How to Be a Waiter or Waitress

Burger and Lobster restaurant
“Burger and lobster, sir?”

In George Orwell’s absolutely super Down and Out in Paris and London, the author, journalist, and writer of sharp polemical stuff, relates his experiences as a poverty stricken (i.e. working class scumbag) sort hunting for mundane jobs. Eventually he struck up work in the hotels of Paris, where he came across the antics of top-class waiters, chefs, and the plongeurs (dish washers, essentially) who were generally considered, and treated, like the scum of the Earth.

Mr. Wapojif recently visited Manchester’s Burger & Lobster and it got him thinking, as he approaches his 31st birthday, of his time working in pubs and restaurants as a student. Looking around, the lively staff seemed full of the joys of lobsters and were all smiles and pleasantries. Indeed, being a waiter or waitress these days is a lot different from the past, so we offer our brief guide for prospective waiters, and waitresses, to adhere to. It’s a trip deep down a rambling, cobblestoned memory lane.

Mr. Wapojif worked in bars and restaurants and found reasonably convivial circumstances, as opposed to the chaos and nastiness of the era Orwell faced in the 1920s. Of course these days there’s the Human Rights Act, so calling your colleagues “mackerel” and booting them up the arse is generally considered grounds for a lawsuit. In the 1920s it was part of the territory.

Orwell wrote the book as a young man. He spent most of his time in the Hotel X where he observed head waiters and chefs generally taking it as their right to assert their authority as violently and verbally abusively as possible. 17 hour shifts over six days a week, rat infestations, and weirdo colleagues were commonplace. Interestingly, hotel owners used to supplement plongeur’s meagre wages with a litre of free wine, knowing they’d steal two litres if this wasn’t provided.

Mr. Wapojif rarely faced such issues as staff generally have a sense of camaraderie; the real problem remains the customers. This is bothersome, as without them the job doesn’t exist, and with them the job is intolerable. People will be rude and aggressive, and others will barely recognise you’re there. Of course one flourishes in these circumstances as it’s life experience. Without this sort of professional education, you grow up expecting people to bow at your feet. With it, you’re grow hair on your eyebrows and dig deep into your nostril with a stray index finger.

As a result, these days our esteemed editor has risen up in the world. Indeed, after a spell scrubbing out toilets in a local student bar, he rose to scrubbing out toilets in a local prison, before settling back in a cushy role scrubbing toilets in the Professional Moron office. He doesn’t have to do that, he’s the editor, but he’s formed a habit he simply can’t break.

“So hang on, what’s the ruddy point of this verbose blog post I’ve waded through? How do I be a waitress or waiter?” Good grief, you idiot, isn’t it obvious? You buy a copy of George Orwell’s book, read it, make notes, and you’ll be set for life!

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