Ballroom Wilderness


A ballad reflecting on an evening waitressing at a wildlife charity fundraiser event at the infamous Dorchester Hotel.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you
A night at the Dorchester, from my point of view.
Held mainly in the ballroom, this evening will entail
A waitress’s reflections on a wealthy fairytale.

Armed with grace, a soldier in black and gold,
I was one among many whose stories go untold.
With heels to point our march and poise to serve hot plates,
Our gloved hands catered only for the finest of tastes.

Our guests that eve were a charitable few,
With wealth worn on their sleeves, it’s true.
Draped in silk, dripping in decadance,
Their generosity glistened with superior opulence.

But with pockets ready to kindly donate,
They were gathered there to make this world a better place.
For the Earth was shook with pain and strife,
And it takes fortunes to save wildlife.

First greeted with flutes balanced on hand-held trays –
Golden bubbles to pair with the hotel’s display,
The donors were led across white marble floors
To marvel shots of beasts in the great outdoors.

Ushered into a satin dining hall,
The guests were first reminded of the charity’s call.
Then tended with wine in their coddled seats,
They await the service of their candle-lit feast.

Weaving through battle to serve their first dish,
We circle each table to gift fresh wild fish.
And under the sparkle of cut-crystal candelabras
The distinguished guests dine on their starters.

While clearing left-over morsels I could not help but look
At a board displaying what conservation took.
As the bidders began to wave fifties in the air,
I saw their bountiful offerings laid open and bare.

There I learnt that a bottle of Champagne
Was all it took to cure nature’s pain,
And that a luxury trip to the Caribbean for four
Just might solve our biological war.

Suddenly my wonder is stopped in its tracks
As a diner decides to give me her thanks.
“Thank you so much.”, she overtly states,
And I bow graciously as I pick up her plate.

It was unexpected, for an event so fine,
For a guest to notice the lesser presence of mine.
Though sometimes I glance lascivious eyes
And feel my body monetised.

With lions and rhinos to melt their hearts,
The generous biddings accelerated fast.
We servers were soon sent out of the room
Lest we dampen the mood with our impoverished gloom.

On my way to line up with my comrades and wait
I pass a creature’s majestic portrait.
His forefathers once captured for carpets and coats
What was left of his kind was not much to boast.

Once the kings of a lush green paradise,
They fell prey to man’s fine appetite.
Today these rare beasts are worth more alive,
And so the wealthy bid on a beating prize.

Before long the next course is ready,
And my colleagues and I keep our hands steady
As we swish and swerve through aisles of fable
To place rare steak at every table.

Once canines had devoured well-seasoned flesh
We go to clean up the dining hall mess,
And there again, to my surprise,
I’m given thanks with meaningful eyes.

“Thank you so much.”, the lady repeats,
And passes her plate to lessen the feat.
Her effort to acknowledge was not one to lament,
For with it I was no longer a live ornament.

After we dance through the room to distribute desserts,
We carry trays of coffee to quench their thirst.
When I serve the grateful lady with shaky hands,
She has something more to say than her usual thanks.

“I used to do what you do.”, she says, with pity in her voice,
I spurt out “I can tell!”, before given a choice.
For her to notice the humanity in me,
I guessed her life had taught her empathy.

But with a shocked look in her expression,
I saw she was ashamed of her confession.
Perhaps she thought I meant her attire,
Which was as glamorous as one could ever aspire.

With a choked throat she asks me why,
And tries to disguise the fear in her eyes.
A million responses run through my mind,
So I quickly reply, “Because you’re so kind.”

My heart-felt words put her straight at ease,
And she gives my arm a knowing squeeze.
I leave her to indulge in philanthropy with her friends
As now my shift has come to an end.

On my way home from work that night,
Something didn’t quite sit right.
Perhaps I was filled with undue righteousness –
But since when did decency disguise itself as kindness?

Conservation is vital, and a thank you is priceless,
But do our fellow beings not deserve any less?
If we have more money than we’ll ever need,
Should we not give some to charity?

Maybe the lady only meant to be encouraging,
And hoped that her own climb to wealth might be inspiring
For one day if I’m lucky I too could be rich
And the Dorchester’s food could touch my lips.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about kindness,
It’s that it starts with ourselves and those around us.
To be kind to our planet we must alter our cultures,
Not just pay handsome cheques to exotic creatures.

We’ve robbed the Earth for what it’s worth
And still we pillage to widen our girth.
Preserving the most romantic of species
Will not save our planet from its tumbling crises.

With the rich consuming unapologetically,
It’s no wonder I’m tempted by sweet apathy.
I’m just a waitress, what more can I do?
At least the lions seem fine in their zoo.

© Lydia Rose