Flat Vacant Stare

It’s five o’clock on Friday night and I’m saddled with a trainee. I hate training new waiters, but having one shadowing me on a busy night is truly a pain in the ass.

“So where did you work before you came here?” I ask the trainee as I brew myself an espresso.

“The Laredo Diner,” the trainee, a tall, swarthy looking guy around thirty years old, answers.

“How long did you work there?”

“A couple of months.”

“The money good?”


“I never worked a diner. How much can you make a shift?”

“I was pulling down $200.”

“Wow,” I reply, surprised. “That’s pretty good. How long are the shifts?”

“Four hours,” the trainee says.

“You made $200 in four hours?”


“All the time?”


I sip my espresso. This guy’s story is not adding up. I often grab dinner at a nearby diner after work. While sitting at the counter I’ve chatted up the waiters, busboys, cooks, hostesses, and managers. From our conversations I know making $200 during a diner shift is doable – but unlikely. And earning that kind of money in four hours is well nigh impossible. Besides, The Laredo’s a factory. All the people who work at the diner I patronize escaped from there.  They tell me it’s a dishonest and indiscriminate machine, chewing up the knees, feet, and pride of its Turkish, Russian, Dominican, and Israeli servers while stealing a percentage off their tips through a shady pay system.  There’s no way this trainee made $200 in four hours. He’s lying to me.

“That’s great money,” I say. “You’ll never make that kind of cash here. Why did you leave The Laredo?”

An evasive look briefly ripples across the trainee’s face. His eyes dart around like he’s looking for the exits. Catching himself, he forces his face into a disingenuous smile.

“I wanna work in a high class place,” the trainee says. “Diners ain’t my style anymore.”

“Did you ever work fine dining?” I ask.



“Lots of places.”

“In Manhattan?”

“Upstate,” the trainee says, breaking eye contact.

“Where?”  I ask, pressing.

“Why do you care where I worked?” the trainee says hotly, suddenly looking very agitated.

“Just asking, man,” I say, backpedaling.  “I’m a curious kind of guy.”


As I sip my espresso I look the trainee over. He’s wearing blue suit pants with pinstripes, no belt, an open collared white dress shirt, and scuffed black leather wingtip shoes. If he wore those shoes while working in a diner, his legs would’ve exploded a long time ago. This guy’s never waited a table in his life. Maybe he’s desperate for money and lied about his history to get a job. Wouldn’t be the first time.

“Well,” I say, throwing my demitasse cup into a bus tub, “Let’s me show you what sidework needs to be done at the start of the shift.”

“Sidework?” the trainee says, oblivious.

“You know,” I say, “Filling the sugars, cleaning silverware, buffing the wineglasses.”


“C’mon,” I say, “You can start with the sugars.”

“I need to eat something,” the trainee says. “When do we get something to eat?”

“We have a staff meal at 3:30.”

“I missed it.”

“I’m sure the guys in the kitchen will make you something later,” I say.

“I’m hungry now.”

“I’d do your sidework first,” I advise. “If the owner sees you eating ten minutes after you showed up, that’s not good.”

The trainee looks at me with a flat, vacant stare.  A nervous tickle agitates my stomach. I’ve seen that look before. When I worked in a drug rehab I dealt with recently released convicts getting treatment as part of their parole. Most of the cons wanted to get better, but I met a few hard cases that told me they’d be stealing and using the moment they walked out of the hospital’s doors. Those guys had the same flat, vacant stares – like they could kill me and eat an egg salad sandwich five minutes later.

“Do we get money at the end of the night?” the trainee asks. “I need money.”

“You’ll have to talk to the owner about that.”

“Listen,” the trainee says, “I need to make a call. That all right with you?”


While the trainee’s chatting on his cell phone I get two tables. By the time I finish cocktailing and specialing my customers, however,  he’s nowhere to be found. The owner is behind the hostess stand doing paper work. I walk up to him.

“Have you seen the trainee?” I ask.

“I told him to go home,” the owner replies.


“I went into the kitchen and found him eating soup.”

“I told him not to do that.”

“I was gonna let it slide,” the owner says. “But then the guy asked me how much money I’d give him at the end of the night. When I told him he’d get a check in two weeks, he pitched a fit.”

“Probably has a drug problem,” I reply.

“He looked crazy so I eased him outta here,” the owner says. “I told him it was gonna be too busy to train tonight and that I‘d call him back in after a couple of days.”

“You’re going to ask him to come back?”

“No way.  I’ll tell him we found someone else to fill the position.”

