Dead Waiter Doppelganger

A couple of years ago we hired a waiter, whom I will call Carl, who arrived with impeccable references. A Swiss citizen, Carl had worked in some of the finest establishments all over the world. An older man, in his fifties, he knew everything there was to know about waiting tables. He could rattle off wine vintages, discuss the finer points of French and Russian service, spoke three languages, could debone a filet of sole and prepare flambé tableside. The man knew his shit.

Erudite and able to converse about a wide range of topics, I found he was a pleasure to talk to: a welcome change from the coarser discourse usually found in the back of the house. Yet there was a sadness that clung to him like tobacco smoke. Divorced, childless, living alone in a small apartment in a downscale neighborhood, he had the air of a man who accepted that his moment in life had come and gone.

As we walked to our cars one night at the end of a long shift I noticed we were wearing the same exact beige jackets, smoking the same exact cigarettes, and doing the exact same job. I looked at this guy, twenty years my senior, and wondered if I was going to end up exactly like him. I felt I was in a bad Star Trek episode catching a glimpse of my future self in some sort of time machine. The question was could I, like Captain Kirk, change the future? The thought disturbed me. I went home.

Then one day Carl had a problem with a table. Two nasty old biddies, festooned in gaudy jewelry and even uglier hats, were eating lunch and were unhappy with their meal. Carl went over to resolve the problem but they bitched and sent the food back. As he turned away, plates in hand, the nastier of the two, mistaking his Swiss accent for a German one, hissed, “He’s a Nazi dear I just know it.” Carl turned around and archly replied, “There is no need to be rude madam!” and strode away.

Two days later the owner got a letter from the aforementioned biddies demanding Carl be fired. The owner laughed and told him not to worry about it. Carl was, however, shaken. I bought him a drink at the end of the shift but he seemed to be in a fog.

The next day, Friday, I was surprised to see Carl had failed to arrive for his shift. I called his home but no answer. The following day he didn’t report for work either. Maybe he quit. Maybe he was on a drunken bender. On Sunday evening the owner, who had a sense something was amiss, called the cops. They found Carl. He had been dead in his apartment for two days. Heart attack.

The owner, in typical Italian bride at every wedding / corpse at every funeral fashion, freaked the fuck out. While I was at a table was about to regale another table of overfed aging yuppies about the specials, he grabbed my arm and whispered in my ear, “Carl is dead man. He’s fucking deaaaaaad!” The news barely had time to register when I looked down at the impatient upturned faces waiting to hear what culinary delights awaited them. Dead. Carl is dead. In one shocking moment my fears of ending up like him took on a new urgency and I was insensate. I described the specials on autopilot while my mind tried to process the news. After I finished a shrewish woman asked me to repeat the specials – again. I asked her to excuse me, that I had just heard a colleague of mine had died and I needed to compose myself. Without missing a beat the bitch said, “Ok, but is that striped bass fried or grilled? The withering stare I gave her, coupled with my abrupt departure from the table killed any chance of a tip from those assholes but I didn’t care. The rest of the night was like serving food in a funeral parlor. After shift the entire wait staff got stinking drunk.

There was no wake to go to. No funeral to attend. Carl was cremated the next day and his ashes FedExed to his gray haired old mother in Switzerland. It was as if he never existed.

Time, however, marched on and the jokes, of course, soon followed.

“This place will fucking kill you.”

“Better tell the customers it wasn’t the food.”

“The only way you can get a Saturday night shift in this dump is if someone dies.”

“Can I have his wine opener?” Where did he stash all his pens?”

“Some people will do anything to get out of working Saturday night.”

“Carl’s ghost did it.” – used to excuse every imaginable fuck up.

I told the owner he should write a letter to Carl’s old Nazi hunting bitches stating that:

“At our restaurant we take customer suggestions very seriously. You will no doubt be gratified to hear that the waiter in question no longer works for us, He is dead. I hope this resolves the matter to your satisfaction. You dumb cunt.”

Yet, after all the jokes and mythologizing, I was unable to shake the preternatural sense that I had seen a glimpse of my possible future. The nagging question that faced Captain Kirk still faces me. Can I change it?

Too you Carl. Votre’ Sante.

