Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress

Debra Ginsberg, Author
Debra Ginsberg, Author HarperCollins Publishers $22 (286p) ISBN 978-0-06-019479-6
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 440 pages - 978-0-7531-9673-1
Hardcover - 440 pages - 978-0-7531-9672-4
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-06-093281-7
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-06-176023-5
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Ginsberg has spent nearly 20 years, more on than off, as a waitress, developing a love/hate relationship with a career most of her college-educated peers see either as a way station or a pink-collar province. Though neither a fully ripe memoir nor a truly spicy dish on the food biz (for that, see Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential; Forecasts, April 24), her collection of anecdotes, covering subjects from her father's luncheonette to fancy restaurants, conveys the unpredictability and humanity of this humble but essential work. Ginsberg sketches co-workers, both lively and burnt out, and her inspired and irresponsible bosses. A good view of the ""parallel mating dances of staff and patrons"" is one perk of her perch; she posits that the risk-taking, gregarious types who work for tips foster mutual attractions. In the ""feudal pyramid"" of the waitstaff, busboys are at the bottom and managers at the top, but waitresses must keep both happy to make sure things run smoothly and that tips ensue. Some scenes are wild: as a cocktail waitress during manic ""Buck Night,"" she saw patrons drink the potent (and free) ""Bar Mat,"" made up of bar spillage. Readers might pick up some pointers: bad-tipping regulars will suffer subtle server sabotage; customers who harangue staff for decaf might end up with regular. Ginsberg's more personal segments, which can be aimless, portray an intelligent single mom, fiercely committed to her son, with worries about her potential as a writer and her future. She quits waitressing only to return a year later, concluding that ""the act of waiting itself is an active one"" and that there is beauty and simplicity in the small acts of her work. (Aug.)
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