“Good,” I say. “We don’t need anymore nutcases.”

“Willem interviewed the guy,” the owner replies, shaking his head. “He said he had fine dining experience working upstate.”

“Probably food service in Attica.”

The owner smiles. “You got that vibe too, huh?’


“You would’ve made a good detective.”

“Thanks,” I reply.

I head back onto the floor. It’s a busy night and I’m glad the trainee’s gone. I didn’t need him tugging on my shirttails. But I feel a little guilty about how things turned out. He could’ve been just been a hungry guy who and needed quick money for baby food. But there was something in his eyes I didn’t like. Over the years, I’ve learned to trust that instinct. By the time I finish my shift, the trainee’s troubles are becoming a distant memory. But that flat, vacant stare of his still bothers me.

When I go to the diner after work I don’t order an egg salad sandwich.

111 thoughts on “Flat Vacant Stare”

  1. Paul says:

    Another great post… excited for the book.

  2. xkitchenstaff says:

    Umm, if the owner ‘got that vibe too’ why did he hire the guy in the first place?

    Crazy stuff Waiter. Keep trusting that instinct, you’ll live longer.

  3. Gayle says:

    When’s the owner going to ease out Willem?!

  4. natasha says:

    I love this post…i recently trained someone just like this…but worse, she showed up stoned and stinking like patchuli oil.

  5. Jason says:


    and I totally know that look 🙁

  6. erazo says:

    great observation, Waiter, from what you’ve said, he sounds like a guy who’s hungry for quick fix. and if he doesn’t know that he’s not supposed to eat as soon as he walks in or what the word ‘sidework’ means, he’s never worked in a restaurant before. good call on your and owner’s behalf. you don’t want that in the restaurant — that screams PROBLEMS all over! keep up the good work and i can’t wait to get your book already, ordered it a week ago.

  7. erazo says:

    xkitchenstaff: owner didn’t, willem did — interviewed the guy and told the owner that he should be hired, this was the first night the owner saw him and smelled something fishy and sent him home. good call on his behalf! the guy sounds like a crackhead who heard about restaurant business from fairy tales.

  8. Dr. Electro says:

    I hate that flat vacant stare. I used to use it as an intimidation tactic in special circumsances. It really works. One guy said it looked like I was staring into his soul.

    Like you said, trust that instinct. It won’t lead you wrong.

  9. amanaplanacanalpanama says:

    If the guy comes back, you two should have a thousand-yard staring contest. It would be great. At first nobody would notice, but the longer it goes on, the more it will start looking like the beginning of a spaghetti western gunfight.

    Bonus points if you can get a customer to duck under a table.

  10. DG says:

    Was it the night of the terrible trainees? I got saddled with one tonight also, and spent most of the night that he really didn’t need this job cause he was rich. Gotta love people!

  11. pj says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for years now.
    It used to be that I’d read one of your posts and it would touch me deeply, in a way that I’d spend the rest of the day feeling more alive and thoughtful.
    You had an insight into the human condition, and a sympathy for it, that only a few of the great writers have.
    I used to wonder if you were real. I felt that this must be some corporate scam, with a team of professional ghostwriters behind it.
    And then the tone of your posts changed, and for a while I stopped visiting here.
    But now you’ve got it back.
    This post brings tears to my eyes.
    You have a rare talent; you can be a great writer or a famous novelist.

    But even if you never write another word, this blog is a beautiful thing that you will leave behind.

  12. Manager Mom says:

    Oh – that guy would have given me the creepies too. I hope for your sake he doesn’t return….

  13. Miss Britt says:

    I don’t, as a rule, trust people who are evasive.

    I prefer someone to just say “I need money because I lost my job, I haven’t worked, XYZ explanation. I’m hoping you’ll give me a shot.”

  14. Roz says:

    Fabulous details in this story, as always.

    (And so informative! Who would guess egg salad sandwich=post psychotic rampage snack?)

  15. Felix says:

    When I go to the diner after work I don’t order an egg salad sandwich.

    Sorry, WTF does that mean?

  16. Pookha says:

    @Felix: Did you actually read the post?

    I can think of several writer’s reasons that would make egg salad an excellent metaphor.

    Nice post, Waiter.

  17. Brian says:

    You also have to figure that if he was really desperate for money for a legitimate purpose, such as supporting a young baby, he would have taken the job seriously and followed your advice so he could keep it. If he really needed the money, he wouldn’t have done anything to jeopardize his chance to earn it, much in the same way a thirty-year-old is a lot more likely to take a restaurant job seriously than an eighteen-year-old is.