35 thoughts on “Dead Waiter Doppelganger”

  1. Sofedup says:

    Not if you don’t think you can. But of course you can, It’s as simple as quitting and finding another profession.

  2. asd says:


  3. Anonymous says:

    He’s a writer now, I hope it does well 🙂

  4. ASD says:

    Sad story. I’m sorry.

  5. Barbara says:

    Do you touch on everything I have been through? wow…I went through much the same thing and wondered exactly the same things..
    Just started your book, by page 8 I was laughing so hard I was crying and my face hurt. I think I sold around 15 copies of it at Red Lobster where I went for a dinner feed tonight…ALL the waitstaff came over to have a look see. I have the night off tonight, am brewing a pot of tea and can hardly wait to sit down and read the rest of your fabulous book. Go Waiter! Can’t tell you how many times I said to myself and anyone who would listen, that someone should write a book about this industry…we all have so many stories to tell. Thanks.

  6. Waiter in the 203 says:

    The owner should have def sent those bitch’s a letter. Karma is a mother fucker and I hope those cunt’s get what they deserve in the end. Fuck yuppie piece of shit scabs.

  7. Anonymous says:

    im surprised to hear that there are still people like those two bitches who will discriminate a person just because of their accent…good thing im not from where they came from.

  8. Bill says:

    Just finished reading your book. Im a 58 year old retired firefighter and am currently working as a bartender/server. While the job has its good points i could have chosen a much easier way to supplement my pension.Good luck to you. Bill

  9. Bill says:

    Just finished reading your book. Im a 58 year old retired firefighter and am currently working as a bartender/server. While the job has its good points i could have chosen a much easier way to supplement my pension.Good luck to you. Bill P.S. If your ever in chicago stop by for a dirty martini

  10. Craig Duckett says:

    I was bartending at a place in downtown Seattle and was friends with all the wait staff, particularly Hage who’d become a drinking buddy, a jazz buddy, and a horse track buddy.

    One evening I got to work after a particularly long three-day weekend, and unbeknownst to me Hage had died of a heart attack two days before. Hearing folks talking about him, at the first mention of Hage’s name, I went off on my usual line of comradely bullshit and started to bad-mouth him from here to Sunday–all the while not knowing he’d died! The looks I was receiving from the staff and customers alike were priceless: bugged-eyed, mouths hanging open, ashen faced. Finally, someone tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear the news of Hage’s premature passing. Now I was the one who was bug-eyed, mouth-open, ashen-faced. All I could think of saying was: “That’s Hage, for you. Always knew how to spoil a punchline.”

  11. Beth says:

    Working at a place in Vegas, a girl I worked with (who shall I say, liked her guys a little “thuggy”) was shot and killed by some drug dealing friend of her boyfried just because she was in the apartment. I remember working that night after they had announced her death at pre-shift. It was like there was a pall over the whole restaurant. It is so hard to care whether the trailer tourist trash got their side of honey mustard that night. What a waste

  12. Joolz says:

    In the words of a nasal voiced character on ‘Friends’ “Ohhh Myyy Gaawd!”. This also happened at a coffee and dessert place I worked at when I was 17. I had given notice and at the start of my last shift there ever, my boss tells me that a co-worker and friend had committed suicide the night before. I proceeded to put on my smiley face all day, barely managing to keep my tears out of the yuppies cafe au laits whilst periodically slipping out to the dive bar across the street for many shots of Jack Daniels, only to have my boss exclaim to me at the end of the day “I can’t believe you aren’t more upset, I thought she was a good friend of yours!”. Perhaps I should have been sobbing in front of the customers all day, although it never did occur to me to inquire about her stash of pens…

  13. KOCKMASTER says:


  14. Kerry says:

    As a server, i beg to differ. Not only do most servers only get paid around $2 an hour we never see most of it because it gets taken out for taxes. ($o.oo checks are the usual) We do alot of the bitch work too. Besides serving your ungrateful ass, there is a shitload of sidework throughout the restaurant that we have to do. We’re on our feet all day/night. Yes…we get in trouble if we’re caught sitting down unless we’re clocked out.
    Also…the kitchen gets paid pretty well. And the busboys get paid more per hour than servers. And at the end of the night, we tip them out.

    Second, i don’t serve because it’s an awesome job. I go to school full-time and this job just happens to have hours that work with my school schedule and enables me to pay rent.

