Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Review: Ballrooms & Ugly Poodles

By Jami Deise

When I lived in Maryland, I vaguely knew that Florida had the reputation of being the weirdest state in the union – something about hanging chads and of course Casey Anthony. But it wasn’t until I moved here last summer that I really got just how weird this state is. There’s something about watching the local news every evening – with its stories of people swallowed whole by sinkholes, strange robberies, and toddlers wandering down highways – that really allows an area’s culture to seep into your pores. Here in Florida, we take a lot of showers.

Author Katie Schnack experienced Florida in a slightly different context than I have, but the bottom line is still the same – Floridians are weird! A transplant from the Midwest, Katie moves to Florida’s east coast to attend college and winds up working as a “cater-waiter” at one of Palm Beach’s five star hotels. Considering that Palm Beach is already one of the wealthiest areas in the country, its five star hotels, like everything else about the area, are more than a cut above the rest.

Her book, Ballrooms & Ugly Poodles (Semi-Tall Tales of a Palm Beach Waitress), is a collection of anecdotes from her job. Although the stories start slowly – I wasn’t that horrified by the fact that cater-waitresses wear the same uniform as waiters, or that she once found a wrapped tampon in her uniform pocket – they do get funnier and stranger as the book progresses. Schnack shares tales of the octogenarian who hit on her husband, a $50,000 wedding cake, and the time she poured coffee all over a woman’s couture gown. At the same time, a strong sense of the class division runs through the book – a struggling college student, Schnack lives off food scrounged from these events while the guests don’t think twice about throwing it away.

The chapters are quick and Schnack’s writing flows very easily. It’s a good book to take with you when you might have a few minutes of downtime but don’t want to get too deeply into a more complicated book. However, humor is very subjective, and some of the stories Schnack tells can be greeted with a shrug. More broadly, I found myself interested in the stories Schnack wasn’t telling. She married very young – I believe she was still a teenager -- and moved to Florida with her husband Kyle, who also worked as a cater-waiter at the same hotel. But there’s little to nothing in the book about what inspired that decision and the specific challenges that come with early marriage. If Schnack had included more personal information, it would have elevated her book from a collection of mild anecdotes to something closer to memoir.

Thanks to Shelton Interactive for the book in exchange for an honest review.

You might also enjoy:

No comments: