waiting staff by day decided to lend their night-time, floorshow flare to the taking-down of sandwich orders, they may just receive more of a smile and an equally affable tip at meal’s end.
Of course, there is every chance that the demeanour of these transvestite waiters is just a reaction to me. My friend Brad once told me that I am way too butch to be an attractive option for a gay man … maybe my attempts at friendliness with gay waiting staff are mistaken for overtures, and like a heterosexual male bogan from Ipswich receiving unwanted approaches from a drunken, ugly broad while he’s trying to watch the rugby league game, their response is one of aggressive rejection.
Get your own f’ing coffee! Pic: aaronandandy.com