    Third it’s customers just like you that make brought us to this rant. Take a walk in our shoes before making such ignorant comments.

  15. Calabaza says:

    Kockmaster, you have no idea of what are you talking about.I’ve been a waitress in Mexico, and although maybe we have a different sistem, i have to tell you, the work waiters do is the same everywhere and no like other works. It is physical and psicological. Even when wea are sad, upset or tired, we have to smile at you people and give you our best service. Of course there are harder jobs, but i’m pretty sure you have no idea about them either. Now that i have stopped being a waiter I’m more greatful than before I started that job, because now I know they really deserve it. And, at least in Mexico, they have to split their tips with kitchen and bar dudes. so everything is even.

  16. Micros says:


    Sofedup wrote on 04/15/08 at 9:42 am :

    “Not if you don’t think you can. But of course you can, It’s as simple as quitting and finding another profession.”

    And so he did.

    Can I?

  17. Kallay says:


    I know that this is probably random but I came across this blog while getting my news fix from I am an interning in Mauritius right now but while in college I worked at a restaurant. It is awful how racist/prejudiced people can be.

    I was not a waitress in the typical sense – it was a moderately priced establishment similar to Panera Bread (though NOT Panera Bread). We had a private room that one could call an reserve in the back if you had a big group coming. Usually, this meant church groups, business men on lunch breaks, and the like.

    One day, someone called to reserve the room and said that she was a member of the KKK and that it was her husbands birthday. The KKK had been turned away from most restaurants in the past. She had the audacity to request that no “blacks, jews, or any minorities” serve them. That particular day, the girl that was scheduled for lobby was African-American. The manager replied that the schedule could not be changed to accomodate their request.

    While working that day, we noticed that the Klan did not show up.

    P.S. A word about tipping – my parents raised me to ALWAYS tip 20% (esp if the particular person has to deal with children). I have noticed that people do not tip here in Mauritius- I think it is because like you said they have a “livable wage.” However – I always try and leave something =)

  18. uglywaitress says:

    Wow, Kockmaster has no idea what he is talking about. I have been a server for Nine months. It works well with my school schedule also. I have been through busy months and made good money and bad months and made no money. Now if I could just lose some weight, i could make better tips. I think even when I graduate I will continue serving a few nights a week, I actually like this job because I have had worse. I read your book and love it. Keep blogging!!!!:)

  19. Max says:

    I hope he sent the letter.

  20. Kelli says:

    I have to say that I absolutely loved your book! A friend gave it to me and I couldn’t stop laughing and shaking my head in agreement. I have been serving since the age of 15 and am now entering my 15th year as a server. I serve part time now and let me tell you it has always been the hardest most challenging job I have ever had. Somehow, I can never seem to give up serving completely. Being a server has taught me many things such as; humility, patience, how to tip properly, and how to fake it. I truely believe that everyone should try it out ateast once and maybe then people would learn to act like human beings.

  21. walruswheedchick says:

    KOCKMASTER your comments will be legit once you yourself start waiting tables. until then, i think you should just shush your mouth about what you think of waiting tables.

  22. Lexi says:

    Patrons who treat waiters rudely consist of canine intellect with territorial issues. Once they sit at “their table” they think they own it – barking at waiters, making a mess with those pesky bread crumbs strewn across the perfectly starched and ironed white tablecloth. They forget they are guests & should behave accordingly with grace & appreciation – even if they don’t like what they ordered. Once I ordered Steak Tar Tar @ my dates suggestion. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t take it out on the waiter or restaurant – I chose not to go out with the vicious fiend who thought taking me home with an empty stomache was funny. A book about vicious dates is in order.

  23. Ross Galbraith says:

    One of the hardest shifts i’ve had to work with in my life emotionally and physically, was a busy satarday which started off with a phonecall from one of our waitress’s mothers telling us her diabeties had put her in a coma through the night and she had a 10% chance of pulling through!

    we did 250 covers with 3 waiters, and none of us had our heads screwed on for worrying!

