Dining with Headhunters
Back in the mid-1990s, over a decade before he decided to really screw dad’s legacy by embracing Obama and joining the Axis of Davids (Frum, Gergen and pants inspector Brooks), Christopher Buckley wrote an amusingly droll piece titled “Introducing Yourself to the Waiter.” If you’re familiar with the trope of the overly-friendly California waiter who begins the meal by showing you the photos of his kids, discussing his recent mortgage refinance, debating which mutual funds to own, and then, finally, after all of the introductory rituals are out of the way, gets around to asking you what you what you’d like to eat, you’ll enjoy Buckley’s article. It took the overly-friendly waiter scenario to its natural conclusion: “One person I know always eats a full meal before going to the restaurant, leaving him free to concentrate on developing a personal relationship with the server.”
Kyle Smith has been developing personal relationships of a different sort with waiters this week. As a result of a piece he wrote in the New York Post last week titled, “You got served! The hostage drama of dining out in New York City,” he’s been running the hate mail he’s been receiving from Big Apple waiters on his blog.
In the Post, Kyle wrote:
The worst part of dealing with American waitrons is we’re forced to be nice to these creepy ex-darlings of their high-school theater departments because of the unspoken hostage drama that’s taking place behind the scenes with our food.
It’s as exhausting as pretending your friend’s baby is cute. Your mouth actually starts to hurt from smiling.
“Of course you spit in the food if you don’t like the customer,” I once said to a girl I knew who had been a waitress for years.
“Nah,” she said. “If we didn’t like someone, we’d just throw his steak on the floor.”
Which is why I’m being so nice to you, Jason! In reality, I can’t stand you, you twerp! As you’ll find out when you see my tip!
And what’s with the squatting while you’re telling me about the specials? I know the waiter’s handbook says you get more tips that way because you remind us of cute, subservient creatures we actually like, such as golden retrievers. But it’s juvenile. Stand up and be a man. As much of a man as it’s possible to be while enthusing over whipped-feta crostini.
Jason, if you were at all useful, you would at least keep anyone from clearing away my plates while I’m still eating off them.
I realize you want to hustle me out of here so you can replace with a new customer. I’m a capitalist. (And in France, I’ve been baffled to get turned away from an entirely empty establishment at 6 p.m. because all tables are already reserved — for diners who intend to show up at 7:30 or 8 or 8:15. Don’t they want my money in the meantime?)
Nor am I sentimental about lingering for hours in a restaurant. After a while, the way everyone seems as though they’re determined to act out the concept of “Having a wonderful time!” starts to creep me out.
But, Jason and Co., it’s been only eight minutes since you set my plate down. There’s still food on it. There’s still a fork in my hand. Do I need to actually hunch over my meal and make snarling sounds to keep your busboy buzzards at bay?
In other words, Yes. I am. STILL WORKING ON THAT. THE WAY YOU’RE WORKING ON MY LAST NERVE.
The key word there is nerve -- Kyle certainly struck one amongst the waiters who read it, leading to angry exchanges such as these:
YOU were the abortion I was supposed to go through with that summer! I had a hunch you would grow up to be a half-assed sensationalist for the Post, and not a real human being with standards and a sense of decency. F**k. Please tell me more about your trip to France and how much your trout costs.
PS Thank you for being the only grown up in NYC who has the guts to tackle high school theater jokes. You make me so proud, little man.
I work hard every night serving you douche. Go f–k yourself you sanctamonious nazi. Kill yourself and do us all a favor.
Subject line: F*****************k Yoooooooooooou!
Wow, you are the most pretentious a**hole ever brought to my attention! You had better learn to cook, because you are no longer welcome in any restaurant, anywhere. You probably would’ve owned a bunch of slaves in the old south, just to beat for fun. You are disgusting, congratulations!
Kyle promises a response to his waiters readers tomorrow in the Post. Pass the popcorn, garcon.
Related: Speaking of food, on the PJ Lifestyle blog, Bryan Preston lists "The 10 Best Places to Eat in Austin, Texas."
Update: Kyle's response is now online at the Post: "I think we agree: France is better: Despite their anger, many waiters agree with me — the American serving system is wrong."