    As for his previous experiences, I’d say he was full of it, but I can understand why he’d try to pass this off on you. Even if he did have experience working in an upscale restaurant, it could be something as simple as being a bus boy or host. One of the restaurants that I worked at shut down last August, some weeks after I quit. As people who worked there started to shuffle around to find other jobs, some people simply lied about what they did. One friend of a friend who worked there said he told one restaurant he was a server when he might have only been a host (or maybe a server) for a month or less, but because the place shut down and there was no easy way to check his reference, he had a lot more leeway in lying. And it worked, because he was hired by some other restaurant as a server, when he barely had any restaurant experience at all. Now, while he could have made a lot of money from a diner job, I doubt it. As you said, you’ve known this restaurant to have shady management. But besides that, we’ve all been to diners. Even in upper echelon areas, the checks aren’t huge. It wouldn’t be uncommon to have five people eat for about $50. Even taking away the fact that he might have to tip out, even accounting for the fact that he might have a very large section, even accounting for the possibility that he might have other people running his food and drinks and doing most of the other duties, I find it hard to believe he would clear that much in four hours. He’d have to have an astonishing rate of table turns with a ludicrously large number of tables overall.

    Anyway, Waiter, I hope the business is picking up for you. Although I’ve had a few slow shifts in the past few weeks, it’s been pretty decent. I am working tonight, although I am scheduled for a patio shift so it’s likely that I am going to either be slammed or completely dead.

  18. Food Service Ninja says:

    to those who want to analyze the guys behavior rem he was prob an ex-con->now why do people BECOME ex-cons–> because they couldnt follow societies rules.

    but the career server in me says you never know who the idiot manager will hire next. Personally I think you should only schedule new hires for Fri/Sat nite shifts to be food runners or expo duty so they can learn the food and table numbers (seat pivot points be asking too much).

    Professionally when I train or just meet a new hire I ask where they worked. It tells me what kind of serving they have done and if they lasted there a while what kind of service they should be able of perform.

  19. Rick says:

    Love your blog, makes me glad to be Scottish and be protected by minimum wage legislation and the generous welfare state we have in the UK. (So generous people here live on it all their life and get everything they desire on a plate, anyway I’ll stop before I slip into rant mode!) You just know, usually within an hour or two if the new guy is gonna be okay or is a wahoo. In my work we go through our fair share of numpties and they always seem to find their way out the door, sooner or later! Keep up the good work, I look forward to my waiterrant fix!!

  20. Vic says:

    Mmmmm, now I have a craving for egg salad. Need to go to a local diner 🙂

  21. Veron says:

    I wish I had your instinct, Waiter. Great post!

  22. Ron says:

    is there any regular reader here who isn’t surprised that willem caused yet another problem?
    Really, that guy pisses us all off … Another great post by the way waiter. Keep up the good work bro!

  23. MelC says:

    wow, glad you got away from him, he sounded like he was tweakin. never fun ppl to work with! does this mean that Willem will get das boot!?

  24. Bob Dobbs says:

    Nice post. I know the stare: it means that, to the person making it, the people around him are nothing more than furniture. Their ability to identify with other humans has been shut off, or never turned on.

    Yes, you see it on the street. But I’ve also seen that stare in the executive offices, where it sometimes peaks out from behind a well-practiced smile.

  25. gailsie says:

    Damn. I love egg salad.

  26. shrimplate says:

    The lies, the temper, the unreliability, and the stare; these all scream “psychopath.”

  27. Bud Munchlip says:

    Wait a minute – if this guy is an ex-con, what kind of food service experience did he get? Most prisons serve food in a line, like getting a uniform on your first day in parking meter school. Maybe this guy was hungry because he thought he could eat while serving people in line – was it clear to him that he wasn’t going to be behind a big pot of some food (maybe meatball soup) and slopping it to customers on their trays?

    Waiter should have told him about the differences. Probably the guy thought Waiter was some foreigner because he wasn’t used to his service style.

  28. trsh says:

    Ahh, as a trainer for one of the “big guys” italian restaurants, i can tell you all sorts of really f’ed up people end up getting hired and wind up in my training classes… fortunately, the really screwed up ones only make it a few days to a few weeks, tops. they usually go nuts, steal something, and get caught. still no fun to work with (or train!) in the meantime. goodbye and good riddance.

  29. Mull Nullordroll says:

    Hey Bud, what kind of school did you go to where prisoners served you lunch or breakfast wearing parking meter maid outfits? Is this how they run school in your country? Where are you from anyway? All you and Woolly Fundrip do is bag on Canada and Australia.

