I’m at the laundromat folding my freshly cleaned underwear when Mike, a waiter I know from a local restaurant, walks in dragging a laminated paper bag of dirty clothes behind him. He doesn’t notice me as he starts stuffing his white shirts, black pants, server aprons, and civilian wear into the cavernous mouth of one of the extra large machines. As I stack my boxer briefs into neat little piles, I watch Mike pour in detergent, select the “HOT WASH” option, and start dropping five dollars worth of quarters into the coin slot.  When the twentieth quarter registers, the machine’s motor springs to life with a fluidic whoosh and the waiter’s clothes transform into an agitated soup of cotton and suds.  I guess Mike’s never heard of washing whites and colors separately. Oh well.

“Hey Mike,” I call out. “How ya doing?”

“Hey Steve,” Mike says. “Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

“That’s okay. How are things at the restaurant?”

“Ugh,” Mike says. “Things suck.”

“That bad?”

“Monday though Friday we get a third of the covers we used to get.”

I let out a low whistle. “That is bad. How are the weekends?”

“We get the usual Saturday crowd,” Mike says. “But they’re eating and drinking cheap.”

“Is the tipping percentage down?”

“You get the occasional jerk who thinks he’s recession proofing himself by tipping eight percent,” Mike says. “But most people still hover in the fifteen to twenty percent range.”

“It’s just that twenty percent of a fifty dollar check is not as good as twenty percent of a hundred dollar check.”


“During the downturn in 2000,” I say, “Some of my regular customers just disappeared. People I was friendly with. Never saw them again.”

“Probably embarrassed they couldn’t afford to spend as much as they used to,” Mike replies.

“You’re probably right,” I say. “I wouldn’t’ve minded if they ate pasta instead of steak. At least they’d still be in my place spending money. I guess some people are all about appearances.”

“Talking about that,” Mike says. “You know the rich yuppie mommies who go out to lunch around here? The ones who go shopping all day while their Wall Street husbands earn all the money?”

“I remember the type.”

“I haven’t seen any of them at my restaurant in months.”

“Maybe their Wall Street husbands got laid off and they’re tightening their belts,” I suggest.

“I think it’s worse than that,” Mike says.

“How so?”

“Did you know that thirty-four homes in this town went into foreclosure last month?” Mike asks.

“Holy shit,’ I reply. “That many?”

“And not just crappy houses either,” Mike says. “But showpieces that cost eight hundred grand a year ago.”

“So you think the yuppie moms lost their homes?’

“Makes sense,” Mike says. “A lot of these people were overextended and borrowed against the value their homes to maintain their lifestyles. When you combine dropping home values, the stock market tanking, and the husbands getting laid off, they probably got wiped out.”

“Wow,” I say. “That’s brutal.”

“Screw ‘em,” Mike says, waving his hand dismissively.  “Assholes like that thought the party would never end. Maybe some of those yuppie fuckers will be waiting tables alongside me soon.”

There was a time when I would’ve commiserated with Mike in his schadenfreude but not today. Too many friends and family have told me horror stories about massacred retirement accounts, dwindling 401Ks,  job anxiety, postponed dreams, and being maimed by the grinding  struggle to make ends meet. They’re all good, hardworking people. I suspect the vast majority of the “yuppie fuckers” Mike’s referring to are good people as well. But I was a waiter once. I remember watching my cash flow dry up and sweating the rent.  And even though it’s not in anyone’s best economic interest to feel this way, when you’re broke and bitter, misery loves company.

“Anyway,” Mike says. “You should be grateful you’re out of the biz. There’s never been a worse time to be a waiter.”

“How are you managing?” I ask.

“I used to make my nut working four nights a week,” Mike says. “Now I don’t make that working five doubles.”

“Double shifts, man,” I say, shaking my head. “They’re murder.”

“Now my girlfriend and I are having problems because I’m never home,’ Mike says. “The shit never ends.”

‘I’m sorry to hear that.’

“So how you doing?” Mike asks. “How’s the book?”

“The book’s doing well,” I reply. “Now I’m writing another one.”

“About what?”

“Tipping thought the service industry,” I say.  “Waiters, bellhops, skycaps, barbers, strippers – stuff like that.”

“Cool,” Mike says. “And you and your girlfriend? Still going strong?”

“Actually we broke up last month,” I say.

“Oh shit,” Mike says. “I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay. She’s a great woman. It just wasn’t working out between us.”


“Sometimes the bitter comes with the sweet.”

