Friday, April 28, 2006

It's hard to be close, and then they are gone

As a long time waiter, I have seen a lot of people come and go. I have trained hundreds of people how to wait tables, and dozens of managers. The restaurant industry has an incredible rate of turn over as a whole. For most, waiting tables is a life stage, not a life style.

Wait staff have their own culture that those who have never done this job would not understand. We have our own language (generally code speak for which customer is an ass or which table has a hot boy/girl sitting in it) that is sometimes just a type of glance or the way we shake our heads. With that comes a familiarity and of sorts a fraternity. Bonding takes place at an artificial and accelerated pace. Within a few weeks the new people are fully assimiliated and enculturated if they are well liked. They'll be out at the bars after work with everyone, and doing things together on time off (boating, golf and the like). If you can handle your section, you'll be "let into the club" sooner than others. Some people never get in, and some people don't want in. Most staffs have multiple clubs, but if you are in one, the others generally will let you in as well. It's almost like an alliance of sorts, and they look out for each other moreso than the average fellow co-worker.

At the same time as these bonds are being formed, the are also broken with similiar speed and frequency. People move onto other jobs, get fired or whatever else causes them to leave a staff (jail, deportation, sanity...). The ties are generally quickly severed and replaced with someone else. It is almost like serial dating.

At the center of it all is usually an alpha male of some sort. Somehow this is the guy who (it seems) has slept with half the staff at any given time. They are the constant that all the chaos moves around. New people anchor to them, and they are one of the few who can cast someone off from the group who still remains on staff. As a waiter, you don't want to be shunned by your co-workers professionally or socially, as either likely means you'll be getting a new job soon.

I don't know what the point of this all was, more brain droppings than anything. Anything you'd like to contribute or contest?


Andrew Leonard said...

Nice post. Dunno if you've seen this post from Blagg's Blog, but it's a totally relevant dissection of restaurant culture. A guaranteed laugh (and sometimes a pang of the 'too close to home' variety). Check it out:

Lobster Boy said...

Thanks for the tip! I've never seen Blaggblogg so I'll check it out. I always like finding fellow servers who blog.

Lobster Boy