  24. itsme says:

    Kockmaster…That is a very great name to exploit your thoughts. Surely we all already know who you are. Not only do you think you know what it entails to wait tables, let alone cook in a kitchen, or wash the overload of dishes with your “mexicans,” because someone who makes such accusations has not worked in a restaurant! Servers do not get paid a minimum wage, therefore they depend on tips to supplement their lower wage. Most of the kitchen gets a guaranteed, above average hourly salary. Consider I said, guaranteed.
    So go work as a server, come back and try to tell us all again that McDonald’s employees deserve tips.
    Educate and participate before you go to a website such as and try to tell us servers were crybaby’s for what we do to live in a world just like YOU! Oh, we work for tips, that correlates as money!

  25. liz says:

    kockmaster,I’m guessing you work at McDonald’s?

  26. JohnO says:

    Thanks for a great story, well told. Being in the business 45 years ( and being alive 60 ) I could relate to every thing you talked about very personally. I tried breaking out several times but couldn’t. All I can really do is change the way I feel about things on a daily basis. Most people hate what they’re doin’ anyway, but some at least are paid well for it.
    You obviously enjoy writing and have a great narrative sense. You would be foolish not to pursue this…Oh Yeah, no accent on the e in votre…..John

  27. leithold says:

    this is just sad.

    the fears you experienced will motivate you so that it wont happen. so its a good thing.

  28. Sarah says:

    I have worked both in the fast food, when I was not quite old enough to work as a server because of serving alchol laws, and as a server. I would have to say serving is much harder. When you are working fast food you see the people for what 5 minutes tops while serving you have those people at your table until they are turned. I would much rather deal with some asshole for 5 min than 45. You do basicaly do the same thing except there is way more customer service when your serving these people. PS not all guests are horrible the ones you want to get rid of that make your job suck are. 😀

  29. Katie says:


    Your thinking is screwed up. Where I work, the starting wage for cooks (NOT CHEFS) is $17/hour and they receive bonuses and always have at least 40 hours a week. Servers are rarely given this many hours and managers bitch about it if we do go into overtime- god forbid they have to pay us time and a half (2.13/hr usually- so goes up to $3/hr) Also, the servers wash the dishes whenever we don’t have many tables, we pre-buss our tables and clean them when the guests leave. Also, the cooks continually bitch about US because they make a mistake about the food (because, 8/10, it is their fault because they don’t bother to read the modifiers on the ticket) but they still blame us because if managers got on to them, there go the bonuses. really? 15% to the back of the house? we’re the ones who put on the faces to help bring in the customers who will get upset at us because the cooks don’t know how to cook a burger medium, not well done. and then the cooks will get mad or say we’re trying to “make friends” so we’ll get better tips when we bring back food to try to explain the situation. “make friends?” yeah right! I’ll be lucky if I get a tip because your sorry ass still can’t cook a burger. of course, you can’t defend yourself or they’ll get upset and mess up the rest of your tickets, or so I’ve heard. 15% my ass. bullshit. yeah, go to Mcdonalds and tip them instead of complaining about how you have to tip servers at a fine dinning establishment. Also, I have a degree in Science but couldn’t find a job- they’re kind of hard to come by right now. Just hoping a Ph.D. will get me from this place.

  30. Emilayday says:

    Dear Kocksucker…or whatever your profession/name may be, let me set up a typical day for you in my life of waitressing:
    **Get in at 10:30 and clock in
    **Set up all the tables outside on deck (includes anything from dragging out umbrellas and opening them up, which they are heavy and I am short and have to stand on chairs to do so).
    -Windex/wipe down all tables and chairs
    -Set out salt, pepper, sugars
    -Do about 200 silverware roll-ups (wrapping silverware in napkins so the napkins don’t blow away outside and we’ll have enough to reset tables once it gets busy)
    -Sweep deck. sometimes depending on seagulls we will also have to hose it down
    -Clean any trash that is lingering around the deck due to winds
    **Inside set-up
    -Bring in the complimentary coffee/breakfast pastry cart
    -Clean off both decaf&reg coffee TANKS (like 4x the size of a pot)
    -Put away sugars/cups/stirrers/napkins
    -Strip the table cloths and replace them with new ones, this requires going downstairs to the basement for replacements
    -Check all the chairs to make sure they are wiped down
    -Stock the glasses/mugs/silverware in the wait station
    **Kitchen work
    -Stock the ice buckets-THIS requires several trips to basement ice cooler with two 5 gallon sized pails that I have to lug up a flight of stairs, and SEVERAL trips
    -Prepare the dressings/sides, this means tartar sauces, cocktail sauces, ketchup, mustard, relish, fruit salad, coleslaw, cottage cheese, etc and having enough to last throughout the day
    -Brew coffee for the staff, this will of course be gone come time for actual customers and thus will have to brew more
    -Stock the milk/creamers, this involves a trip to the freezing walk-in fridge
    -Slice dozens of lemons/limes for drinks/seafood
    -Fold cloth napkins for dinner service
    -Restocking cloth napkins/anything else from the dry storage
    There are more, but I am forgetting.

