When I was a sophomore in college, I was asked to lead a Seder with two friends of mine who had done it before. Given that it’s always hard to plan when students are involved, when the staff member in charge and I talked about how many people to expect, I told her based on my experience the year before (the staff member was new) to expect twice as many people as registered, especially since the Seders were in the middle of the week, meaning fewer people would be going home, and there weren’t as many other options for Seders, just the Orthodox Seder, and the Grad Student Seder (not the one Mel mentioned yesterday, though). Aside from that, I trusted the rest of the logistics to be taken care of.
Things were chaotic from the beginning. As I had predicted, there were about twice as many people as had registered. About 150 had registered for the three Seders. Almost 300 people showed up, and the majority of those that were not expected arrived in my Seder. Of course. This created problems that I hadn’t even thought about – namely that the room had been arranged in a way that not only didn’t think about how people were going to be able to hear us as leaders, but actually made it harder. People were tucked into corners, far away from the action, and without the aid of a microphone (there just wasn’t one, not that I would have been concerned about using one at the time). Finally, as the hordes got seated, we realized that we had forgotten something else vital: a place for the leaders. There literally were no more tables to put up for us, and we just had to stand. We used a nearby table’s Seder plate when it was necessary, but that was as close as we got. Next up – no one realized that we had at least four different Haggadot in use around the room, sometimes not even the same one at one table. So – very little ability to call out page numbers as people inevitably got lost.
Our next, and probably biggest, disaster came when we did manage get through the first half of the Seder. We arrived downstairs and it was frantic. Why? Well, it seems that although we had ordered food for 200 (I would have ordered for at least 250, but no one asked me), the cook had made food for only about 150 or so. Or, hadn’t realized exactly what kind of a meal people expect for a Seder. At a certain point, we had to start putting some of the trays away, so that the Orthodox Seder would have enough food when they reached the meal, about an hour after us. We broke out the jarred gefilte fish, the leftover bagged salad and the macaroons to try to supplement the meal, but that was it. All that was available to us. At the time, I didn’t even realize I didn’t eat. I was so busy trying to make sure that everyone else ate!
Total disaster, but we learned a lot of lessons – mostly about myself and how I never, ever want to lead a giant Seder like that without knowing what I’m getting into! May you never experience one like this!