“Like the economy being in the toilet,” Mike says. “But gas getting cheaper.”

I pause for a moment to gather my thoughts. “I wouldn’t put it that way,” I say. “But sort of.”

“Did you see the gas stations down the street?” Mike says, looking like he desperately wants to change the subject. “They’re in a pricing war. One guy’s selling gas for a buck-seventy-nine a gallon.”

“Those guys have been slugging it out for weeks,” I say, giving Mike his out. “I think they have the lowest prices in the state.”

“They’re causing traffic jams,” Mike says. “It’s crazy.”

Mike and I talk about superfluous stuff for a few more minutes while I finish folding my laundry. When I’m done I pack my clean clothes into my own laminated paper bag, wish Mike luck, and drag my laundry out to my car. The moment I get behind the steering wheel another car pulls up like an automotive vulture, ready to prey on my spot. Parking is tight this time of day and I’d do the same thing if the situation was reversed, but somehow this driver’s annoying me. For some reason I can’t explain, I don’t want to be rushed.  I roll down my window and wave car onward. The car’s horn beeps angrily in response. My frustration tolerance has been low this past month so I’m surprised I resist flipping the driver the bird. After thirty seconds the driver of the car gets the hint and pulls past me. I get a glimpse of his face, He’s one of those red face choleric types who look like they’re a temper tantrum away from a brain aneurysm. Just great. I’ve deposited my bad energy into another person. Maybe it’s that misery loves company things again.

I lean back in the driver’s seat. I am well and truly pissed off. What’s worse, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the breakup. Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe I got up on the wrong side of bed. I take a deep breath and start going through my own little anger management routine. It doesn’t involve mantras or visualizations of beachfront property. I get a handle on my emotions by observing what’s going on around me. Getting absorbed in small details usually soothes my nerves and gives me the emotional headspace to start working out a solution.

As I concentrate on the stone wall fronting the courtyard of the church I’m parked next to, I spy a squirrel munching on an acorn. He’s all plump and ready for winter. Probably has secret caches of nut protein stashed all over town. Maybe he’s hidden some of his loot in the front yard of my house. Maybe he’s buried acorns in front lawns of all the foreclosed homes in town. That’d be ironic.

But that squirrel’s started something stirring inside my brain. That something spins around my mind, churning the memories, images, cognitions, and sensations that make up who I am like the agitator blade inside a washing machine. On a preconscious level I realize that I need to be saving something for a rainy day. I need to start squirreling that something away. And that something’s not money or nuts. But what is it?

Just wait for it, I tell myself. The answer will come. Then, just when I feel the truth bubbling to the surface like a long forgotten name or fact, a blaring car horn shocks my ears and rudely shoves the answer back down into the  depths.

“Are you leaving?” a whiny female yells from inside her car. “I wanna park there if you’re leaving. You’re gonna leave right?”

“The spot’s all yours,” I reply, “I was just leaving.”

“Thanks mister.”

I turn the ignition key and power up the engine. As I start to pull away form the curb I look at the grey rodent perched on the stone wall. He’s too busy adding that last layer of fat before winter’s chill to even notice me.

“Brother,” I say to the squirrel.  “You probably know something I don’t.”

I drive away and the lady swings into my parking spot. Oddly enough, I’m not stressed anymore. That something rattling around my brain will emerge later. I’ll have my answer. And probably when I least expect it.

86 thoughts on “Preparation”

  1. Pege says:

    Nice to see you back in the saddle.

  2. Kim says:

    Sorry to hear about the break up, dude, but it’s good that you’re starting to search the wind for answers. Good luck with saving up money or karma or whatever it is you need.

  3. steve in texas says:


  4. Ben says:

    all this economy stuff makes me kinda glad im in college right now. hopefully it will be better in four years when i graduate, and i’ll be able to get a job.

  5. under sundog says:

    listening to Toni Braxton much? “unbreak my heart … say you love me again …”

    the more lugubrious the love song and the louder you sing – the better life gets. promise.

  6. fy says:

    Does it affect sales of your book? Maybe you do need to save for rainy days!

  7. Charlotte says:

    Nice post. I like how everything going on in life can be woven through a normal evening doing laundry.

  8. Chris says:

    Mr Dublanica, you are starting to worry me a bit – You’re on the NYT bestseller list. A lot of people, including myself, are really looking forward to your next opus. You have successfully reinvented yourself – no mean feat (I have done it several times, so I know of what I speak) For a while there, you were even getting laid. And yet you are not happy, something is missing.

    Time for some serious introspection.