  30. Mull Nullordroll says:

    Hey Mull, what they hey-ha are you thinking that Waiter thought this guy was a prisoner in Canada? Do you even know that Canada is “upstate” anyway? Although…if this guy were Canadium, it might explain his strange behaviour. Personally, I dont think Waiter’s time in prison was tied in well to this guy…

  31. Woolly Fundrip says:

    There goes that reject Bud talking about me again – yet another example of how his coming from Australia explains his lack of understanding common English (why doesn’t he find some blogs to post in that are written in Austrian anyway?).

  32. Bud Munchlip says:

    Hey Woolly – dont start insulting me or Australia – you and Mull are complete dullards who dont even know anything about anything. I bet you dont even know what Waiter went to prison for – read the story again dummy.

  33. Dick Burntip says:

    Okay Bud and Woolly, let’s remember the important accomplishments of each of your respective countries:

    Australia – current governor of CA is from there.

    Canada – tacos and wine coolers.

  34. Lemme Luvme says:

    Look, let’s get back to the real question: do Mexican prisons make better places to train meter maids or waiters? Personally it sounds to me like the guy in the story and Waiter have some kind of unspoken previous acquaintanance, and I dont think the guy being from Canada matters.

    Answer: Mexico is a great place for finding Mexicans of all kinds.

  35. Bud Munchlip says:

    Lemme, what kind of name is that anyway?

  36. Joey Downbelowme says:

    Apparently egg salad is something Waiter ate while in prison (how long has he been out? was it in Canada or Austrailia?), and this is why he didn’t want to order it.

  37. Woolly Fundrip says:

    Hey Joey – I agree: Waiter must have eaten egg salad too many times when he was a parking meter guy, and probably that reminded of Australia.

    Now – can we have a civil discussion about egg salad? No more anamosity at Australia, please? It’s Canada we should be talking about…

  38. Dick Burntip says:

    It’s too bad Waiter couldn’t take sympathy on this other ex-con. Maybe they could have been friends and swapped smokes or something.

  39. Fe says:

    *snicker* Um, guys, the current gov of CA is AUSTRIAN. That’s a country in Europe and they speak AUSTRIAN. In AUSTRALIA, which is a country and a continent in the southern hemisphere, they speak ENGLISH, sorta the way Americans speak English, that is. 🙂 I haven’t a clue which one y’all are meaning to say, but they are two different places.

    Waiter, I’ve met people like the one you are describing and you are well shut of him. The last one I knew used to come into the store, wait until we were closing and then follow the female customers and workers to their cars trying to get money and sometimes threatening us with violence. We called the cops and they picked him up and later told us he had a sheet several pages thick of assault, robbery, drug use and rape.

  40. Goldenfoxx says:

    The real clincher as to whether he had ever worked in a restaurant is if he had asked “Hey, when do we get a break?” Then you would have had to laugh.

  41. delraygrrrl says:

    Yeah… “Sidework?” and “When do we get a break” was just about all anybody needed to hear to know this guy’s full of it.

  42. Snark Scribe says:

    Creepy! But not as creepy as Mr. Smooth!

  43. The Waitress says:

    You know, about five of the last ten people we’ve hired have had that flat, vacant stare. They weren’t druggies, though. They were just morons.

  44. NR says:

    I’m actually kind of surprised by the hire Waiter–I thought every business was getting really stupid with their “background” checks/criminal record checks/credit checks etc of their “candidates [God, I HATE that word–why can’t people go back to “job applicant”?”Candidate” sounds so ridiculously contrived….

    Anyway nice read–Thanks! It’s good to get my WaiterRant fix 😉

  45. slag says:

    hey, this is the first good story you’ve written in months! great job waiter!

  46. 123 says:

    You are a good writer and story teller Waiter. Thanks for priveleging us with your words.

  47. Breadman says:

    Hey Fe, that was good, you beat me to your first point. :-). I was ready to point out the difference, then I read your post.

    Waiter, as an owner, who hires 95% of our staff, my experience tells me very early which are the ones to keep talking to, and the ones whose interview is ready to be concluded. I’ve seen many variations of your trainee before, the best is when they are walking out the back door!

    Good post.


  48. Ted says:

    Please folks, “egg salad” appears twice in this post. If you’re wondering why he doesn’t order one at the end, search for the first usage. It has something to do with how much you sympathize with other people.

