Synopses & Reviews
Chapter OneThe Luncheonette
It's a very slow Friday night. I've had precious few tables and the evening promises to be a bit of a wash. I check my watch for the tenth time. Only eight-thirty. Although the night drags interminably, I know better than to ask my manager to let me go home.
You don't know, he'll say, it could get busy. This is Friday night.
I'll have the cabernet, she says.
No, you don't want that, he says.
Yes, she repeats firmly, I do.
You want the Chianti, he says, it's very good here.
I don't want the Chianti. You can have the Chianti.
We'll have two cabernets, he says to me, smiling. He acts like he's trying to pacify her, and she looks pissed off already. Somehow, it's going to end up being my fault.
By the time I return with the wine, they're all geared up for a fight.
I want the special linguini with extra mussels, she says.
Instead of the shrimp? I ask.
No, I want the shrimp. But I also want extra mussels. Can you do that for me? I don't care, I'll pay extra. Whatever it costs. She's giving me asteely-eyed stare, just daring me to say no or even waver in my response.
No problem, I tell her pointedly. Would you care for a salad or appetizer?
I don't eat salad, she says. Just the mussels. You're going to bring me the extra mussels, right?
Extra mussels, I repeat, no problem. To convince her, I pull out my order pad and make a note. What a bitch, I write and smile at her. I turn my attention to her date. And for you, sir?
Let me tell you what I want, he says unctuously. This is a phrase that flags trouble as surely as a red cape in front of a bull. It means he's not even going to look at the menu and the dozens of entrees listed there. No, he's got something in his mind and he means for me to get it for him, whatever it is. Especially if it's not on the menu and we don't have it. Whether this is to impress his date, generally act like a big shot, or just to be a pest, I can't tell. He is, however, offering a challenge and setting up a dynamic between the three of us that will last for the duration of his meal. The game has begun and we're off and running.
I want a shrimp scampi. You got anything like that?
You mean the large prawns?
Garlic and butter?
No, I tell him, we don't have that. We only have the small shrimp. Sorry. I've picked up the gauntlet. Why should I make this easy? He's certainly not going to.
Tell the chef to make something for me, then. Something like a shrimp scampi.
Well, we really don'thave any--
Just tell him. He smiles again and this time the smile says, If you don't do what I say, I'm going to call the manager over and make a really big scene.
Just a second, I tell them, I'll be right back.
I need you, I whisper to him.
Oh really? hesays, raising his eyebrows suggestively.
As soon as the sea bass has been sufficiently ripped to flaky shreds, the chef follows me to the table. My couple seems quite surprised to see him there.
I've brought the chef out personally to speak to you, I tell them.
Oh, this is wonderful, Mr. Gold Chains says. The chef is totally ingratiating, although I can tell he is barely containing his inherently sarcastic streak.
I just want some...
"The debut of a new and compelling writer is always a cause for celebration. Debra Ginsberg culls from a lifetime of waiting a humor, insight, and compassion that places her in the tradition of fine old tale-spinners. We have here, perhaps for the first time in literature, a true portrait of the demanding art of waiting on tables, from which Ginsberg has fashioned a wise, page-turning commentary on the human condition." Kim Chernin, author of In My Mother's House
"Every time I go to a restaurant now, I think of what must be happening behind the scenes. Ginsberg's stories really stay with you. A great read from start to finish." Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander
"Debra Ginsberg's great gift is the quiet way she's able to point up the truths that reside in the innocent setting of the restaurant, in the harmless summer job that becomes the lifelong career, in the transitory exchanges that oftentimes have lasting effects, and in the character that develops while pursuing the philosophically complex occupation of waiting. This book reminds the reader that the waitress taking your order is also, maybe, noting much more with her pen. This is a strong debut." Antonya Nelson, author of Nobody's Girl
"Debra Ginsberg's Waiting touched me, made me laugh, made me hunger so to speak to know more and more about the ups and downs of her life. It's a life of cups and saucers, shouting diners and lunatic restaurant owners, the tug and pull of single motherhood, romantic hopes dashed and rebuilt and finally, the many, many beautiful notes of epiphany she so wonderfully renders." Lisa Schiffman, author of Generation J
Part memoir, part social commentary, part guide to how to behave when dining out, this book--now in paperback--takes readers on an intimate journey through Ginsberg's two decades of waitressing. Includes a new Epilogue.
A veteran waitress dishes up a spicy and robust account of life as it really exists behind kitchen doors.
Part memoir, part social commentary, part guide to how to behave when dining out, Debra Ginsberg's book takes readers on her twentyyear journey as a waitress at a soap-operatic Italian restaurant, an exclusive five-star dining club, the dingiest of diners, and more. While chronicling her evolution as a writer, Ginsberg takes a behind-the-scenes look at restaurant life-revealing that yes, when pushed, a server will spit in food, and, no, that's not really decaf you're getting-and how most people in this business are in a constant state of waiting to do something else.
About the Author
Debra Ginsberg was born in England and grew up in New York, California, and Oregon. She waited tables for twenty years to support her other career as a freelance writer and editor.A graduate of Reed College and a regular contributor to the San Diego Union-Tribune
books section, she lives in San Diego with her son.