    Waiter’s reply. Thanks for the concern. I’m very happy with how my life’s going, thank you – but there’s always the bitter with the sweet.

  9. Christine says:

    I think that sometimes, things happen for a reason. The reason just isn’t apparent to us at the time. Give it some time.

  10. muppetgirl says:

    While you do have to save money for a rainy day, I imagine that the book deal didn’t provide you with much of a share of the profit, Former Waiter. Perhaps what makes you restless is life experience outside of your circle…getting to see the pyramids, dining on the water in Barcelona, getting on the wrong train in Paris, taking a boat to the Galapagos, or whatever you’ve wanted to do. Perhaps another book is tipping in foreign countries! I’d read it!

  11. Joan of Argghh! says:

    I live in a grubby little pirate town that thrives on tourism. It makes me want to write a “Traffic Rant” blog as some sort of cathartic release from the aggravation. Stopping in the middle of the four-lane because they are lost, tourists jam the streets, ignore sensible traffic laws, and pedestrians dare you to hit them. They own this town and they know it. The cops will never stop a tourist, so they hit on the home-town folks coming home from a long commute to a better city with better pay. Evil!

    Said all that to say this: tourism is WAY down, too. I can move through my little town without any apoplexy at all. It’s kinda scary, what that portends.

  12. Cosmo's Human says:

    I know the economy sucks. I’m a social worker and the resources are gone for the poor. Food banks are empty. Social services have cut back big time. My BF and myself had to cut back. We both are professionals, but like others have been hit hard by the recession…yes it is official…a recession. Although we don’t go to places that average $100.00 a meal, we had to cut back.

    Here in the Cleveland–Pittsburgh area the places are horrible. This is not NYC…but I wish we had quality places to enjoy a meal…that would be well worth the experience.

    I do feel bad for the service industry, it’s not their fault, the workers I mean. It is just bad for everyone now.

  13. Lani says:

    You have achieved some of your goals, gained some fame, had a wonderful girlfriend, have family and friends.

    Maybe you should listen to that old U2 song that says “Still haven’t found what I’m looking for..” to jump start your search for an answer.

  14. JB says:

    I own my restaurant and your right this business is so hard now a days. We are doing half of what we used to do but still need to make the same while making half. Great writing and let me tell you being in this business now for 25 years i have as many stories as you. Thanks for writing about them for me. If you can check out my blog i have a few kitchen stories you may enjoy.


  15. CJ says:

    I work in the aerospace industry and it looks like another layoff is most likely right around the corner. It’s bad every where. People without can not really afford to supply others their income…

  16. well done fillet says:

    woah woah woah a mo, surely packing his black pants and white shirts into one washer would lead to the white shirts no longer being white? eh? these things trouble me…….sorry bout your breakup dude……

  17. DABCT says:

    Just remember the comic strip which defined the “disappointment of revelation” in the simple statement of “you’ll never outsmart the squirrls”

  18. Michelle S. says:

    You can wash blacks and whites together, as long as you don’t use bleach. 🙂

    Sorry about the break up…good luck with the new book!

  19. anon says:

    I’m getting the sense that things are going well on one side of life (work) for you and perhaps you are wanting subconsciously for the rest to fall in line or progress. I hoping you get there. Great to see yo back writing again!

  20. rjanis123 says:

    I think that that something is to put it simply, positive energies. over the years you’ve told us all about different people with whom either you’d have some positive karmic impact on, or them on you.. well my brother, those are important, they’re relevant, and they’re real… more importantly, they’re the only reason any of us are even here.. to positively impact those around us.. whether it’s the occasional good customer, who remembered you, and you remember that they liked they’re dirty martini with two olives, or the guys in the back of the house who would share their home made meals with you because you always treated them with respect, and comradery, it is these human interactions, that cannot be filmed, and writing about them only barely does them any justice at all.. it’s these things that make us who we are… whether we realize it or not, we are all here merely for one another, it’s this positive “real human energy” that drives us. gives us strength, and for whatever it’s worth, gives our souls the nutrition, or “protein” required to get through the next bad time, or “winter” if you will….
    as for the economy, it’s going to get much much worse I’m afraid.. as a nation we are dangling over the edge of a mighty deep precipice. and when things crash, we won’t have 15$ bottles of water, well, we might, but not the way we do now.. maybe will be municipal water, and even it might be rare.. point here being, that at that point we MIGHT finally realize what it is that is important. Maybe THEN we’ll all figure out that we are only here for one another, because we’re all we’ve really got..
    Take Care, and God Bless Steve

  21. Jay Hallam says:

    All I can say is that your blogs have being going downhill for years now

  22. Bandit says:

    “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.”