  49. The Restaurant Blogger says:

    It’s a good thing that you and the owner is on the same page on this case. Willem on the other hand may need to work on his screening process of new applicants. This guy sure reminds me of some of the staff i have worked with and even fired. The last guy i fired was a nut case, but unlike your new trainee, he listed 10 differnt job places within a 3 month period. Sounded almost unbelievable, but the GM took a chance and hired him. I did a little investigating on the side and sure enough, he was fired at his previous jobs. This guy was cocky and boasted to all the other staff how good of a cook he was, but reality he couldn’t multi-task. After 3 warnings in 2 weeks, I fired him. If you thought that was bad, he tried to fight me. We exchanged some words and I told him not to ever return again. Waiter, hopefully, the guy doesn’t go back to your restaurant. He definitely sounds shady.

  50. JohnB says:

    Waiter: I went to the blog entry you linked to at “trust that instinct”. The comments there are clearly “bot” comments. Maybe you should use your spare time to excise comments like that.

    To the others: the governor of California is American (he took out American citizenship many years ago). It’s true that he was born in Austria (which makes him ineligible to be President of the US – but that’s a point for discussion on another day) but, having taken out citizenship in the US he can be called an American.

  51. Kim says:

    It feels horrible to judge others in that manner, but these days you just never know. It’s always better to have a good head on your shoulders than to be the next victim. 🙂 Great post, as usual!

  52. Tasha says:

    Hmmm…In Austria they speak “Austrian”? I am pretty willing to bet the farm there is no such language as “Austrian”. Before you decide to “snicker” at others, you might want to eduate yourself a bit.

    The main language spoken in the country of Austria is GERMAN, the only nationally official language of the country. The catch-all term is “Austrian German”, which can differ slightly from Standard German – think “French Canadian” compared with Standard French, I suppose.

    There are other minor languages spoken, (Turkish, Serbian, Croatian, etc.) but mainly it’s the variant dialects of German.

    Sheesh. I am extremely embarassed to be an American right now…no wonder the rest of the world thinks we’re idiots…

  53. Robin G. says:

    Sometimes, you just know. It’s always good to remember intellectually that “Yes, I don’t know this guy, and I should keep an open mind” — but on the other hand, the human race has survived this long on instinct. I’ve learned to listen to that prickly “This isn’t right” feeling in my gut.

    Asking about the money was a dead giveaway, though. A guy trying to buy baby food (have you SEEN the price of formula? Jesus!) wouldn’t have pitched a fit about not getting money until the end of the night. He would have hung onto the job for all he was worth.

  54. An Ex of Phil Kassel says:

    Sociopaths – No heart, no remorse, no conscience. I have had the misfortune of knowing one of them and I know all about that flat, vacant stare; they are dead inside. The guy you were training probably was able to mimic emotions to the extent to GET the job because sociopaths are con men and convincing liars. You were of no use to him so you saw who he really was; you werent’ worth the effort (in his mind) of puting on the act. These people are evil since they are able to put on a front when they target a person for sex, money, or something else they think you have and they want. I met a sociopath on a dating site eharmony.com When you confront them, like you did about the details of his “employment upstate”, they will become defensive. He will go on to find a new victim. They know how to put on a good act and can be deceptively charming in Stage 1 of their con as they manipulate their target to gain their trust. It is estimated that 1 in 25 males are sociopaths and many are “men of God” Many of these con men lurk in churches since they look for people who are trusting, and think most people are good and just need another chance. That is their perfect target.

  55. Bob Dobbs says:

    “It is estimated that 1 in 25 males are sociopaths and many are “men of God” Many of these con men lurk in churches since they look for people who are trusting, and think most people are good and just need another chance. That is their perfect target.”

    Or “women of god;” let’s not be sexists. And yes, I met one. She nearly destroyed a church.

  56. LauraT says:

    Good call Waiter. I have worked in a restaurant that hired ANYONE that would show up – it was a rock-n-roll party bar/restaurant till 10pm, then roll up the rugs and let’s party! We got some strange cats, I tell you. One was an ex-con who had a parrot on his shoulder when he applied. The owner thought that was so neat…he hired him. Scary MoFo. He kept asking me if I had any kids at home & if so, how old were they? YUCK, man I lied and told him I had NO children & a raving redneck for a husband so he would leave me alone. I was glad when he blinded us with ass. He also left with some of the owner’s belongings. Stay safe.

  57. isrw says:

    Sociopathic flatness of affect is so distinctive. In this case, though? Your con man variant would at least have ingratiated himself with the presumably experienced hand who was assigned to train him in. He was too early on the job to check out so completely, from the POV of a manipulative sociopath.

