The other day this asshole Kyle Smith wrote a douchey little op-ed in the New York Post about how much he hates waiters and waitresses. It was one of those pieces that, with each sentence that I read, I’d grow increasingly enraged, to the point where if he were standing right here, I’d probably assault him. All I was thinking was that I wanted to write something back to this guy immediately, to let him have it. But my emotions were running too high, and I needed some time to calm down, distance myself from the hate this guy was spewing.
Now that I’ve cooled off a little bit, I feel like I don’t know where to start. So I’m going to go through his piece, line by line, spell everything out as to why this guy is such a tool.
The hostage drama of dining out in New York City
By Kyle Smith
March 2, 2013
Well, hi there! I’m doing great this evening, thank you! It is quite rainy out there, you’re absolutely right! I guess we’re both really super-stoked to be here in this restaurant that’s more crowded than my junior-high-school cafeteria! Imagine the excitement, eating food in public! And your name is Jason?
Jason! I don’t care! Just bring me some food and go away!
So here’s where we start. Kyle Smith is an asshole. He doesn’t like talking to strangers. He doesn’t like talking about the weather. He doesn’t like the fact that the restaurant he’s at is too crowded. Kyle, I’ve only read about a paragraph of your writing and I can already tell that you’re not a nice person.
To you I say, why venture outside the house at all? Why eat in public? You clearly don’t like other people, why be subject to their presence in large numbers? In fact, why live in New York City? There are way too many millions of people that might actually force you into having some sort of a human interaction.
I’m sorry that technology has not yet brought us to the point where each restaurant table comes embedded with a touch screen. Maybe you could just order your own food, type in your own special requests to the kitchen, then the chef could come screaming at you that he’s too busy for all of your nonsense. To you I would say, Kyle! You’re an asshole! Stop making my job more difficult! Say hello, eat your food, pay the check, and you go away!
Waiters and waitresses at New York’s self-consciously hot restaurants need to cool it a bit. I don’t care how charming you are on your auditions. I’m not here to make friends. Frankly, garcon, I don’t even need to know your name. By the time you tell me about the specials, I’ve already forgotten it. You’re a servant. So serve.
Hey buddy, I’m not a servant. I’m a waiter. There’s a difference. And you don’t like my friendly disposition? Guess what? Neither do I. It’s fake. My bosses make me do it. They tell me to go out there and smile. If I’m not smiling, and some secret shoppers come in and sit at my table, and they tell my bosses that I wasn’t smiling, that I wasn’t friendly, then I get in trouble, maybe fired.
I’m not here to make friends either. And besides, even if I were, you don’t sound like the type of guy I’d imagine myself going out for a beer with. I’m here to make money. I’m here to do a job and have you give me money. Because the house isn’t paying me. You are. It’s at your discretion. Sorry you don’t like my smile or my attempt at being upbeat. You should go to one of those restaurants where the staff looks down on its customers, visibly annoyed by their presence.
And you don’t want to hear about the specials? Again, why are you at a restaurant? If it’s not for the food, I seriously suggest doing something else with your friends. Go bowling. Go out to a bar. Don’t go to a business where it’s everybody’s job to cook up something better than every other restaurant in this town. I apologize profusely for letting you know what’s for dinner tonight, asshole.
Strangely, New York waitrons (my generic term for both sexes of waitstaff) don’t even serve anything anymore. They seem to view themselves as party planners or masters of ceremonies. After taking my order, they disappear and give way to a series of surly busboys who do the food delivery, the clearing, the refilling of the water glasses.
I don’t know, that’s not how we do it at my current restaurant, but even at my old job, where we had busboys, I ask, so what? I’m trying to manage a whole section of tables. As in, you’re not the only people I’m trying to attend to. As in, you’re not the only person in this city, dick.
And these surly busboys that you’re putting down? The shitty tip that you feel insulted at having to pay? They’re getting part of that money. Yeah, why rely on teamwork? It speaks much more of a person that he runs around trying to do everything rather than delegating smaller tasks to coworkers.
After the order goes in, the next time I see Jason is when, after first ensuring that my mouth is full, he sneaks up behind me and hits me with a cheerful, “HOW IS EVERYTHING?”
Yeah, again, you’re not the center of the universe buddy. I have multiple tables to juggle, trying to make sure everybody is having a good time. Let’s say you’re out to eat – that is, after all, what you came here to do, right? Eat? – with three other people. After your food hits the table, I’m supposed to wait for you all to dig in, but then also lurk in the shadows, hoping to catch all four of you at a moment when you’re simultaneously in between bites of food? That’s a logistic impossibility.
