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Existential Waiter Explores Class Struggle in New York Times


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What do you get when you cross a captain at a Michelin 3-star/NYT 4-star (11 Madison Park, apparently) with an impressively degreed would-be intellectual?  A thousand-word waiter rant that name checks Adam Smith and Karl Marx  and touches on estrangement, restroom sex and loutish one-percenters. You get Dinner and Deception.

"The nightly grotesquerie was almost exciting. But something happened after spending too many nights delivering four­ or five­ figure checks on silver trays. Estrangement did set in. I imagine pick­up artists experience something similar. You learn what people want from you, and, for a while, you get a high making all the right gestures: the perfectly timed joke, the wry smile. But, deep down, you feel nothing. Until something forces you back to reality again."

Having once been a waiter in a fine dining restaurant who felt I was in a job somewhat below my station (I wouldn't feel that way now and I wouldn't have felt that way then had I seen it as a good-paying step up in a profession I enjoyed as opposed to something I was doing because I'd been thrown out of college), I wonder if his attitude is fueled by the same resentment I felt -- apparently his philosophy degree from St. John's (the Annapolis one) and his fine arts and journalism masters from The New School have left him waiting tables and, now, working as an administrative assistant.

On the other hand, his job is much more "mechanized" than mine was.  It seems that, these days, being a captain in a 3-star is very similar to being the waiter at Cheesecake Factory in that there are dozens of tasks, queries and announcements that must be executed just so. (I notice this as a customer sometimes and I find it a touch dehumanizing, even from that vantage point)  And The Rich seem to be much more boorish than my rich customers ever were.  Of course the term hadn't been invented yet,  but it would have been unusual for a guest at Le Pavillon to chant "we are the one percent," and no one ever expected us to store their baby in the coat check.

But the guy also seems to have a joy deficit.  Surely, there is some joy in being part of somebody's perfect -- or at least memorable -- meal.  What I remember about my brief tenure in a tuxedo, translating the all-French menu, isn't the occasional jerk, but the half drunk guy who beckoned me over and whispered gleefully "this is fuckin' amazing."  I thought the chef was crazy and detested the wife/manager, but I was proud to work there and be a part of a restaurant that people wrote about in national magazines and pretty regularly delighted people.

The political liberal in me can't help but be a little repulsed at the conspicuous consumption in the face of an economy that is failing most Americans (although I was hunting for a reservation at EMP or Le Bernadin three days ago).  The formerly frustrated would-be political professional understands the frustration that the would-be journalist must feel as he changes into his work shoes, checks his tie and sits down for a mediocre shift meal every night.  And who wouldn't be driven slightly batty at the thought of playing the exact same role, and reading the exact same lines on an endless off-Broadway run?

But, really, the guy strikes me a something of a killjoy and his essay left me cold.

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What a brutish story.  After reading I could only reflect on this well named place for food and drink.

So this reminds me of my early days doing commercial real estate brokerage.  Toward the early days of that period I began transacting "deals" on behalf of a local "rich guy" landlord.  He was king.  He had partners and building managers ...but he was the "king".  There was one somewhat complicated transaction.  He wanted to get an existing tenant to relocate and replace that space with some other tenant.  I did all the work.  I got the existing tenant a good deal elsewhere, found a replacement tenant, worked through negotiations with those two parties and the "rich guy's" partners.

Meanwhile he was vacationing at a warm weather luxury resort.  I'd call down there frequently during the process.  Finally every party agreed to everything.  I called down to the resort.  The call went to his room.  He was swimming laps in the pool.  The call was redirected to the lifeguard who gave him the phone.   He answered, panting a bit from the exertion:

"......name omitted"....I got the deal.  so and so and so and so and so all agreed.  Here are the terms.  Its just what you wanted.   Amidst the slight panting I heard this.  "Great, Dave.  Make the deal.  I need the money!!!!"

WHAT--- (I said, under my breath).   "name omitted"  Come on up here and sign the deal.  I need the money"

And he arrived back in DC (in his time frame).  So to his office I went...with paperwork in hand.  Big power office.  

He had a smile or smirk on his face.   "Dave.  I changed my mind!!!!".    WHAT (I said under my breath)   (aside--he had a different deal he wanted in that space so he could get a different transaction completed---and little did I know).      He smiled.  "We'll make another deal".

WTF!!!!!!!!  (again said under my breath)

Its good to be the king!

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Here is one of the comments to the article. (example #9,372,932 on why I hate people)


New York 18 hours ago 

I was working at another NY steakhouse, this time as a manager, and noticed a lady at a table of five visibly choking. She was well dressed, affluent and at a table of same. The gentleman to her right was gently patting her back as she began to turn blue. I quickly came over, assessed the situation and administered the Heimlich maneuver. She regurgitated the lump of food and took a deep breath. I asked the gentleman for his napkin to wipe the vomit from her mouth. I gave the napkin to a busser and offered her water. A few minutes passed and I returned to check on her. She stated she was fine. I never received a thank you which is fine but the gentleman looked sternly at me and asked in a annoyed tone "Are you going to bring me another napkin!". I've worked in NY restaurants for over a decade and this article hits home for those of us who know the other side.

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