    **During a shift, no we do not just take your order and bring you food
    We get your drink order, have to wait behind other waiters, plus bar partons that are waiting for their drinks too. Fetch a wine bottle from storage, do the big presentation/opening. We also have to balance many top-heavy beer bottles and martinis and wines without spilling a drop, using only one hand and navigating a crowded space.

    *Taking an order is in itself a complicated procedure as all servers have to develop their own short-hand to be able to scribble down the orders the customers rapid fire at us. For example Ceasar salad no anchovies with a Tenderloin Medium Rare side of mashed potatoes would be C. No (which I usually circle) Tender MR Mash Pot (FF for fries, slaw or CS for coleslaw). This is even worse when at a diner where you don’t input it into a computer and therefore you have to conform to a shorthand that the cooks can read too.

    *We have to be able to tell if you are ready to order so we do not “rush” you, but also so you do not feel as though you are ignored.
    When you get appetizers, we put the WHOLE order for your table in. It is then up to us to pay attention to how you are working your way through the apps, and figure how busy the kitchen is, how long your dinner takes to cook, and how soon you will be done in order to tell the kitchen “Pick up, or Fire” so that your dinners will be ready not too soon and not too late. YOU ARE NOT OUR ONLY TABLE.
    For a Beefeater martini straight up with a twist I’d write Beef Mar ^ and do a squiggle to signify a twist. And trust me the variations on drink orders can get confusing, let alone you have to remember who had what.

    *We then have to balance a tray that can weigh a good 30lbs, up OVER OUR HEADS WITH ONE HAND, being careful not to drop it on an idiot child running free around the restaurant, or a drunk patron. We also have to remember who got what, serving the ladies first, and serving from the left side of you, and removing your plates from the right. Let alone no one ever cares to move their glass for you, so you are trying to fit huge plate on a space between your water glass and where you are leaning over the table. I think you’d be upset if we nudged you out of the way with a hot-plate. And forget about saying “Excuse me” especially if you’re engrossed in your conversation, because you’re not going to listen.
    We then have to be able to tell when most of the table is done and clear plates accordingly. The rule (if you are a good waiter) is to wait until EVERYONE is done eating (unless the customer demands you take their plate), you do not want someone to feel like you are rushing them out, and you do not want people sitting with dirty plates in front of them for too long.
    Dessert in most places means we have to grab a pre-plated (as in the servers plated them up during the beginning of the shift, saran wrapped them, and put them in the fridge), sometimes heat it up depending on the dish, or add chocolate sauce and strawberry sauce and whipped cream, while our new tables are being sat and are looking around thirstily for their server. Cappuccinos, espressos, lattes, coffee, tea, all are prepared by us, and brewing 5 individual cappuccinos get’s time-consuming fast.

    *I won’t even get you started on the closing duties, let’s just say it involves wiping down fridges, counters, coffee makers, stripping table cloths and glasses, plates, silverware, polishing the silverware that has been washed, etc etc etc. I can’t even get started on what we all have to do after the customers leave before we can finally go home. It’s not like OH they are done, peace out, most waiters have to stay an extra 30 minutes AT LEAST. I am so exhausted from typing everything else that I really can’t get going on closing work.

    SO SHUT THE FUCK UP COCKSUCKER, TRYING TO TELL US THIS BULLSHIT THAT WE DON’T DO ANYTHING. And I can guarantee you that people at McDOnalds are getting paid MA min wage of like $7.50 an hour (I’ve no idea because I haven’t worked for forever as a non-server) and WAITERS are making $2.63 an hour, plus tips. So for a 6-hour shift we’re really only making a little over $13 for the night in guaranteed wages. AND ALSO SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT TIPPING YOU FUCK CHEAP ASS SHITS. Thank you.

