***Dave Hill's Reviews > Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter

Waiter Rant by The Waiter
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's review
Dec 14, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, text
Read in August, 2008

(Original review http://hill-kleerup.org/blog/2008/08/...)

Another blog-to-book deal, “The Waiter” mixes autobiographical angst with an unflattering look at what life is like behind the order pad at a nice New York restaurant.

Overall: Good
Writing: Fair
Re-Readability: Good
Info: Faboo

I’m a long-time read of the Waiter Rant blog, so when The Waiter (he remains, by choice, anonymous, for obvious reasons) announced the book deal, I was right there pre-ordering on Amazon.

Info: Ever wanted to know what goes on behind your waiter’s smile — and behind the doors to the kitchen, the store-room, the manager’s office, and anywhere else that is out of your immediate sight at a restaurant? Here’s the answer, and it often isn’t pretty. Living a high-stress, low-pay, out-of-sync life, restaurant workers aren’t always the nicest of people — which makes tossing the approximately 20% of customers who are true assholes into the mix a fiery (and wincingly entertaining) mixture.

Over the course of the book, you’ll also learn such things as why you should tip (and treat 15-20% as the minimum if you really ever want to come back again and be treated well), why you should not torque off your waiter (and what actions are liable to do so), what to look for in a bad restaurant (either as a patron or as a job applicant), why Mothers Day and Valentines Day are really poor choices for eating out, and a host of other useful info.

Three philosophical lessons come out in the book, though, worth consideration. The first is that, while most of the stories are about jerks (as Sartre says, “Hell is other people”), there are also many moments of the reverse, of good and truth and beauty in the crucible of the dining table (as the Waiter says, “And, sometimes, so is Heaven.”)

The second is, we should all be nice to one another. Or, at least, not boobs. Ninety-nine percent of the “bad actors” in this book are that way because they are being selfish, “entitled” idiots, either abusive to their dinner companions, their waitstaff (or both), or their employees. While the Waiter makes it clear that this is probably just because of their own inner insecurities and the stresses of our modern culture, he also makes it clear that payback (karmic or gustatorial) is usually a bitch. We should be nice to one another, especially to the “little people,” both because we should, and because if we don’t we’re liable to discover just how much power the “little people” have to make our own lives miserable.

The third theme (and one of the books’ weaknesses) has to do with pursuing one’s dreams, overcoming one’s fears, taking the proverbial leap of faith and overcoming fear of failure. Good messages (if sometimes hamfistedly presented).

Writing: The Waiter’s blog is usually by turns funny, poignant, melodramatic, smutty, and brilliant. Alas, the book suffers from not trusting the blog format (by recasting and melding blog entries into an autobiographical timeline interspersed with timeless tales of customers (and waiters and owners and kitchen staff) behaving badly.

The problem is, reading about the Waiter’s angst at growing old in a dead-end job gets, in this format, a bit old itself, largely because of the repetition (stressful shift, bad night, drink too much, smoke too much, feel depressed over being a waiter, gotta get up tomorrow). What was needed here was at least one or two more passes at editing to tighten things up, and a higher incidence of droll anecdotes (from a couple of years of regular blog posts) to personal musings.

It’s not bad, it just doesn’t feel quite as polished as it should. Part of that’s this being a first work, certainly (and I’m rooting for a sequel), but in the meantime this book suffers for it.

Re-Readability: Oh, yeah. I’ll read it again. For its various flaws, there’s nothing that makes one feel better than reading about people who are far more nasty, brutish, abusive, self-important and impolite than you are, and how they often come to a bad (or at least mocked) end.

Overall: You won’t look at a waiter the same way again. And that’s probably a good thing.

Well recommended.

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