  23. DiamondDaveeO says:

    If you start feeling down about the breakup, or the world in general, pop the 80’s video Better Off Dead into the old VCR or DVD player and have yourself a good laugh. The series of events which occur after Lane and Beth break up, always brings about a good chuckle.

    Nice post. Thanks

  24. frankD says:

    maybe its not just the economy

    what gets exposed is that the “value” is reassessed – when everyplace is overcharging and underserving, the patron consumer has fewer options, and the industry providers were in control of price and level of service

    now that less is more for the consumer, the tide is turning to the patron – after all, there are few jobs a server can qualify for outside the service industry, and simultaneously it appears, more people may need to now seek jobs as servers to supplement incomes or need a job

    patrons are simply finding better “value” elsewhere, and even if they can afford it, why pay more than you have to ?

    maybe you food and service were not that great after all and now that the patrons are reassessing, comparing what they get for what they pay for, have decided its not worth it

  25. Persephone says:

    Dear Waiter,

    You’re looking for contentment. There’s a bit of zen to it, of living in the moment. But you can also store up your joys and replay them in your mind when things seem bad. Store up the good bits like photos and films and keep them ready for review the next time you’re feeling down. There are a lot more good times and joy in our lives than we can appreciate, many, many more than there are bad.

    Take care.

  26. Persephone says:

    Michelle S., You can wash blacks and whites together if the blacks are polyester, otherwise your whites will be grey. This is especially true in hot water.

  27. frankD says:

    ………..regulars were realizing the service was noticeably inferior as the costs had skyrocketed over the years. Then to top it all off, if the group was not large enough, even though they had come every year like clockwork, were getting the bum’s rush on tee times and other amenities……….


  28. frankD says:

    PREPARATION is proper prior planning to prevent piss-poor performance

  29. poor waitress says:

    I wash my work whites and blacks in the same load to save time but have to buy new whites like every two months.Thats bitter sweet to me. I should save my money and buy two washers 🙂 or just slow down I dunno.Anyways to all you servers yeah it does suck right now but just think even if things get worse there will always be rich and rich will always go out to eat.Yeah yeah I know doesnt make you feel any better me either but thats my “glass is half full” reasoning while the tips and guest slowly go away

  30. Joan of Argghh! says:

    Dear Waiter,

    Please ignore all the advice in the comments. You seem to have all the right moves, good instincts, and best of all, a bit of luck at your back.

    You are richer, in the best sense of the word, than many.

    And younger than you think.

    Meanwhile, even the mightiest oaks rest in the winter.

  31. Susan says:

    “I wouldn’t’ve minded if they ate pasta instead of steak. At least they’d still be in my place spending money. I guess some people are all about appearances.”

    Or maybe some people, when times are hard, can’t even afford to eat pasta out. (Especially when pasta, plus wine and appetizers and tax and tip at a nice restaurant isn’t always so cheap, either.) Good to see that the old Waiter arrogance is still there.

  32. Rebecca says:

    This post was great. It really illuminated the recession more than any article I read. I felt it when my mom was carrying two mortgages because her old house didn’t sell. She now has renters there and I’ve never seen her seemed so relieved.

    Anyway, I think everyone is out of it right now, and we can find solace together 🙂

  33. sadianne says:

    I’m amazed at some of the downright nasty replies on here. The way people treat one another online and in person is enough to make anyone melancholy.

    Steve, hang in there. There is a good day or even a good moment right around the corner. That anticipation helps keep me going.

  34. Larry R says:

    I happen to work in an industry (electronics) that so far has not been hit too badly by the slowdown. But I’m concerned enough that I’ve been saving as many nuts as possible in anticipation of pain down the road. Unfortunately, this means eating out less frequently (sorry, waiters), trying to squeeze a few more years out of my car (sorry, auto workers), etc. We as a nation have been on an overextended spending binge for a long time, and now that we’re shrinking back to a healthier state, businesses like upscale restaurants, resorts, and other luxuries are suffering the first and the most. It may well get worse before it gets better, but when you’re out there pinching pennies, try to remember that about 99% of the world would trade places with you in a heartbeat. If we can avoid killing the geese that lay the golden eggs, things *will* get better. If we don’t, this will last a good, long, while.

  35. Aussie Ben says:

    Have you been watching Wonder Years reruns lately, Steve?

