Monday, December 10, 2012

Waiting in restaurants

"There are three kinds of waitresses," Garry Shandling used to say, "the good, the bad ... and the kind I always get." In her memoir Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, Debra Ginsberg suggests there are actually just two kinds: those who accept that this is their life and just get on with making a living (you can usually find these at Bob Evans and most family restaurants) and those who wait on customers while they wait for their real lives to begin (the kind you are more likely to find at Applebees, Cheddars and similar restaurants).

For two decades, Ginsberg was a waitress of the second kind. Her whole family was in the restaurant business, and so, beginning as a teenager, she worked in her father's restaurants and various others, mostly in Oregon and California. She believed her true calling was to become a writer, but she wrote very little and after her son was born and she became a single mother, she wrote nothing at all. Serving drinks and dinners to other people paid the bills.

Eventually she realized that waiting tables provided all the material she needed for her to end her other wait and start writing. The resultant book, published in 2000, provides fascinating reading for anyone who either serves food in a restaurant or eats it. She tells some interesting and often hilarious stories, reveals what goes on behind the scenes (who knew a restaurant could be such a sexual hothouse?) and even critiques several movies, such as Five Easy Pieces and As Good as It Gets, that have waitresses as important characters.

Ginsberg has since written two more memoirs and a novel, but writing is a tough way to make a living and she realizes that at some point she may be forced to go back to waiting ... and waiting.

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