Halloween is a pretty fun time of the year to work in hospitality, right?
In your adult life, there’s not many other industries that give you the opportunity to take part in the festivities whilst on the clock, at least not without more than a little gossiping and name-calling behind your back where afterwards you’ll be forever referred to as “the weird guy who wore a costume to the office” until the end of time.
But not in hospo.
In hospitality, you’re almost pressured into donning a costume for the day and serving customers at a pace unbecoming of a worker clad head-to-toe in suffocating polyester.
Woe betide the worker who bucks the trend and refuses to dress up. They become as much of a pariah as the weird guy who wore a costume to the office.
Unconventional temporary dress codes aside, it’s a wonderful time to work in the industry, isn’t it?
You literally get paid to be right there, in the middle of the action, dictating the tempo of one of the biggest party nights of the year.
So I figured, why not talk about some memorable Halloween shifts of my own?
Cast your mind back to 2008. Obama was promising change, a 100% married Beyonce was singing about being single and yours truly was working in a suburban Mexican joint. All was right in the world.
This being my first Halloween in the Australian hospitality industry, I didn’t know what to expect. Do I go all out and risk being the lone-costumed employee? Or do I dress as I normally would and risk being called a party pooper by my colleagues?
I hope you know enough about me by now to know which choice I made.
In the spirit of Halloween, and with my Mexican-inspired surroundings in mind, I chose to dress as Batman, obviously.
Not just any Batman, mind. I dressed as Batman if he’d let himself go a little. Imagine the Joker was in jail, and Penguin was on vacation, and the Riddler was in hospital because somebody got tired of him never giving a straight answer and Batman took some much-needed time to relax and indulge himself.That’s the Batman I chose to be.
I scoured the dollar store for minutes before I found what I was looking for: the cheapest, most lawsuit-worthy kids Batman costume in existence. With this disguise, my growing ale gut became even more pronounced. The pants hit just above the knee and the famous cape framed my muffin top perfectly.
The completely unbreathable fabric only added a layer of authenticity to my get up, that layer being the type of breathless sweating that a relapsed superhero would surely have.
To this day it is the most perfect costume I’ve ever worn.
It did stick out a bit though amongst the Calavera face paints and gypsy skirts. A suburban Mexican restaurant, it seems, is not the place for a grown man in a child’s Batman costume, regardless of how many times he tries to convince you that a Hyundai Getz is more practical than “your traditional Batmobile”.
As the night wore on, I’d given up hope of the fabric staying put to cover my stomach and so, with a measure of pride, I stopped tugging on my shirt every 5 seconds and let my beer belly enjoy a freedom it had seldom enjoyed so far that night.
Catching myself in the mirror of the back bar I was instantly reassured that, for the purposes of Mexican Batman’s backstory, this was a masterstroke. Nothing says superhero on hiatus like an overhanging ale gut, gently brushing against the bartop.
I haven’t even told you the best part yet.
So, as you know, Batman wears a helmet, right? It’s a vision in cool, sleek matte black, replete with bat ears that cut a silhouette capable of sending chills down the spines of Gotham’s most-hardened criminals.
My “helmet” did not.
Mexican Batman’s headgear—and bear in mind that this was a costume designed to be worn by children—was one of the most bizarre and harrowing garments I’ve ever seen.
Of course, it was made up of the same suffocating polyester as the rest of the costume, but with a plastic, PVC leather face mask sewn-in that looked more at home on a certain friend of Marsellus Wallace than on a kid’s costume.
Did that stop me from trying to wear it as much as possible? You can bet your bat-shaped throwing stars it didn’t!
As well as the uncomfortable sweats it inspired, I could also barely see or hear a thing in it. This makes running a bar on your own a bit difficult. Many a drink was mistakenly served that evening, and many of those were drastically over-poured. I employed a tactic of when in doubt, bucket of Coronas or a shaken Margarita. Not many people complained, so I figured I was doing okay.
I had ambitions to create a Mexican Batman-themed drink for the evening too, but my limited cocktail knowledge and lack of something black to put in it (no sambuca in this place, I’m afraid) meant that the world would never get to experience “The Dark Knight Retires” and that’s probably a good thing.
By the end of my shift I’d lost about 10kg to sweating, but gained around the same back thanks to every little splash sticking to my exposed legs, stomach, arms, neck, face etc. My helmet had long since followed my shirt’s lead and had become rolled up, but my cape had remained intact, against the odds, as a testament to my commitment to a terrible idea.
Sitting on the other side of the bar as the floorstaff finished cleaning, I sipped at my Modelo and grazed on some chips & salsa, and after we closed up, I left my Hyundai parked up (because Mexican Batman doesn’t drink and drive) and headed out on the town to share my costume with the world.
I hadn’t foreseen every bouncer in a 5km radius rejecting me at the door, although looking back, I should have.
I was forced to watch my own version of Gotham (the busy bar) from afar (the park across the road) as the “Caped Crusader” is prone to doing. And whilst I wasn’t quite as iconic as regular Batman standing on a gargoyle on the roof of a skyscraper, surveying his city, I felt no less feared than he (although mine probably had more to do with smell than ability to fight crime).
So I was left to wander home, returning Batman to the shadows of which he’s so accustomed and wondering what might have been if Mexican Batman had been allowed to tear up a dancefloor or two that night.
My final Halloween working in hospitality is barely a footnote.
Gone were the days of me dressing up because gone were the days of me enjoying a Halloween shift and if I’m being honest, any shift at all. Indeed, if I could’ve convinced my customers that the angry cafe owner persona was just for the day, my costume would have been perfect.
In the end, I was all partied out, just like if Batman had nobody left to fight and he gave himself over to the numbness and the reality of the situation seemed a lot less fun than it did all those years ago.
If I’d had known that it was to be my last Halloween shift in hospo, things would’ve been different. I don’t know about you, but I’d certainly like to see what Captain America would look like if he was overweight, had bad knees and was bald.
Alas, we’ll never know.
So this Halloween, do yourself a favour and lean into it a bit. Buy that dumb costume you’ve had your eye on. Pull on a child-sized cape and shirt if you like, just remember to breathe when you can, and to give yourself a spritz or two of Lynx Africa before you head out for a post-shift session.
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