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Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress Paperback – July 31, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st Perennial ed edition (July 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060932813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060932817
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #760,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In a truly just world, everyone would have to wait tables for at least six months, just to know what it's like. Failing that, we have writer-waiter Debra Ginsberg's tasty memoir to remind us about life on the other side of those swinging doors. Horror stories? After 20 years of serving other people's food, she's got 'em--and being handed a drunk's vomit-soaked napkins certainly fits the bill. But even though she expresses the usual frustrations with bad tippers and control freaks, in the long run Ginsberg is anything but bitter. In fact, she recently left her publishing job to return to waiting tables, hooked on the freedom, spare time, and ready cash the lifestyle provides. Of course, there are other perks too. Sex thrives in the close quarters and steamy atmosphere of a typical restaurant (not to mention with the high-drama personalities who work there). Fans of Kitchen Confidential will be relieved to know there's as much bad behavior among the floor staff as there is in the back of the house. As in that book, Ginsberg also relates some eyebrow-raising tales about what can happen before your food gets to your table. (The moral here: "It really does pay to be nice to your server.") But Waiting is far more than just a sexual soap opera or a cautionary guide for dining out; it's also the story of one woman's coming of age, most of which just happens to take place while she's wearing an apron. During her tenure as a waitress, Ginsberg thrives as a single mother and comes into her own as a writer--and waiting (as she suggestively calls it) helps her do both. Most of us (including waiters) think of the profession as a stopgap, not a career, but what happens on the way to somewhere else, Ginsberg writes, is every bit as important as the final destination: "Perhaps the most valuable lesson I'd learned was that the act of waiting itself is an active one. That period of time between the anticipation and the beginning of life's events is when everything really happens--the time when actual living occurs." --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Ginsberg has spent nearly 20 years, more on than off, as a waitress, developing a love/hate relationship with a career most of her college-educated peers see either as a way station or a pink-collar province. Though neither a fully ripe memoir nor a truly spicy dish on the food biz (for that, see Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential; Forecasts, April 24), her collection of anecdotes, covering subjects from her father's luncheonette to fancy restaurants, conveys the unpredictability and humanity of this humble but essential work. Ginsberg sketches co-workers, both lively and burnt out, and her inspired and irresponsible bosses. A good view of the "parallel mating dances of staff and patrons" is one perk of her perch; she posits that the risk-taking, gregarious types who work for tips foster mutual attractions. In the "feudal pyramid" of the waitstaff, busboys are at the bottom and managers at the top, but waitresses must keep both happy to make sure things run smoothly and that tips ensue. Some scenes are wild: as a cocktail waitress during manic "Buck Night," she saw patrons drink the potent (and free) "Bar Mat," made up of bar spillage. Readers might pick up some pointers: bad-tipping regulars will suffer subtle server sabotage; customers who harangue staff for decaf might end up with regular. Ginsberg's more personal segments, which can be aimless, portray an intelligent single mom, fiercely committed to her son, with worries about her potential as a writer and her future. She quits waitressing only to return a year later, concluding that "the act of waiting itself is an active one" and that there is beauty and simplicity in the small acts of her work.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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More About the Author

A lifelong lover of books, Debra Ginsberg waited tables for over twenty years to support her other career as a writer, resulting in her first book, "Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress." She is also the author of the critically acclaimed memoirs, "Raising Blaze: A Mother and Son's Long, Strange Journey Into Autism" and "About My Sisters." Debra went on to write the novels, "Blind Submission," "The Grift," a New York Times Notable Book for 2008 and winner of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Award for Best Mystery, and "The Neighbors Are Watching." Her most recent novel is "What the Heart Remembers."
For more information, visit Debra at www.debraginsberg.com

Customer Reviews

I found this book to be a little whiney.
M. Hudon
This is a wonderful, fast-paced read that will take you into the life of Debra Ginsberg, a woman who worked as a waitress for twenty years.
J. Arena
I found this book to be a quick and easy read, but very enjoyable.
Jenni99B