    I rather suspect this was some sort of minor, rather innocuously inept, drug habit, rather than a truly damaged and destructive personality. He tried to fib his way into a job he wasn’t set to handle in any sense. No enormous harm done.

    In a handful of service jobs and perhaps three professional ones, I continue to encounter employees who are both inept and indifferent. Maybe in the restaurant trade hiring practices encourage the phenomenon a bit more, but basically this is human nature. In a big corporate setting, having hired the callow young fellow, the company would take at least a year to fire him.

  58. pedroisademon says:

    this may sound like a stupid comment
    and that may make me look like a stupid person
    everytime i see male FOH staff without belts on my first thoughts are
    wheres your belt?

  59. Costech says:

    Great post. And scary. Keep writing.

  60. Michelle S. says:

    Can’t stand those types. I often wonder how some people get through life without really going off the deep end.

  61. Ex of Phil Kassel says:

    Sorry Bob – Males should not have been included in that line. Most ARE males but of course you are right some women are as well.

    “We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people—one in twenty-five—has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt.” – from review of Dr. Stout’s book

    Having been with one I can now spot them almost immediately even when they are attempting to win my trust and are working really hard to be charming. The vagueness of details about the past (when waiter asked about previous work), the defensiveness when confronted, an almost shocking existence of entitlement and not wanting to work (when do we get done, I’m hungry after being there 10 minutes of work, leaving Waiter to do the work while he went to eat, lack of true concern for others, and the number one sign is that a sociopath will act like the victim to get sympathy. They are actually angry but go for the pity play. They are true evil personified.

    Two great books that I think all people should read to keep safe are The Gift of Fear and The Sociopath Next Door

    Never let your guard down and pay attention to that feeling that tells you something is not right; that feeling is there to protect us.

  62. Felix says:

    Q: What’s the population of Austria

    A: About twice what you’d think

    I still don’t get why he didn’t order an egg salad sandwich afterwards.

  63. negar says:

    i’ve been reading this blog for years now and i think the stories are becoming increasingly predictable. the same dramatic structure, the same good guy / bad guy dichotomy, and the same self-congratulatory tone and theme. i miss the posts in which you weren’t so condescending and so self-righteous. the ones you didn’t prove yourself right at the end and more importantly you didn’t give away the ending halfway through. i will keep reading though, hoping that i’ll see something i like.

  64. mykl says:

    poor trainee. let go after mere minutes. but i guess its better than the time i was training for a job at the same time as someone else, and he was let go BEFORE the training started. at least you imparted a few minutes of knowledge!

  65. Meat says:

    Sometimes it’s a little unnerving that, after being in this biz for a long time, shit like this doesn’t surprise us anymore. Years ago I told a guy to go home because he was eating out of the pans on the steam table in the kitchen. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if it wasn’t an open kitchen where guests could see in through big glass windows! When I told him to stop, he started putting beans and rice into a box to take home. Worst of all, he chased me around the kitchen with a big-ass dustpan trying to hit me. Then he went out in the parking lot and took his shirt off and started shadow boxing. When the cops came he took off like he was shot from a cannon!

  66. Dulcy says:

    “This guy’s never waited a table in his life. Maybe he’s desperate for money and lied about his history to get a job. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

    Hm. Sounds like someone I knew in my wayward youth. 😉 Fortunately, I’m a quick study and a good chameleon. :-DDDD

  67. Ava says:

    Remind me again, why does Willem get to stay?

  68. therapydoc says:

    It was the lying, though, not the stare that really tripped him. If people just wouldn’t lie!

    He’s probably a guy really down on his luck and really hungry, with bills to pay, losing the house and wife, too, and the vacant stare is from some cocktail of meds that took away his humanity.

  69. BOSSY says:

    Bossy’s note to self: do not get caught eating soup ten minutes after arriving at the restaurant. Or is that rule only for the restaurant’s staff?

  70. DABCT says:


    Cocktail first (20Min.) then soup. You have to be safe;)

  71. girlwiththemask says:

    The manager sounds like a dick… what was he thinking? Didn’t he check out the guys references?!

  72. The Waitress says:

    Restaurants, even the finer ones, are notoriously lax on reference checks.

    I once had an employer who said “All you need to be a server is a pulse”.

  73. Waitress-Lady says:

    What a f—nut.

  74. Penny says:

    I think you are getting better at writing…because every time I read your new post, my emotions get stired up.

    But there’s something missing…which I always enjoyed in your older posts. But I couldn’t quite name it.

    What is it? Waiter, what is it?

