The lesbians do some mingling/volunteering to support Bruce Kraus

Wednesday evening we had an unexpectedly amusing stint as the official coat check girls women at a fundraiser for Bruce Kraus' bid for a second term as City Councilor. 

To be honest, the whole coat check thing scares me. I prefer to keep my coat close at hand in case a speedy retreat is in order. I spend half the night obsessing about the coat check tag and the other half obsessing about the valet parking stub.  I put the stubs in my purse which is usually too rinky dink to afford me the security of retrieving my property.  This is where my dear departed grandmother would point out that purses may be cheap at Target, a purse from Macy's is built to handle things like stubs.  Ledcat puts the stubs in her pocket and somehow avoids worrying about pickpockets and other potential mishaps.

I usually end feeling foolish because I don't have the rhythm of the coat retrieval down. There's a quick exchange of coat for tip that requires tip to be folded into hand for a seamless transfer.  I never get it down and then I feel like I should apologize for holding up the line and add more $$ to the tip. At this point, Ledcat typically takes over and sends me off to deal with the valet induced trauma. Do you tip the driver? What if another parking person holds open your door?   I once tipped entirely in quarters because I was afraid to ask the bartender for change w/o buying another $3.00 Coke.

Clearly, I cannot function without a ledcat.  Fortunately, I bring home prize opportunities like coat check volunteer to hold my own in our relationship.

The fundraiser was at Perlora on the Southside.  Ledcat adores Perlora and laments what our cat has done to the one chair she purched there, but that's another post.  I know she came with me first for the locale, second to support Bruce and third to watch me meltdown when she didn't follow the strict coat checking rules I reviewed with her.

What a fun time!  We had unlimited access to the hors d'œuvre trays, a great view of the speakers and the opportunity to interact with most of the guests. I, of course, was tweeting in between coat fetching.  (The official hashtag for Bruce events is #VoteBruce just as an FYI).

But she was right about the meltdown. The coat racks were a little high for her to reach so I got to do the schlepping.  She had to drag me away from making sure the scarves were just so on their respective coats.  I was at a loss as how to handle umbrellas; she chucked them into the corner and said folks were on their own to retrieve.  Hats she piled up on the table and dared anyone to challenge her.  I sure didn't.  I grew increasingly frenzied balancing my desire to be ubervolunteer with my even greater desire to be “the” tweeter of the event. 

I had no idea how high intensity the coat check duties could be.  Umbrellas and hats were just the beginning.  Someone accidentally spilled some water and I'm proud to say we didn't dampen a sleeve thanks to my keen eye. And then there was the coat retrieval experience. 

First of all, we were volunteers.  Our pay (seriously) comes with the election of the best candidate for the District which is Bruce Kraus.  A few rounds of appetizers and a behind the scenes peak at Perlora was a bonus.  But … people who are adroit at these things kept stuffing money in my hands. We didn't have a tip jar (note to self) so I was shoving scrunched dollar bills into my pocket.  And — ha, ha — two people tipped us in quarters.  The umbrella men were not fazed by our makeshift umbrella stand and the hat men were fine.  I did invert a 6 into a 9 and bring someone the wrong coat and he sort of barked at me.  I was ready to tell him I have a master's degree when I realized I could use my actual skills to defuse the situation with an apology and the correct coat.  That's what master's degrees get ya these days …deescallation of coat check tension.

In between this, our assorted political friends and comrades dropped by to say hello.  Let me tell you … it is very hard to network/mingle when you are retrieving coats.  Here's my tweeting obsession reared its ugly head which Ledcat extinguished with a 'don't you dare pull that damn phone out and leave me alone with the coats' glare.  I know that glare.  It is very similar to the 'if you tweet during this movie, i'm closing the cell phone account” look.

To be honest, I'm not sure everyone realized I actually stepped away while they were talking to me which certainly dampens my sense of being on the fringes of the in-crowd.  But my honor was restored when a political friend found me by texting and brought me two intriguing books on the Holocaust and the LGBT community.  Sensing our distraction, he came and brought books, and then went on his way. 

That's how you network with the coat check girl woman. 

All in all, we collected about $20 in unsolicited tips.  We donated it to the charity of the evening, the Lexa Cleland Family Memorial Fund, in honor of the child who was killed in a DUI accident on the Southside.  Bruce was donating a portion of the evenings donations so we thought it was a good idea. 

I would coat check again in a heartbeat (for the right candidate).  It is pretty straightforward and I was on the control side of the coat check relationship. Plus, Ledcat was really in charge and I just had to check my baser impulses to bring out the Blackberry. 

Oh, and yes, we did keep our own coats close at hand (behind the hats).  Just in case.

Volunteering to support your candidate of choice can take you in some interesting directions.  You can learn a lot from a campaign, especially a local campaign.  Actual transferable skills (coat checking aside), you get to interact with all sorts of community leaders and hear a range of perspectives.  The fancy fundraisers are fun (and essential), but it can be equally stimulating to make phone calls especially when someone has a strong opinion either for or against your candidate.  They don't hesitate to tell you what is on their mind.  Public events give you another level of access to these contacts.  I'm impressed when the woman next to me says she took two buses to attend. 

I've never had anyone take two buses to hear me speak, unless I was hiring. 

I encourage you to get involved with Bruce Kraus' campaign.  Click here for more details. I'm off to bedazzle my tip jar for the next event …


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  • You didn't really talk about what Bruce said. Did he have any ideas on how to create jobs or help businesses create jobs? Or on what his plans are to retain young people in the area? Those are really the key issues here. I've never heard him speak about those issues before and am curious if he brought them up at the event.

  • This was just fun to read-thank you for posting – sometimes the fun stuff is the peanut butter in the bread of life! (yikes now I'm hungry! smile)

  • hmmm…what has Bruce Kraus done on jobs and the city's economic well-being?
    Well, he talked a bit about that at a candidates forum in the south side last night.
    1. He touted fighting to keep libraries open (jobs saved aren't jobs lost).
    2. He celebrated proposing (and unanimously passing) an Responsible Hospitality initiative funded with $100k in the 2011 budget. This would attempt to comprehensively solve so many of the problems with excess on carson street. Even partial success, by the way, would increase housing values and make the south side more business friendly…if by business we're not strictly talking more bars.
    3. And finally, he proudly stood by his opposition to Ravenstahl's parking lease plan. He talked about refusing to lease out our publicly owned assets to corporate investment bankers.
    And I couldn't agree with him more!
    Google “Chicago parking meters” and read all you'd like on that fiasco.
    A vote against Ravenstahl's Corporate Parking deal is a strong vote for the future economic well-being of this city.

  • Wait, are you telling me housing prices are dropping on the South Side? People must be abandoning buildings they can't get out of there fast enough…
    Nothing you mentioned creates jobs or helps our economic well being.

  • Speaking as a lesbian, we often have to take the long view. Bruce's work with Doug Shields to create a City Domestic Partner Registry is one such initiative. By creating a City wide mechanism to vet domestic partnerships, they lay the groundwork for employers to provide domestic partner benefits with minimal fuss. This is a headache for HR at best so a City oriented solution serves to protect employees and encourage businesses to add another benefit to attract the best and brightest.
    As I said, this is a foundation. This could be an invaluable tool trying to draw green and tech businesses, especially those small enough not to have a HR benefits specialist. And it is a tool that City Council and the Administration should be using to promote Pgh as a business destination. Mock the creative class if you must, providing health insurance to as many people as possible is a good thing.
    The vetting process is also far from ideal, but that's something to tweak not invalidate the initiative.
    Now if someone is gonna run with it, we'll have to see …

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