Saturday, September 12, 2009
Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip -- Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
© 2008 "The Waiter"
While browsing humor site NotAlwaysRight, in which the malevolence and stupidity of the average consumer are celebrated through submitted quotations, I noticed a link in the sidebar to this book, which is based off an older blog of the same name (old enough for me to have read it years ago). I was pleased to find that my library had access to it. I decided to read this immediately following A Murder on the Appian Way (instead of finishing Taming the Mind) for the benefit of a friend, who spotted it and was immediately hooked after he read the introduction in the few minutes we had before a class started.
As you might guess from its title, Waiter Rant consists of stories told by an experienced waiter who has worked in a couple of restaurants for nearly a decade. It reminded me much of the NPR show This American Life, where every episode consists of first-person stories about a theme. Although I've listened to TAL for years, I approach every episode cautiously: it's a poignant show, a very human show. When it's funny, it's tear-inducing, gasping for air funny. And when it's sad, disturbing, or maddening, it hits the same way. There's no hint of manufactured comedy or tragedy in either This American Life or Waiter Rant, making both the comedy, tragedy, and otherwise more powerful. Although this is a very funny book, sometimes the humor is bitter, and it's always served with thought-provoking musings by the Waiter.
Our host -- not to be confused with his occupation of waiter, peon, and quasi-manager -- recounts the near-decade he spent working in two restaurants of varying quality, although neither of them seem like very pleasant places to work. Although some of the chapters are straightforward story-telling, most chapters consist of stories told about a given theme -- the narrator recounting them to himself in thought as he is involved in something similar. For instance, in "The Back Alley of Influence", he muses on the hidden side of restaurant life: just as customers will never see the back door of the restaurant with its overflowing dumpster, nor will they ever really realize anything about the lives the waiters live or on how much they depend on illegal immigrants.
Waiter Rant is definitely a recommendation, even if you don't make a habit of frequenting restaurants. Just be prepared for the authenticity.