Many people can tell horror stories about their teenage or college stints waiting tables. For Debra Ginsberg, struggling writer and single mother, waitressing has been a means of survival -- and she has the scars to prove it.
In Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress -- part memoir, part social commentary, part guide on how to behave when dining out-Ginsberg takes readers on an intimate journey of her twenty years as a waitress at the dingiest of diners, a soap-operatic Italian restaurant, an exclusive five-star dining club, and more. While chronicling her parallel evolution as a writer and single mother, the book also 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 at how most people in this business are in a constant state of waiting to do something else.
Colorful, insightful, and often irreverent, Ginsberg's stories truly capture the spirit of the universal things she's learned about human nature, interpersonal relationships, the frightening things that go on in the kitchen, romantic hopes dashed and rebuilt, and all of the frustrating and funny moments in this life. Waiting is for everyone who has had to wait for their life to begin -- only to realize, suddenly, that they're living it.
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In a truly just world, everyone would have to wait tables for at least six months, just to know what it's like. Failing that, we have writer-waiter Debra Ginsberg's tasty memoir to remind us about life on the other side of those swinging doors. Horror stories? After 20 years of serving other people's food, she's got 'em--and being handed a drunk's vomit-soaked napkins certainly fits the bill. But even though she expresses the usual frustrations with bad tippers and control freaks, in the long run Ginsberg is anything but bitter. In fact, she recently left her publishing job to return to waiting tables, hooked on the freedom, spare time, and ready cash the lifestyle provides. Of course, there are other perks too. Sex thrives in the close quarters and steamy atmosphere of a typical restaurant (not to mention with the high-drama personalities who work there). Fans of Kitchen Confidential will be relieved to know there's as much bad behavior among the floor staff as there is in the back of the house. As in that book, Ginsberg also relates some eyebrow-raising tales about what can happen before your food gets to your table. (The moral here: "It really does pay to be nice to your server.") But Waiting is far more than just a sexual soap opera or a cautionary guide for dining out; it's also the story of one woman's coming of age, most of which just happens to take place while she's wearing an apron. During her tenure as a waitress, Ginsberg thrives as a single mother and comes into her own as a writer--and waiting (as she suggestively calls it) helps her do both. Most of us (including waiters) think of the profession as a stopgap, not a career, but what happens on the way to somewhere else, Ginsberg writes, is every bit as important as the final destination: "Perhaps the most valuable lesson I'd learned was that the act of waiting itself is an active one. That period of time between the anticipation and the beginning of life's events is when everything really happens--the time when actual living occurs." --Mary ParkAbout the Author:
Debra Ginsberg is the author of Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress and Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World. A graduate of Reed College, she is a contributor to NPR's All Things Considered and the San Diego Union-Tribune "Books" section.
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