    I’m not sure why, but this latest blog reads to me like a Kevin Arnold closing narrative.

    “ I watched that squirrel, I thought about Winnie and the summer we’d spent together. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I knew somehow things were going to be different from now on…”

    I know what your voice really sounds like thanks to your recent “give me as much airtime as Obama” campaign, but I think Daniel Stern’s voice lends itself to your posts.


  36. Hananh-Moon says:

    Yeah times are hard all around. Today’s my 18th birthday and my college fund is finally in my name. The problem is, it’s a mutual fund. It’s all time high was 60k, and now its down to 30k. Factor in inflated tuition, food, gas, computer, and dorm prices and I’m twice that in debt.

  37. Trish says:

    Waiter, move to California! Things aren’t so great here as well, but at least it is sunny and warm. I love your blog, don’t give another thought to the bitter commenters.

  38. daviddowney says:

    I’m sure everything will be just fine.Look on the bright side.You got a number one book.I have it by the way.My sister just finished reading it.And now my friend wants to barrow it.Dam.By your own book.But these days we dont have alot of money.My shifts got cut to two even.shifts.So I had to get unemployment.Dam thats only 900 month.I shouldn’t camplain.Plus I went back to school.I cant get financial aid.Cause I made too much last year.I cant wait till next year.Cause I didn’t make that much this year.I have to stick to school.In order to get out of being a server.Like you.I wish I could write a book.I wont give you the title.But I think it willl work if I do write a book.But I do want my own rest.So i’m looking on the bright side.Like we all should.By any chance.Are you coming to L.A. anytime soon.e-mail soon,

  39. Starr01 says:

    Beautiful post. I have felt the waiting for the answer to appear feeling before; it is frustrating and exciting at the same time. I need to start saving for my future too ( I am your age) but I need to pay off bills too! Sigh. Hey at least I am better off than my waiter girlfriend who lost her job and NO ONE is hiring right now. I really feel bad for her.

  40. MelC says:

    dollar whatsit for gas!?!? cheapest here is over two bucks still, count your blessings!!! *lol*…seriously, dont let the pessimism surrounding you impact how you feel, it will get better and from where i sit it sounds like its going pretty darn good now!

  41. Jan Rowley says:

    Glad to see a new post. I have been reading the old stuff trying to get caught up. You inspire me to keep blogging. no one has left a comment on my blog but Im writing for me right now. Keep up the good work. A lot of us appreciate you.

  42. Former Server/Bartender says:

    Susan… *sigh* …never mind…

  43. Kathy says:

    Nice post Steve Finished the book. great read!!

  44. Dr. Electro says:

    I hate when I have a brain fart and something makes the idea disappear before I can latch onto it. Yes, the squirrel knows something none of us know. If we could figure it out, untold riches and fame would be ours. If I can figure it out, I’ll write you immediately. Then I’ll race tyou to the bank with a huge grin on my face. 😀

  45. Carroll says:

    Sorry to hear about the breakup, Writer. But you’re such a very good guy, the right woman is going to be lucky to find you one of these days, be sure of it!

  46. The Bartender says:

    All this talk about the bad economic situation makes me feel good that I chose to eternally tend bar after earning a master’s degree. Thankfully, the tourist trap I work in is immune from economic cycles. Life is good, and Steve, your book that encompasses your insight into the restaurant business allocates to me an element of rightousness that I’m not alone going through life waiting on assholes. It is not only reserved for servers and bartenders. Bob Dylan titled it well in his tune, “Everybody’s Gotta Serve Somebody”. No matter who you are. I’ve enjoyed your book…many thanks!

  47. Leann says:

    I’m really sorry to hear the relationship did not work out. As you stated, I’m sure it was for the best. You seem to be a wonderful guy and I’m sure you’ll find that special someone.

    Laundry sucks, especially when you have to go to a laundromat.

  48. Steve says:

    Breakups sometime occur when someone moves on to bigger things. You wrote a book and have been busy. You moved on and it is different but it is better. You were just use to doing the same thing for a long time. You have changed but for the better. But always there is some self doubt that comes with it.

  49. Jimmy says:

    Got a bit bizarre there at the end, but a good post non-the-less!

  50. The Fat Lady Sings says:

    Why is it nothing good happens without there being something bad to balance the ledger? Call it karma, call it fate, or how the universe works – it still sucks, no matter how you look at things. Just once, wouldn’t it be nice to have the good with the good? To be lucky at cards AND love? I’ve always wondered why that is; why life seems to seek some kind of cosmic parity. Ah well. Maybe tomorrow – eh? My prayer for all of us in the New Year: success in life – and that means love too. I’d say we deserve a little happiness all across the board.

