If you”ve done it, then you know how it is, and it has changed the way you dine out forever. You are aware of the subtle psychological games that servers play with their guests. You can recognize the miserable families or bickering Valentine”s Day dates at your tables. You are familiar with the curse of a slow kitchen, the horrors of Sunday nights, the people-who-want-constant-attention-in-the-form-of-drink-refills and the sexual tension that runs rampant through restaurant staff.
Waiting tables is one of the most popular jobs for young people it offers great pay, immediate cash, and lucrative nighttime shifts. In fact, many people find this so appealing that they end up waiting tables for their entire lives. Debra Ginsberg is one of those people, and she has written it all down in her memoir “Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress.”
As Ginsberg states, late in her novel, “Waiting tables had supported me nicely for a long time. So long, in fact, that I”d made no attempt to do anything else.”
The book is an engaging and a fun read. It chronicles nearly 20 years of waiting tables, from the Catskills luncheonette owned with her parents to a five-star Italian restaurant. As she switches locations, restaurants, boyfriends and roommates, one thing remains the same: She is always still waiting.
She chronicles a “behind-the-scenes” look at restaurants that will seem familiar to fellow servers and offer a titillating view for those who”ve never ventured past the dining room. She recognizes that a restaurant is not only a place to work, but also a perfect lab in which to investigate the human condition.
“As a general rule, consumers expect their servers to be emotionally available enough to pamper them into a feeling of well-being that will last for at least the duration of the meal,” she recalls. “I doubt that some of these patrons would expect the same from their closest relatives.”
In the epilogue, Ginsberg recalls meeting a waitress at a book signing in New York City. “I bought a copy of your book,” she said, “and all the waitresses I work with bought a copy, too. It is our bible.” It is not hard to see how this could happen.
The stories of sex in the walk-in freezer, the terror that is Mother”s Day, presenting dirty silverware to guests and the false personalities servers develop for the table. Although the strength of Ginsberg”s anecdotes could carry the book, the addition of her personal life makes every page richer.
“Waiting” is not a literary masterpiece, but it is an admirable and well-written chronicle of a profession and a life. Debra Ginsberg”s voice is logical and consistent her story is entertaining from start to finish. And we are constantly aware of the double meaning behind her title waiting tables as we wait for our “real” lives to begin.