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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

The Waiter Chronicles: One Man's Trash . . .

Monday, September 03, 2007

There's a waiter who started about three weeks before me, who, for the sake of anonymity, I'll call Three-Week. When I started, he was busing tables and training to be a waiter, just like me. He had the core busing skills down: he could clear and reset a table in half the time it took me, and he polished glasses like a pro. His three week head start looked like more than enough to leave me in the table-busing dust while he sped ahead to the greener grass of table-waiting.

But Three-Week had a run of bad luck. While Grandpa's vacation presented an opportunity for both of us, it also offered lots of chances to fail. I had my share of failures, but they were easily corrected and handled with grit-your-teeth humor. Three-week's mishaps, though, involved mis-charging people's credit cards and getting people's orders wrong, things that heavily tax the owner's limited patience. I call it "bad luck" for three-week because his mistakes happened when the dining room was full and when the owner was right there.

The dilemma is this: I have benefited from Three-Week's stumbling. Last week the owner gave specific instructions (in his absence) that I was to wait tables and Three-Week was to bus.

On the face of it, the upside and the downside are easy to spot: I've moved into a position where I can put the pedal to the floor and accelerate right past Three-Week to become an established waiter. It is, in short, exactly what I needed to happen. But the downside is obviously that Three-Week has quickly found himself in a position where his hours are disappearing and he's being squeezed out of table-waiting by executive order. He's already told me he's looking for another job.

There are two ways to look at it.

Life ain't fair: The survival of the fittest: kill or be killed.

Or . . .

Empathy: The un-level playing field: The big picture.

I could easily be in Three-Week's position. That I'm not has less to do with superior aptitude than it has to do with timing and the accident of birth. Three-Week speaks English as a second language, having been born in Mexico. He doesn't have a college degree. He has two kids.

That he should have to compete with a white college-educated English major for a job at a restaurant owned by a European doesn't offer him much of a chance.

I could be making too much of this. My "empathy" could be a form of arrogance. But the reality is that the ristorante is a stop-over for me en route to a salaried job not in the service sector, while for Three-Week it's where he makes his living. And I like him. He taught me this song, which I post below in his honor, hoping things get better for him. Only, not at my expense.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:39 PM


I believe a more fitting tribute would be your posting of a video of yourself singing that song.
commented by Anonymous Point of Order, 11:52 AM  

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