Hey Kyle. Just give me a thumbs up. Is your food OK? Great. Is it not OK? Tell me. I’ll fix it. Again, sorry for being cheerful. Jerk.
In France, where I try to spend a week or two every year, waiters don’t even work for tips (the customer is expected to leave a mere euro or two) and yet they’re so much less annoying.
It’s the difference between a country where the children act like grown-ups and one where the grown-ups act like children.
Wow! You spend a week or two in France every year? That’s so cool! Please tell me more about it! France! Oh-la-la!
In Europe they pay waiters and waitresses a livable hourly wage. If I were paid decent money by employer, I wouldn’t be trying to make you personally happy with me. Because, and this is unfortunate, you pay my bills, at your discretion. My grandmother always used to say, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. And so yes, I’m smiling at you. I’m trying to be friendly. I’m not trying to be friends with you, I’m trying to get you to pay me for the job I’m currently doing.
Man, France! That is so awesome! You get to travel to France! The country where children act like grown ups. The country where everybody still smokes cigarettes. You make it sound so much better than America. You should go live over there! I mean, you’re already vacationing there one or two weeks every year. You’re practically a foreign national!
The French waiter sees himself as a party in a simple business transaction. When he’s ready for your order, he says, “I am listening.” Not talking. Not smiling like a politician. Not preening like the most adorable scamp in “Newsies.”
When a French waiter brings you the food (himself, instead of subcontracting the job), he, like P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves, simply trickles off, instead of vanishing. If you want him, you can simply wave him down. He’s standing right over there.
For a guy who makes no secret of his disdain for American servants, you have quite the knack for putting yourself in the shoes of our French counterparts. (I notice how French waiters don’t warrant your little “waitron” joke.) Here’s somebody you can relate to. Somebody who doesn’t smile, who doesn’t really feel anything at all. He’s barely concealing the same contempt that you make no effort to disguise toward anybody. And that’s the way it should be. A whole city full of pissed off snobs with scowls permanently etched onto their faces.
If you want him, he’s standing right over there. And he’s also not subcontracting his job out like us lazy Americans. He’s doing everything, while he’s standing right over there. Just wave him over. Or even better, just snap. He’s a servant also. But dignified. Because he’s pissed. Or not happy. Right?
The worst part of dealing with American waitrons is we’re forced to be nice to these creepy ex-darlings of their high-school theater departments because of the unspoken hostage drama that’s taking place behind the scenes with our food.
It’s as exhausting as pretending your friend’s baby is cute. Your mouth actually starts to hurt from smiling.
“Of course you spit in the food if you don’t like the customer,” I once said to a girl I knew who had been a waitress for years.
“Nah,” she said. “If we didn’t like someone, we’d just throw his steak on the floor.”
Which is why I’m being so nice to you, Jason! In reality, I can’t stand you, you twerp! As you’ll find out when you see my tip!
Back to America, back to that waitron joke. And here’s where you show your true colors Kyle. “Of course you spit in the food if you don’t like the customer.” No. Of course you would spit in the food if you were a waiter and you didn’t like the customer. In your attempt to empathize with your servants, all you’re doing is seeing yourself from their point of view. Disgusted with your reflection as a human being, the first thing that comes to your mind in this scenario is spitting in your own food. Because seriously, how can somebody stand to take shit from a little prick such as yourself without holding back the urge to hock a huge loogie in your food?
I don’t know. But even though you’re a huge asshole, I’m still not going to spit in your food, or drop your steak on the floor. You’re an asshole, but I’m not. I’ll get through this most unpleasant of interactions.
And what’s with the squatting while you’re telling me about the specials? I know the waiter’s handbook says you get more tips that way because you remind us of cute, subservient creatures we actually like, such as golden retrievers. But it’s juvenile. Stand up and be a man. As much of a man as it’s possible to be while enthusing over whipped-feta crostini.
Now you’re just nitpicking. You don’t like it when I hover, you don’t like it if I crouch. Now you want me to be a man. Now I’m not a waitron. What about waitresses? Are they allowed to crouch? Or would you prefer them acting like men also.