  51. chosha says:

    As a person who wasted a golden opportunity to squirrel away for a rainy day, I can tell you right now, ‘make the most of it.’ Even if the rains never falls, you’ll never be sorry that you were financially wise.

  52. tom says:

    I felt the same. I felt that I needed to do something for my very own future. I just felt that I need to, save and get something done. Something has been boggling my mind for the past week, but I just couldn’t help myself out.

    But, like you said, we will know it sometime sooner. It’s just a sign of preparation that we all should be doing.

  53. LisaBinDaCity says:

    Life DOES tend to work that way, not getting answers when we want/need them.

    Damn it 😉

  54. rusalina says:

    You need to post more often, we miss you!

  55. Durka Durka says:

    “Tipping thought the service industry,” Maybe you meant tipping throughout?

  56. Anonymous says:

    “On a preconscious level I realize that I need to be saving something for a rainy day. I need to start squirreling that something away. And that something’s not money or nuts. But what is it?”

    When money has no value or there is little of it the only thing of value we have left are our relationships with those around us. No one can strip away the value of “Trust”, “Integrity”, “Honesty”, and “Generosity”.

    How’s your savings stash in those “Banks” these days? Have you sold your soul to worthless paper money?

  57. Texian says:

    Don’t listen to their tacky comments. Sour grapes if you ask me. I am very happy for you and loved your story. I like 56’s comment and I think a little money squirreled away would be nice for you too.

  58. Suzanne says:

    Wow all these comments are so Philosophical! The only thing I have to say is…

    Boxer Briefs? Yummy!

  59. EmAManda says:

    I just finished listening to your book on CD and adored it! Happy to have found your blog and enjoyed reading this post.
    With Care,

  60. Bob Dobbs says:

    Thanks for the post.

    You’ve always seemed very aware of what’s going on inside you, so I have no doubt you’ll figure out what’s missing/wrong. If it doesn’t come out consciously, I’m sure you’ll have a really interesting dream real soon.

  61. MikeTheWaiterDotCom says:

    Hey Steven,

    just wanted to shout out to tell you that your blog has been an exciting motivation for me to start my own. After 40 years in the biz, I have lots of fun stories and experiences. Waiter Rant is on my desk top and I visit each day. Wishing you well…

  62. Febs says:

    Most people have financial plan. But while the haves plan for years in the future [retirement plan, children college funds, etc.], the have-nots plan in short term…..weekly, even daily. Some just knew they won’t be able to have the very basic like tonight’s diner on the table.

    So always be very very grateful that you are able to plan beyond months and years in advance.

    As for emergency saving, it’s a must with or without worldwide financial crisis looming on the horizon. 🙂

    Good luck on the second book!

  63. isabel says:

    See, you hit on something in your post which illustrates perfectly my biggest pet peeve – why all the fuss about percentage tips when it’s the dollar amount that really matters?

    You haven’t done any more work bringing out a $80 order than you did with one that costs $20 – if that party took your table for an hr, giving you $10 would boost you above minimum wage for the time you spent. Even better if you have other customers. Yet I bet waiters sneer at anyone who gives you $10 on $80, since it is – gasp – *only* 12.5%.

    Yet getting 20% on the cheaper order is only $4, which I bet is hardly preferable.

    Seriously, what’s with all the complaining about percentages then? It just gives more ammo to the people who bag out waiters, who they sometimes quite rightly see as whingers.

  64. Jose Tostada says:

    I say this in hopes of awakening you – this latest post is terrible – if I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was left on the cutting floor, but when you figured out you didn’t have anything, you started scraping the bottom for something – and this is what you’ve come up with. I’d hate to think your “highly stylized” approach was a gimmick that has run it’s course – if it weren’t, then you’re writing should still seem fresh (which it hasn’t been lately)…

    How about something more open and honest and introspective rather than recycling mundane converstation that drags out?

    Another thought – lately your writing packaged as having to reach some kind of resolution in the end paragraphs, and that feels rushed and occasionally unnecessary – and false (and gimmicky). Try not forcing an answer upon us (and yourself, if necessary). Paranthetical writing, if done well, can also be satisfying.

  65. llbean says:

    It’s funny…some people pass on their negative energy, like not giving up a no longer necessary parking space.

  66. Nancy says:

    Excellent point isabel. Sometimes the higher % is less…and vice versa.

