May 21st is National Waiter & Waitress Day. A holiday of the first order. Order, already. Waiter comes from the expression “I’m waiting for you to decide…”. Feel free to make any waiter joke here you wish.
(Maitre ‘D to Henny Youngmen)
MD: “Good Evening Mr. Youngmen. What would you like this evening?
HY: “A table by a waiter.”
Battered and abused,the second oldest profession has been a joy in my life since that fateful summer of 1987 in Yankee Key West. And by joy I mean a source of vice, bunions, street cred and an honest living. My first apron and khakis are still burned in my memory. They were stiff and new, like me. They awkward and bound to be broken in, like me.
The world of foodservice is one part indentured servitude, two parts springboard to Life. The work is hard and the schedule is grueling and that’s the good parts. The road trip that you take through the human condition is worthy of any anthropological quest. I have been fortunate to work with a number of students who have written thesis after thesis on the information found at work. You will sacrifice your holidays and weekends and gain your days free and cash income. You will compromise your dignity but you will wager your soul. People are volatile and never more so when they are Hangry.
Hangry (Urban Dictionary)When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both.An amalgum of hungry and angry invented to describe that feeling when you get when you are out at a restaurant and have been waiting over an hour to get the meal that you have ordered.“Damn! Where is that steak I ordered? We’ve been waiting for an hour and a half here. The service here is terrible! I’m starving! I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel really hangry!”
People are funny. People are some of my favorite food. Feed them in a timely fashion and make sure they stay dry and you can have your station be a happy adult day care. Don’t let them nap to long though, you need to rotate your inventory to pay for those plane tickets you just bought last pm. It is pretty basic, baby will cry when hungry. Feed the baby. There are those exceptions to the rule. Guests who will lash out due to unforseen psychosis. These people may just be cruel souls taking out something on innocent servers and staff and neighboring tables. To these patrons we wish them well. A long deep well with water at the bottom and no rope in sight. People who make little, well-meaning front desk staff cry because of their ire, well there’s a special room in Hell for you. Is this how they would want their daughter spoken to?
I am serious of feeling joy in this business. There’s the Joy Of Wine, The Joy Of Cooking and Joy who I worked with in a dive bar so far and long ago. She had a terrible mouth. A joy that has allowed me freedom to pursue any interests in Life. Freedom to travel, and create. Allowed me an extended family of friends and frenemies and foes that could fill a sideshow/ carnival. My Network of Informants and Thieves. The experience of knowing great food, wine, comfort and friendship. It has been a remarkable ride and I cherish my memories and scars that the restaurant business has given me.
“The most important thing is Family”, my father droned on and on with this. And of course he was right. At dinner time his piercing whistle was heard through the house, down the street even. Wherever you were, you stopped, dropped and ran to the table. All of us around the table eating together is the most cherished memory
I have in my life. There didn’t seem to be enough room for all of us, and whoever’s friend was eating with us. The volume was huge, raucous laughter and yelling. Inevitably my baby sister would spill her milk and we would scramble to clean it up. This used to hang in our kitchen.
Gathering around the table brings friends close and tensions high. It can also be difficult for maintaining order for both guest and waitron. Foodservice is big business and mutually beneficial for those with the (wait for it) stomach. Stamina and Patience are important lessons learned in the business. Gathering around the table to share food and time together is precious. Enjoy your time at the table, seated or standing. To those seated, these are the moments you will remember. To those standing, the shift will end and you’ll be at your own table soon.
ps those of you that love ‘Moonstruck’ can read about what Bobo the waiter means to me.