Monday, August 18, 2008

Take a Look! It's in a Book! It's Reading Rainbow!

Earlier this summer, some of you might remember that I posted about some books I had read. I read, "The Rapture of Canaan" and "Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal." They are both very good books, but in different ways.

Anyway, I kind of had to take a break from reading while I was in Illinois watching my nephews. They would wake me up far earlier than I would ever wake up if I were left to my own devices, and so I could not stay awake late into the night reading. But, now that I'm back at Seminary, I am reading a new book for fun. It is called, "Waiter Rant-Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter."

This book was written by the man who has maintained Waiter Rant for the past four years or so. His blog has been in my "favorites" list for quite some time now. He has blogged mostly about his experiences as a waiter in high end restaurants in New York City and the surrounding areas. Because his blog is wildly popular, and because it garnered much attention, he was given a book deal.

I am almost finished with the book, and for the most part I have enjoyed it. He tells good stories about the restaurant industry; stories that even I, who worked in a plain-jane restaurant (not a chain, but not a dump, either) can relate to. The stories The Waiter (as he goes by) tells do a nice job of linking his experiences to the outside world. He even tells a bit of history here and there and weaves analogies from waiting into these historical concepts. It brings his material alive and helps people realize that restaurants are not separate from society, but rather reflect the attitudes and behaviors of society.

However, there are some points in the book that I think could have been reworked to make it a notch better. For example, The Waiter talks about entitlement, which is a very real thing waiters and waitresses experience when dealing with the public. When people go out to eat, some of them think that the wait staff's sole purpose in life is to bring them their meals. Well, that may be their purpose while at work, many of the people who work in restaurants are also putting themselves through school, or waiting tables as a second job to save up because times are tough, or whatever. Entitlement is really out there. But the thing is, as much as The Waiter complains about it, it seemed to me, in certain places, that he exhibited these behaviors himself. At one point, he was talking about the chef making the staff some lunch before the shift started. He asked the chef to make tacos (the chef was from Mexico, I think), and then, when the tacos came out, he said, "Finally!" It just struck me as a bit odd that he would display that sort of behavior in the middle of his schpiel on the evils of acting entitled. Maybe I just took it wrong, but that's how it came across to me.

There are a few other examples in the book that seem to me to show how The Waiter does not speak to the situations of wait staff who do not work in high-end establishments, and is, in fact, much more off in his assumptions about them than he would probably like to admit. He seemed to imply that you have to work in a high-end place to make any kind of money. Granted, my time at Restaurant didn't garner me LOTS of money, but I had enough to cover what I needed, and even to save quite a bit every week. Maybe that's because I'm cheap, though. The point is, you don't have to work in a restaurant that charges thirty bucks an entree to get by.

And lastly, the thing that probably bothers me the most (because the other things aren't THAT bad; simply observations I have made), is that there are LOTS of typographical and grammatical errors all throughout the book. I think I found nine errors by the time I reached page 102. And I've found a couple more since then. I'm a bit of a neurotic when it comes to proper spelling and grammar, and it just frustrates me knowing that people make GOOD money to EDIT these things, and yet, so many errors slip by. This is the first book I have ever read with SO many blatantly obvious errors.

With all this talk about the shortfalls of the book, though, I want to put it out there that I am indeed enjoying the read. It gives me a glimpse of what the wait staff in high-end establishments have to deal with. Additionally, The Waiter has some really interesting reflections and observations because of his background of working in the mental health field, and of having been a Catholic seminarian. I would recommend the book to those who aren't fanatics about spelling and grammar. I would especially recommend the book to people who eat out at restaurants often. I was very fortunate during my time as a waitress because about 90% of my customers were quite tolerable. Many of them were actually a delight for me to serve. Very few customers prompted my inward groaning. What's nice is that The Waiter talks about the good, the bad, and the ugly; it's not just a complain-fest about the dining public. So, if you're interested in finding a good read, I recommend, "Waiter Rant-Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter."

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