    Further, as a customer, I sometimes feel judged when I order a less expensive item on the menu – or salad and appetizer, etc., which I will do when I’m not terribly hungry. Under those circumstances, I will tip at a higher percentage. That is, unless the service does seem to suffer. 🙂

  67. kelliebrat says:

    We have 70 homes in our ‘neighborhood’ and there are 28 either ‘bank owned’ or vacant for rent or sale. My inlaws have lost over 70% of their 401k and retirement account this year. The economy just plain sucks. My husband is an executive chef in a large hotel and usually by this time of year the Christmas banquet season is in full swing. They dont have a single one booked for Novemeber and Decembers banquet bookings are down by almost 75% from last year. It’s going to get worse before it gets better and thats frightening.
    Sorry to hear about the break up Steve, hopefully 2009 will be your year to find ‘the one’

  68. Jose says:


    The squirrel – Is fulfilling a purpose just by being a squirrel

    You – Need something more. Routine does’nt cut it anymore

  69. dave says:

    I agree with Jose (#54). I’ve gone through your entire 4 year history on the web in the last couple of weeks since I read about your site on

    The problem I see is that your whole gimmick (so to speak) was about the stories you told as a restaurant FOH insider. Since your book came out, it really seems that you’re reaching and posting things just to keep updating the site or promoting appearances, etc. I have already noticed your number of comments has dropped quite a bit. I’m not trying to be overly-critical but the restaurant game is your bread-and-butter. I hope I’m wrong here but most “gimmicky”-type books don’t exactly make the author wealthy. Bourdain turned his BOH stories into a completely different direction by becoming a TV travel host going into some areas of the world that a vast majority of people will never see. That’s why I like his shows that take him deep into the jungle much better than when he goes to the US Southwest. Maybe your book will take you in that direction also.

    I hope the money you’ve made (or will be making) will let you live the rest of your life in financial comfort. Otherwise, your problem will be trying to live as a one-trick pony. Books about tipping aren’t going to keep this machine rolling. Maybe I’m wrong and you’ll carve out a nice niche for yourself in the publishing industry but I wouldn’t expect the next book to do as well as the first. People came for your personal stories. Most aren’t likely to stay for a quide on tipping around the world. We know from your blog that you’re not likely to be a world traveler so that means the book would be based on research without a lot of personal experience unless you force them into the stories rather than let them flow.

    I don’t know you so I’m no one to give advice but unless I made a truck-load of money or just decided to move on, I would keep waiting tables. I know how it can suck the life out of you but having a little money in your pocket can keep the resentment away. Being financially beholden to your employer is what robs you of your happiness. I’ve always said that if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t quit my job but I would have a whole new attitude. Staying in the game would at least give you enough to possibly make a sequel to the first book.

    Good luck in whatever you decide and where life takes you.

  70. d0k0night says:

    His blog, not yours.

    some of you seem to be under the mistaken belief that the waiter’s blog is here soley for your own benefit.

  71. red says:

    The blog columns have been getting pretty stale. Over-used writing techniques. I’m the honest drive-by commenter though. Blog doesn’t work for me? Well then I guess it’s time to stop reading.

    Thanks for the relationship mr. waiter, but it’s time we broke up.


    good luck!

    Waiter replies – Adios asshole.

  72. Purple Dino Type says:

    You also mention a squirrel in your November 6th 2008 blog post “Life’s Too Short for Bad Porn”.
    Is this becoming a theme?
    If so, I think it’s nuts.

  73. CJW says:

    You would think people had to pay to read this, the way they complain. You didn’t dance as well this evening, I think I should get my money back.

    I wonder how they would perform, when asked for a new and fresh dance every evening.

    Sometimes he’s hot and sometimes he’s not.

    So get over it.

    There’s fresh meat out there writting other blogs, if you don’t like this one… skip it.

  74. ewhyte says:

    Wow. I mean, just, wow. I write crap like this all the time. What happened to the funny?

    You no longer have ‘customers’, now you have ‘friends’ at the laundromat.

    I’ll be tipping you at your next job, when your next book about ‘tipping’ doesn’t jolt the industry, especially in this economy.

    Good luck

  75. CJW says:

    The stress and frustration of being on the floor and serving the public, the excess of coffee, substances and debt, seemingly resulted in a more interesting writing style.

    Money, leisure, and fame do make him a bit dull.