  75. Rebecca says:

    Love your blog-can’t stop reading it. I’m looking forward to the book, but will be disappointed when new entries don’t add themselves! Keep up the great work.

  76. Jimmy Steward says:

    Gotta screen for bullshit at that first interview, before any scuffed wingtips are even allowed on the service floor! It’s amazing how many bad hires are often made in the Front of House: Say the right words sometimes, such as: team-player, perfectionistic, exceed guest expectations, and you’re in, despite the obvious house arrest anklet and teardrop tattoos at both eyes. I wish we waiters could sit in and jury the hiring of new waiters/FOH crew (including management).

  77. Mike says:


  78. Anonymous says:

    A hungry guy looking for food for his baby would have worked his ass off for two weeks without a peep to get his check.

    Don’t worry about that one.

    You’re right. Trust your instincts.

  79. myquestforsexcess says:

    i wonder if willem hired him and stuck him on you on purpose.

  80. Maddie says:

    Penny… I think I understand what you’re saying. I’ve read every single one of Waiter’s posts and I think I see what’s missing:

    Waiter, I am a big fan of yours. However, I think what’s missing in your posts is a sense of hope for the future. You don’t seem to have the passion you had in the first couple of years and it shows in how you’re dealing with customers (and new ex-con trainees). Your sense of humour seems to have altered slightly from belly-laugh, fall on the floor funny to something dark and twisted. It feels like you’re resigned to the fact that you are where you are, and that you’re just putting in time.

    I understand that feeling. I left the biz a little over a year ago after 18 years of serving. In the last 2 years of it, however, I no longer had that sense of blissful servitude that I did in the beginning. People would start to aggravate me to no end over the simplest little things. I started to feel really down about having to go to work and felt like I was always watching the clock waiting for it to be time for me to go home.

    It may be just my perception of the way you’ve written things, but perhaps it’s time to move on to a new adventure. You a have a book about to be released. Perhaps it’s time to start a new chapter in your life?

  81. jadenguy says:

    I think waiter’s problem is that he sees the light at the end of the tunnel, like if this book deal really goes well, and he’s just tired of waiting to see where it’s all going.

    Regardless, I just interviewed to be a waiter today, mostly spurred on by a friend of mine who works there, but I think the only reason I went through with the process was having read every article here.

  82. Erin The Great says:

    That’s pretty shady! hopefully he’s not lurking behind a street corner waiting for you guys one night. Good luck!

  83. Laura says:

    He sounds like half the people I work with.

  84. HeeHee says:

    Obviously, the moral of the story is that Willem is allergic to eggs laid by Austrian chickens who have emmigrated to Canada. Via Australia.

  85. Jake says:

    I worked as a waiter at an upscale Beverly Hills restaurant in the early 80’s. In a four hour lunch shift, turning my tables three times and averaging 20% in tip, I was excited if I made $150 before tipping out!!! And I ran my ass ragged and that of the incredible busboys who backed me up….$200 in a diner? Really doubtful!!!

  86. gnfdgnbg says:

    How about you quit selling out and actually post like you used to do

  87. Thunder says:

    I agree that the last few posts have been very predictable…they sound like rip-offs of old posts. Same storyline, same descriptions, same ending.

    While I concur that this is an open, public, free blog and it’s Waiter’s prerogative to write whatever he wants, I have to argue on behalf of the readers who have followed him over the years and who ultimately are the ones that will buy his book and read his writing.

    I miss the old posts, where you were more descriptive about customers, about your feelings, and about the morale of the story. These posts feel kind of vacant.

  88. Bariatric Brat says:

    Exactly the reason why I just bought (and discretely carry) a Taser C2.

  89. Parker says:

    So great. Waiting stories have always provided some of the best humor of all times. My best friend once waited tables at Bennigans while on X – not a good scene (but very funny). We have the story on our blog (shameless promotion, sorry) http://www.firstclasstohell.com

  90. a server says:


    Sometimes the job is redundant and uninspiring. I just got home after a Friday night in the restaurant and I can tell you that I have nothing of interest to say about it. It was an ordinary night with ordinary people and ordinary tips. If I had to write something every week it would sometimes get hard to come up with something. Not every night is a story. Sometimes it is just a night. Cut Waiter some slack. I will still most definitely buy his book even if he stopped writing his blog tomorrow. He has the same heart and the same special way of writing as he always has had. The blog entries might not be as enthusiastic as before, but that may be do to the fact that his time as a server has come close to the end and his perspective has changed. Perhaps his angst about the job has given way to an acquiescing.