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Chad Spivak on August 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was truly suprised by this book. Working in the customer relations industry now, I can truly relate to Debra Ginsberg's incredibly accurate depictions of the the public customer.
This book was an incredibly fast read, as Ginsberg's candidly witty writing style jumps out at you and brings you right into the stories with her. Sometimes, I could clearly see myself sitting at one of the tables in her restaurant, just taking in the scene (I hope I wasn't at "Table 50").
The book chronologically takes you through her career as a waitress. Through her wonderful stories, you get to see her develop as a waitress, and more importantly, mature as a person. Over her twenty-year span of waitressing, you get to live through her struggles, financial woes, and life awakenings. It is one truly remarkable ride.
In essence, Waiting is a nice readable memior that hits close to home to everybody on a certain level. It is extremely well written, and the humorous, colorful tones make the flow incredibly smooth. This book is worth reading for the mere fact that it will open your eyes and make you reflect upon your own attitudes when it comes to dining out. Ginsberg wrote a cogent book about a life story that was a real pleasure to read. Waiting will not disappoint.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By reviewer on August 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Debra Ginsberg's book should give pause not only to the most inveterately rude diner but it should remind us of the importance of civility toward others, including our restaurant servers. This is not a behind-the-scenes, tell-all book about what goes on in the 'back of the house' or the 'front of the house' in a restaurant. It is instead, a highly readable life story that rings true on many levels. Ginsberg can be subtlely understated in her wit or down-right off-color funny in describing the escapades of her customers and colleagues. You also share in her evolving self-awareness through the stages of her life.
Moreover, Ginsberg has a facile, accessible writing style that pleases so much so that I read the book over two days. Often, I felt as though I were having a conversation with a friend not reading a book. You share in her struggles, life events, and epiphanies. Merely categorizing this book as yet another 'coming of age' memoir seems too trite for what it signifies to the reader.
"Waiting" is funny, poignant, acerbic, and most of all puts an important perspective on what is truly meaningful - - - life should be lived with, as a philosopher once said, with an "absolute quality." Ginsberg's realization of this truth, at the end of her story, resonates. I hope we have more of Ginsberg in the future.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Debra Ginsberg's "Waiting..." perfectly complements Anthony Boudrain's "Kitchen Confidential." As a former "food service professional" myself, I laughed, I howled, I wet my pants at her spot-on tale of life in the restaurant business.
At the heart of Ms. Ginsberg's book runs the theme of working at a profession that she enjoys, even loves (well, mostly), while questioning whether to continue or get a "real job" that takes advantage of her college degree - a job that's more "respectable" but pays less. (I remember the withering looks I'd get from people when I told them I was a waitress --- I could see my reflection in their eyes instantly morphing into Flo from Mel's Diner.) I had a hard time making the transition from waiting myself --- it was years before I was making more money at my "respectable real job" than I did as a waitress working a 25-hour week --- and I've never enjoyed another job as much.
Her descriptions of the hellhole waitress jobs are vividly painted and absolutely hilarious (been there...), as are the portrayals of the restaurant guests. Ms. Ginsberg's breezy prose makes for a quick and engaging read, and if nothing else, serves to clue the restaurant patron in on how to behave (or perhaps, how not to misbehave) when dining out. Although the book is a "must-read" for anyone who's ever "waited," I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to take a peek at life on the other side of the order pad.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Hochman on October 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress" is a highly entertaining, fast-paced book about Debra Ginsberg's real-life experiences as a food server. She tells wonderful heartfelt stories about waiting tables in places ranging from a dining room/country club environment, to a cocktail lounge setting, to a upscale Italian eatery while keeping me laughing out loud and cringing simultaneously. I never thought that working as a waitress was an easy job (I've never actually done it) but after reading this book I can say for sure that it's definitely not a field I'll be tackling any time soon.
Ginsberg delves even deeper than just your run-of-the-mill waitressing antics (E.G.: hair in soup, rude customers, bad tips, etc.) She actually takes a look at waitressing from a sociological perspective and she does so with both intelligence and charm. For Ginsberg, waiting tables was a career, one which she struggled with because she constantly felt like she should "do something with her life" and "get a real job." So she did. But the money from waitressing was just too good. Her tips were essential in the raising of her son as a single parent. And waitressing also allowed her to spend quality time with her son when her "real job" kept them apart more than both of them were comfortable. I was proud of her for coming to that realization and going back to waitressing after giving the real job a shot.
Unfortunately, there is such a negative stigma attached to waiting tables while it really shouldn't be anything to be ashamed of. The physical and psychological aspects of the job are grueling and make for a tough job even in the best of conditions. I applaud anyone who can work like that at night and then manage to wake up, raise a child and stay focused on writing the next day. That sounds like three full-time jobs to me and I personally couldn't wing it. Three cheers for Debra! I eagerly await her next book.
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