    But don’t you enjoy watching and reading the changes one goes thru in life’s little avenues?


    most people are just greedy selfish low lives. the economy is just showing everyones true colors. people at the core are reverting back to their base animalistic survival tendencies to preserve their retarded comfortable lives.its funny when you think about most of the world, most people live in abject poverty, with no food, clean running water, and then you look at how pathetic complaning pusssies most americans are. Then look at the waste of idiocy of wall street. Wall street firms were supposed to be full of the brightest, most educated people of our country that graduated from the best universities and ivy league schools and all those investment banks are going bankrupt because the supposed “genius investment bankers of wall street” lost so much money. Now all these low life degenerate companies that have lost all their money from basically gambling investors money want a federal bail out, they are all criminals, and should be thrown out on the street, the bums. no one should get a bail out, if your company makes mistakes, loses money, your business should go down, and you should be out of the job, i own a business and if i lost money, the government wouldnt bail me out, i would lose everything. Then I hear about all these ceos that get paid 20 million a year, asking for bailouts, i want to spit on them. its sickening.

  77. Clay says:

    Waiter (I mean Steve), first of all, great post. It’s when you describe the minutiae of a normal activity that sometimes the greatest truths are revealed. Also, laundry happens to be my favorite stress reliever – the smells, the whirling machines, the iron killing wrinkles on your clothes……what’s better?

    I hope my post is a little more readable that whatever that is above me….

    And lastly, funny you mention the squirrel probably no noticing you – the squirrels in my yard seem to stare at me inside the house. It’s REALLY WEIRD!

  78. George says:

    Maybe I’m the only one noticed, but the waiter Steve met at the laundry is an asshole.

    Your customers are the ones who feed your, remember? Fucking asshole?

  79. George says:

    Pretentious this and that. Pretentious they may be, but you are the one who feed on the crumbs off off their table. Be grateful.

  80. serena says:

    Steve dear,
    Im 22 and work two jobs. I pay for everything myself and cant really save. Im trying savings bonds that come directly out of my check and can be cashed in a year. Its helping…well kind of. Im trying to be optimistic. Your book is great. I work at a library and all of us recom mend it to the patrons!

  81. jayel says:

    Waiter, I don’t know how you’re feeling regarding spiritual matters these days, but I believe what you- and all of us- need to prepare for is the rapture of the church (and if you miss that, the tribulation). I have been feeling like this for a while now, and most current events are pointing us straight in that direction. I have never commented on your blog before, but I felt I had to speak up this time.

  82. banquet manager says:

    That’s one heck of a laundry mat conversation.
    So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager

  83. laura says:

    $ is like garden muck, it does no good unless you spread it around….when people are scared, they clinch. right now, a good part of the worlds population is scared. our economy is ….jell-o right now, the euro has fallen flatter than rye krisp..hopefully, things will untangle….

  84. trixie says:

    At the risk of getting bonked on the head by certain waiter-authors around here, I must confess that I don’t usually tip at tip jars. Never have.

    I believe that tipping is for service. So you poured me a cup of coffee, I’m supposed to tip for that? What’s next, tipping at fast food places? Tip jars have sprung up everywhere since a certain giant coffee franchise came along. It used to be you could go to a deli and get a sandwich at the counter or get a scoop of ice cream without expecting to tip and now even some hot dog stands have tip jars. I recently saw a tip jar at a Subway Sandwich shop and had to laugh. Everyone has their hands out.

    That said, I am not stingy when it comes to what I consider real service:

    Restaurant: I tip an automatic 20% for decent service and up to 30% if it’s truly excellent. If I order something take-out from a restaurant, I tip 10-15% – I know that someone had to take time from a customer at a table to bag everything up for me.

    Pizza or food delivery: 15% minimum. Sure you only see them for 15 seconds, but they are using their own car/gas to deliver hot food directly to your door. I tip more if the weather is bad. That $2 delivery charge that often gets tacked on? They don’t always see that.

    Hairdresser: 15-20%, plus extra at Christmas.

    Manicure/Pedicure: $5, plus extra at Christmas.

    Hotels: $5/day for housekeeping and more if I made a big mess. $10 the day I check out. $2-3/per bag for the porter.
    Concierge: $10-$50, depending on the request.

    But you want me to tip because you poured me a cup of coffee? Forgetaboutit.

  85. SPIRIT says:

    Как бы мы все не старались все равно будет так, как задумала вселенная. Пока я читала мой мозг умер.

  86. Lora-lora says:

    Вы знаете, что всякое следствие имеет свои причины. Все бывает, все что происходит все к лучшему. Если бы не было этого не факт, что было бы лучше.

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