  91. Andrew says:

    All of you people who are complaining about Waiter’s posts not being as interesting as before – perhaps your comment is valid, but please consider the perspective of Waiter (and certainly I am no position to speak for him, but I speak as a blogger myself).

    Are these posts soley to entertain you? Are they there simply to act as a vehicle to sell his book? Are you so self absorbed as to think he is trying to speak directly to you? Please tell me you have more mental curiosity than simply sitting back, consuming what is posted on this blog, and getting fat with mindless self-absorption.

    I will state it as simple as I can (for those of you lacking imagination and empathy): perhaps this blog is simply for Waiter, perhaps a mirror that he looks into. If that were the case, what do you think he is seeing as evidenced by his recent postings? Some of you seem to get it, but the complainers do not. I bet most of you would have managed only a C+ in 11th grade English class…on a good day.

    Bottom Line: consider not your expectations, but what any identifiable contrast in tone, structure and sub-text might say about the writer. Blogging is a new art form and is a real time evolution vs. what you might normally see in a writer who might publish once every 2 – 4 years. You have a chance to see evolution up close here…and not in packaged bulk quantities (i.e., a book every so often). Consider the gift that this blog is, and think more critically…

    Or you can just be an ass as some of you seem content to be.

    Waiter: I like your blog, and it says much about you and perhaps that you are looking beyond what you see in your day to day subsistence. Dream on brother…

  92. a server says:

    Thank you Andrew!

  93. Jhamz says:

    I’m off eggsalad for a while now also. I think there is some jealousy of your newfound fame and publicity for your book, waiter. Some of the comments above sound like the criticisms of Bob Dylan when he went electric “Just not the same, etc…” For cryin’ out loud, let the man evolve! Love the blog, and link to it on mine:

    Dish Twin Cities Blog

  94. Rocketflyer says:

    “A server” said it first, but I will say thank you as well Andrew.

    Waiter, best to you, man.

  95. levi says:

    what’s all the security about? Where should ex-cons work? Restaurants are really taking themselves too seriously.

  96. jess says:

    I was hoping for another post today. I wait tables, as I have said a few times, in south texas and keep getting crappy sections. Mgmt says it’s because they are putting me next to the slow ones to help them because I am a strong server. Your blog makes it better on shitty days, because we all know we aren’t the only ones getting crapped on by the man. Hope to hear from you soon

  97. Mike says:

    Hell Yeah Send him packing. A guy like that either wants quick cash then he’ll peace out… ORRR .. He’s a crazy pathological liar and you’ll have to hear his stories every day. I was a waiter in college and always tip very well. You guys deserve it.

  98. Girl from Belgium says:

    hey Waiter,
    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I realy like it! I check for a new post almost every day. My English is getting better thanks to you ;)… I was just wondering I you were allright, ’cause we haven’t heard from you for over a week?
    Anyway, keep up the good work, you make my day ;)!

  99. Penny says:


    Instead of showing off what we can teach other people, we are showing genuine feelings and concerns right back to the writer. Can’t this be a part of this “new art form” of yours?

    We said 1, you yelled 1, 2…maybe you didn’t see 3 right behind yourself.

    Maybe it’s time you worked on your blog and you anger.

  100. Bruce says:

    I blame the public school system.

    For everything.

  101. Daniel says:

    I read similar article also named Flat Vacant Stare, and it was completely different. Personally, I agree with you more, because this article makes a little bit more sense for me

  102. Dianne says:

    Oh Sweetie, I feel for you. I too, have leaned against the wall of the pharmacy, nearly weeping from the pain in my mouth. Bad teeth are a curse worse than the plagues of Egypt.

  103. Dianne says:

    WTH? I messed up. My comment was meant for your tooth extraction story. Sorry.

  104. Trackback: Gambling site.
  105. Ajeya says:

    Amazing, the kind of people you meet on your job. Nice story.

  106. DennyCross says:

    great work,

  107. promosyon says:

    I love so much listen music and trance 🙂

  108. mirc says:

    thank you

  109. J says:

    @52 – I don’t know. I think you both are right.

    Officially the language is the Austrian dialect of German, however when I was in Vienna (not as a tourist) my exchange family and everyone else I met kept impressing on me the fact that they spoke “Austrian”. It was an insult to be reminded that it was a dialect of German.

    So, I suppose it all depends on what perspective you are using to look at the language name.

  110. Kempeth says:

    Or to quote Londo:
    You have that vacant look on your eyes, that says: Hold my head to your ears and you will hear the sea…

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