There are many things I like about being a waiter. Not ranked in importance – rather, this is the one that comes to mind right now:
I’m kind of in control of how I have to talk to people. By nature, I’m a reticent type of person, socially. Ironic, of course, on many levels.
- I’m in a profession where social skills are extremely important and rewarded as such.
- I’ve been a writer my whole adult life (and if writers aren’t trying to communicate, I don’t know what they’re doing).
- I’ve been a professional musician the last 12 years (ditto, re: writers).
But I am reticent. I’m the type to sit in the background, listening, evaluating. I’ll contribute if called upon, or if I feel comfortable. But I’m mostly inclined to let gregarious people do their thing and I’ll just wait, or else let them blow their brains out.
So back to what I like about being a waiter. It’s that I’m in a social situation of sorts with the guests, and I’m not locked into them for the duration. Yes, I’m there for their two-hour meal, but really I’m only there for minutes or seconds at a time. I get to dive and dodge and hit and miss and swoop in and retreat. If you’re not already getting the boxing analogy, I’m like Muhammad Ali. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
Sometimes You Do Feel This Dominant, When Your Game Is On
We all have our best moves – usually verbal responses, set-pieces we deliver flawlessly as if from inspiration, and physical acting displays like smiling or laughing or fake consternation. It’s a repertoire that gets the job done effectively. Moves range from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. When you’re on you feel like a maestro, a star, a BMOC (Big Man On Campus, for you youngsters). There’s nothing that your moves can’t handle. No situation you can’t come out of looking like a stud.
If only dating could be structured the same way . . .
[Side note: Years ago, I realized why musicians – even ugly, boorish, stupid musicians – get so many hot girls. It’s because they’re in just such a situation. Forty-five minutes of the hour, they are on stage, playing music, looking cool, answering no questions, the center of attention. Fifteen minute break, they go and hit the crowd. Half a minute here, two minutes there, five minutes over there, get a drink, go to the bathroom, another two minutes there . . . and they’re back on stage. They have all their sure-fire social moves concentrated into a tiny space. And then they’re god again for the next 45 minutes. While the rest of us blow our brains out trying to be charming for three hours straight.]
As a waiter I can do this. If people are irritating, I only have to spend a minute or two at a time with them. It’s understood that I have things to do, and I can move on. In some ways, this does satisfy a shy person’s need for social interaction. Shy people are just like everyone else: they believe they are interesting and have something to say. They just are uncomfortable doing so. Being a waiter provides this opportunity.
Instead of having to suffer through the Elbow Man’s entire one-hour pontification on how smart he is, I can hear enough to scurry away, then return later to drop a nice bon mot on the table that perfectly summarizes the other guests’ pain for them.
With genuinely likable but high-powered personalities, I am able to show my best without really worrying about being eclipsed – which would surely happen in a normal social situation.
Intruding on a close-knit family or friend group would normally be highly awkward or even impossible. But as a waiter, you can insinuate yourself into that beautiful, warm vibe with a comment or two, and not be rejected.
There are a lot of lonely people out there. Waiters usually aren’t among them. Even for those without many friends or family, they are able to connect with people. And best of all, concerning the topic here, they have control of that connection.