  31. luckylizzie says:

    I am a former waitress of 9 years and I just wanted to write thank you to Emilayday for your accurate and thorough explanation of a normal day.

    I thought of a few other things:

    Not ever being allowed to sit down- even when eating. And actually sometimes not even getting a dinner break.

    Sharing a larger table with other servers means also sharing the tip (and people don’t always tip extra when there’s a lot of people!)

    Managers who change your schedule whenever they want. My boss did her schedule in pencil and expected us to check our schedule EVERY DAY in case she changed it.

    Being nice to the bitchiest patrons and deal with men flirting/groping you.

    Overall I enjoyed my job because many of my customers were very friendly and good tippers but there were days you just thought nothing would go right. And sometimes kitchen mistakes happen but the way customers respond to an overcooked steak… It’s not going to kill you to politely request a new one!

  32. korf says:

    Wow. That’s sad. I mean, the jokes are kind of funny, but with a sad overtone to them. That’s awful.

    And what the heck? She seriously still asked you about the bass? WHAT?! Anyway, I’m sure this is a day you never forgot.

  33. Michelle says:

    I just finished the book and I loved it. I’ve had it on my shelf for years and have been waiting for the right time to read it. I fully intend on reading every single post on your blog before I die. I have also waited tables and can’t get enough of your writing!

  34. MsMaryMac says:

    Jeez…your website and book have helped me through so many rough spots. I started as a busgirl at a Mr Steak when I was 15 in 1975. Long time ago in a galaxy far,far away. I supplemented my income as the best waitress/bartender in many locations. And, finally, after realizing that I would never be a famous actress I recieved my degree from Purdue in Restaurant/Hotel Management. Since then I have scrambled my way to the top. Then, after 9/11 and my parents illnesses,I took 5 years out of the industry. When I came back, as a waitress and bartender at a private club, I made a ton of dough but put up with a TON OF SHIT daily.
    My point is…now as a manager again, I am ever so understanding that tipping is a mortgage payment AND a commision. Do your due dillegence, pay attention when you take orders and understand that you ARE in the entertainment business. Take charge of your tables. Make them know that you are in charge.

    And…never feel that you are working in a “needy” profession. Make it your oyster…even when it’s RAW

  35. Brit says:

    I just finished reading Waiter Rant (the book) on my day off. It took me a few hours to read because I couldn’t put it down. I waitressed at a family restaurant for five years (ages 15-20) and a bartender for a year (at age 22). I’m now 25 and in retail, which is very different from waitressing but similar in the way that you’re on your feet all day and that people are shameless. I’ll never forget my food service days and when you wrote about different kinds of tippers I saw “The Former Waiter” and was like “that’s me!” I also usually don’t mention the fact that I used to wait tables to my server, because I am pretty sure that he or she doesn’t care since 90% of people my age have waited tables for at least a couple months in high school or college. We went out a few weeks ago with a friend of ours, the bill was $40 we all threw down $20 and left. My friend thought we should wait for change and leave $50 instead of $60 which would still be 25%. I said okay is all of us getting $3 back really that big of a deal?The 50% tip most likely made the pregnant bartender (that was so gracious about my limitations from Crohn’s and Celiac disease) go home much happier. That extra $10 means a lot more to her than us, and none of us 3 would miss that $3 apiece. Plus, if we go back again we will more than likely be treated well again.

    However my boyfriend (who is in the Navy and has never been in food service) tips 25% or more and if the service is sub-par he tips a “bare minimum” 20%. This is where he and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on the subject. As someone who has been a waitress and a bartender, I do expect good service and do not condone poor service. For example, if you’re running around with 15 tables and can’t get to us immediately, that’s not your fault and I’d never take it out on your tip. But if you treat me like I’m bothering you because I interrupted your talking/texting session or talk to me like I’m an idiot because I happen to look like a teenager, you’re not getting a tip. I’ve always been polite to anyone in customer service not only because I’ve had to deal with so much shit over the years, but because I was raised that way from childhood. So don’t you dare take your bad day out on me because I’ve been on my feet dealing with assholes all day just like you, and I’m not an asshole but if you’re going to be one to me, that can change pretty quickly. Just sayin.

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