Book Review: Waiting On Humanity
In recent years, the underbelly of the serving industry has come out of the shadows to become a permanent part of pop culture. With books like Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica landing on The Oprah Show and movies like The Slammin Salmon on regular rotation on Comedy Central, it’s increasingly difficult for the server turned author to simply rely on the behind-the-scenes shock value that once propelled the genre into popularity. Today, it takes something more.
Tonya Foster, a former San Francisco server turned writer, has taken a go at it with her new book Waiting on Humanity. The story is fictional (but I assume in a very autobiographical way) and follows Mia as she starts her new serving job at upscale Puccinelli, a corporate restaurant with the usual corporate trappings of nonsensical rules, bad uniforms and rotating inept managers.
Foster also includes the typical server take on smoke breaks, side work, secret shoppers, server assistants, food allergies, and of course, gratuities. Sure the situations are funny, but they are also typical.
Compounding this shortfall is the fact that the book is, well, short. At only 81 pages, it has a staccato feel to it as Mia shares her thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness style. This style seems to also cut short the connection we have to Mia and her rowdy brood of coworkers.
Perhaps the safety net for authors attempting a new take on restaurant writing is to invest more heavily in character and plot development, using the salty sarcasm as a garnishment to the deeper story.
However, if I knew how to avoid the typical waiter whining, erm writing rather, I would still be doing it myself. So I have much respect and admiration for someone like Foster who perseveres through serving and actually comes out of the experience with something to show for it besides recurring server nightmares and tax debt.