Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg

Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra GinsbergWaiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg
Published: Harper Perennial (2001), Paperback, 298pg
Source: Gift
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction

A veteran waitress dishes up a spicy and robust account of life as it really exists behind kitchen doors.

Part memoir, part social commentary, part guide to how to behave when dining out, Debra Ginsberg's book takes readers on her twentyyear journey as a waitress at a soap-operatic Italian restaurant, an exclusive five-star dining club, the dingiest of diners, and more. While chronicling her evolution as a writer, Ginsberg takes a behind-the-scenes look at restaurant life-revealing that yes, when pushed, a server will spit in food, and, no, that's not really decaf you're getting-and how most people in this business are in a constant state of waiting to do something else. (from Goodreads)

Things I learned from (re)reading this book: restaurants are full of people having sex (hopefully not on your food); waitresses don’t get enough public affection for all the work they do; waiting requires lots of skills I don’t possess (nor care to, really), including what’s basically telepathy; once you’re a server you’re a server for life, apparently.

As a memoir this book is all over the place. It’s not JUST about Debra Ginsberg’s life as a waitress, it’s also about waiting as a whole industry. It’s got social commentary. It’s got lots of behind the scenes restuarant life stuff. It’s got so much other-than-memoir stuff in it that if you’re looking for a pure waiting memoir book, with lots of things about weird customers and dealing with chefs and that’s IT, you might be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you want memories balanced with facts and insights and other stuff, you’d be very happy with this book!

Myself, I liked it. I do wish there were more personal details about places and people (customers), something like Kitchen Confidential only from the server side, but I still enjoyed reading Waiting. I like reading about people who have done jobs that I wouldn’t normally think about (like chefs or janitors or train conductors) if they can make it compelling, and Debra Ginsberg made serving a compelling thing to read about.

My favorite parts were DG’s personal memories, like the couple of chapters spent on her teenager years waiting in her parent’s restaurant. It was written so clearly that I could picture it in my head– like a movie! Which was really cool, and which shows what kind of good writing DG can do.

The parts I liked the least were the fifty chapters (it seemed like) spent on statistics about servers and people who serve and the census and whatever. I understand why it’s there– more people have worked as waiters than you’d think! and they make less money than you’d think, too– but it was still kinda boring.

Like I said before: it needs more personal, specific, “I worked here and saw this” stuff. I wanted the Anthony Bourdain equivalent of a waitress, but that isn’t this book. And that’s not a bad thing! It is what it is, and for a part memoir/part other stuff book, it’s pretty darned good. But I do need to track down a waiting memoir with a bit more kick to it, I think.

Read: March 10, 2013


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