The Senior Awards Banquet is over! I’m can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am. I got to work at 7:15 and left at 10:45 that night. It turned out to be a huge affair and, although there are always kinks, it turned out great. DS had purchased 500 dinner plates and we used every single one and had to run upstairs to raid my Potluck Club supplies to get a few more. Where did they all come from? I don’t have a clue. Whenever you’re working with kids, things get a little crazy. We only had seating for 400 so I don’t know how we wound up serving in excess of 500.
The room looked lovely. We’re fortunate to have a very large lobby that adjoins our two cafeterias and we ordered extra tables from the Board of Education for the affair. We were able to squeeze in 400 chairs and placed a dinner menu on each placemat. Salads were placed at each setting just before the ceremony ended and guests headed out of the theatre and were seated in the lobby. They were supposed to look over the menu and check their choice of salad dressing, entree, and drink. Our student servers grabbed up the menus and headed to the cafeteria to collect the salad dressing, entree, and drink and then took them back to the table and kept the menu. So how did we serve over 500? We had a table with salad dressing in little cups, then servers went to the next station and grabbed a plate which was already dished up with the entree and bread, finally, on the way out the door, they passed the beverage table and grabbed the beverages. After delivering the dinners, the servers were supposed to keep the filled menu and turn it in. Obviously, students were serving to diners who had already had dinner and decided to ask for seconds. In their defense, they’re kids. It never runs correctly when you’re relying on a bunch of students to behave like trained waiters and waitresses.
Still, the evening was a huge success, we had plenty of food (even though we had to scramble for some extra plates) and everyone was very complimentary. It was a successful conclusion to a day of utter madness.
I had done the awards. More than 400 assorted awards to be given to almost 200 graduates. I did each certificate, turned it in to one of the secretaries to be proofed, and then started on the next batch. I had them finished more than a week ago. Each certificate printed on quality paper, in color, a gold seal with the school crest on it affixed to it and the principal signed each and every one.
I also did the programs. Each printed on a really cool, textured paper, carefully folded in half. I printed 350 of them and finished them two days before the ceremony. I did the menus. I was really proud of them. The school crest at the top and they were printed on heavy, textured white paper. Each sheet had to be fed by hand through the bypass and carefully cut in half to form 5 1/2 x 8 inch menus. I printed 400 menus.
At 1:00 p.m., the counselor who was in charge of the ceremony ran to me in a panic and said, “Pat, take a deep breath and try not to hurt me. I missed giving you the names for 75 certificates and I gave you the wrong file for the programs. Crap! The counselor was all teary-eyed and I could tell she was at the breaking point. I told her I’d get it done. I switched into ultra-drive and redid the programs. The heavy paper had to be hand-fed into the printer one piece at a time. I put one student in charge of that, and had the rest of my class folding programs like crazy. I grabbed another student and had her read and spell the names for the 75 missing certificates and another student was standing by another printer and hand feeding paper into it as I printed certificates. To make a long story short, we got it done. I sent the finished certificates and programs to the counselor. The bell rang to end school just as we finished.
I headed downstairs to start helping with decorating and organizing the kitchen. The lobby looked beautiful. The 60 long navy blue tablecloths DS ordered looked really nice with gold placemats and serving ware and napkins tied with navy blue ribbons at each setting. Our center pieces were crystal bowls of water which had been tinted blue with white flowers and candles floating in them. The dessert table was set up in the lobby with six sheet cakes and fresh flower arrangements.
The ceremony was scheduled to start at 6:30 and the counselor told me guests should be heading downstairs for dinner around 7:15. I know this is her first year as counselor and I had a pretty strong feeling that she was dreaming. After all, I made the certificates and I knew how many awards were being given out. I decided 7:45 was a more reasonable time to expect guests. At 6:15, I headed up to the theatre to find my seat and witness DGS, Andrew, receive his awards.
As I approached the theatre, I was bombarded by a half dozen teachers flagging me down and telling me they’d been looking everywhere for me. They wanted to know where all the programs were. I told them that I’d sent them to the counselor but she said she didn’t get them. We unlocked the front office and found them in her room. She’d been so stressed out, she didn’t even remember me giving them to her. Crisis averted, I headed back to the theatre to watch the first few minutes of the ceremony. I knew the program and knew that Andrew was getting his awards pretty early so I was able to slip back down to the lobby around 6:50. I found DS working like a dog in the kitchen but our student volunteers were being briefed about their duties and everything was under control.
We waited and waited. Prepped and ready for the onslaught. By 7:45, DS was beginnng to complain that his baked ziti was getting dry and he couldn’t hold the chicken primavera much longer without the sauce starting to separate. We decided to go ahead and set up the main food tables. At 8:00, we were all getting tired of waiting. It was one of those hurry up and wait deals and we just wanted to get it over with. Finally, at 8:15, guests started arriving and being seated and the chaos began. Our servers hit the floor running and I was so proud of them. Like lambs heading to the slaughter. They began by being sweet and polite and soon began to feel overwhelmed. We only had 20 students and 400 guests. Each of them had to serve 20 guests. A few guests were nasty and I wanted to slap them upside the head. What do you expect when you’re getting a free meal at a school and it’s being served by kids? One man actually told one of our students she’d better not plan on paying for college by waiting tables because he’d marked his menu for eggplant parmesan and she brought him vegetable lasagna. Jerk! At one point, a woman came in the kitchen and demanded a plate of baked ziti because the student forgot her drink and the ziti was cold by the time she got her iced tea. I mean, come on! It may have been nasty on my part but I told her she wasn’t allowed in the kitchen and she would have to wait until we finished filling orders for the kids and I would personally bring her a plate of ziti. I could have just handed one to her but she really got to me with her arrogant attitude. Pans of ziti were flying out of the oven and there was no way her ziti could have been cold even if the kid did have to go get her another glass of tea. On top of that, although it got pretty crazy for a few minutes, every single guest had been served by 8:45 and I’ve had to wait longer than 30 minutes just to get my salad at restaurants when I’ve been paying for dinner.
Still, 99% of the guests were really complimentary and I was so proud of the kids! The principal said we’d set the bar. The school had never had the kind of turnout we had for the Senior Awards Banquet and she was thrilled with everything. The senior counselor brought me a card with a $50.00 gift card in it and said she never could have pulled it off without my help and it meant a lot to me to realize that she recognized how hard I’d worked in order to make the event successful. DS worked like a dog. The food was outstanding and his part went over without a hitch. Guests began leaving around 9:00 and we closed the cafeteria doors and sat down with all our student volunteers and a handful of teachers who’d assisted and enjoyed the feast!
Cleanup was a nightmare but everyone did their part and we left the school kitchen as we’d found it. You couldn’t tell it had been ground zero for ten full pans of food, bushels of salad, six full sheet cakes, 45 loaves of bread and 60 gallons of tea and lemonade.
I limped out of the building at 10:45 because DS literally dragged me out and made me go home. I got home and passed out in bed but I woke up when he came in at almost midnight after his biggest catering job to date.
I have to admit that I was definitely feeling some pain yesterday. I had to drag myself out of bed when the alarm went off at 5:00 and spent the day operating on automatic pilot. Now, it’s Saturday and I’m beginning to feel human again.
All in all, I think we made it.