You’re telling me to stand up, to not act subservient, but at the beginning of your piece you tell me that I am a servant. So serve. You said that. Do you have like an editor that goes through your writing and points shit like this out to you? Or do you verbally berate everybody like you talk down to waitrons? “Don’t tell me how to write a piece! I’m Kyle fucking Smith! You’re a bullshit editor! You’re a servant!”
Jason, if you were at all useful, you would at least keep anyone from clearing away my plates while I’m still eating off them.
I realize you want to hustle me out of here so you can replace with a new customer. I’m a capitalist. (And in France, I’ve been baffled to get turned away from an entirely empty establishment at 6 p.m. because all tables are already reserved — for diners who intend to show up at 7:30 or 8 or 8:15. Don’t they want my money in the meantime?)
Nor am I sentimental about lingering for hours in a restaurant. After a while, the way everyone seems as though they’re determined to act out the concept of “Having a wonderful time!” starts to creep me out.
Now it’s my turn to be petty. Maybe the Post’s web site has since corrected your grammar, but “so you can replace with a new customer,” I think you’re missing a word there. Maybe you should be a little nicer to that editor. You’re a professional writer, right? OK, I was just checking.
Which is to say, get over yourself. Sorry, I didn’t know you wanted to save that last bite of food. You put your fork down. You looked like you were done. Do you mind that I asked? You said you weren’t done. I didn’t take your plate away. Again, this is life, this is human beings interacting with other human beings. I’m not a telepath. I can’t divine when you’re done with your plate.
But try to big a big boy there Kyle, finish your dinner and put your silverware down. What do you need a break? Yes? Then host a dinner party at home. What bugs me is that you continually want it both ways. You don’t want to linger, but you don’t want to be rushed. I guess in France the waiters know precisely the moment to clear everything away. Ah … France.
But, Jason and Co., it’s been only eight minutes since you set my plate down. There’s still food on it. There’s still a fork in my hand. Do I need to actually hunch over my meal and make snarling sounds to keep your busboy buzzards at bay.
In other words, Yes. I am. STILL WORKING ON THAT. THE WAY YOU’RE WORKING ON MY LAST NERVE.
New York restaurants’ tables should be set with a little two-sided sign that can be flipped around as appropriate. STILL HARD AT WORK on one side. MY WORK IS COMPLETE on the other.
I’m spending $150 tonight, Skippy, and yet you were in the Federal Witness Protection Program when I needed a second drink. Now you want to hustle me into dessert and coffee. Uh-uh. Negative. This $28 sliver of trout still has about $9 to go, and I’m not leaving any of it behind. Enjoy my 11% tip.
Dude, I’m sorry you’ve had such bad restaurant experiences. But really I’m just sorry for everything. You don’t seem like a cool guy. I’m feeling that you’re generally unhappy. As to the plate clearing thing, you know, see above. Sorry for trying to clear your plate. Sorry for making you scream IN ALL CAPS! (Is that a professional writing trick? I always thought that was limited to the comment sections on Internet forums.)
Trust me, I want you to order a second drink. I’m going to make sure that I offer you a second drink. You seem like the kind of guy that’ll go even more ballistic if he DOESN’T GET HIS SECOND DRINK! Besides, you’re telling me you’ll be underpaying me for my work. I want to make sure that your eleven percent is as inflated as possible.
He goes to France. He spends a hundred and fifty dollars at dinner. He writes in all caps on his New York Post blog. His name is Kyle Smith and he’s a pretty big fucking deal. He doesn’t like you. He wants everything to be just so but he’d rather you make it just so without being seen. Because you are beneath him. You are a servant. You are nothing.
Part of me hopes this response makes an impact, that people read it, that maybe the author will someday see it. He’ll read it and think, wow, I’m such a dick. But of course he won’t change his mind. Even though he probably has a Google alert set to notify him whenever somebody somewhere mentions his name on the Internet, he’s probably already received hundreds of hateful responses. It’s probably why he wrote his piece in the first place, to get a reaction. To rile up a bunch of servants and make everybody a little less happy.
But what I really don’t like is the idea that likeminded idiots will read his piece, will see their own negativity validated in print. They’ll think to themselves, “Yeah! I hate servers also! Fuck them!” and so I just want to put it out there that, no it’s not OK to be a jerk, and it’s not OK to leave an eleven percent tip. Just stay home. While I hate the idea of just adding my name to this chorus of discontent, whatever, Kyle Smith, you’re an asshole, you know it, everybody knows it, and I can’t say it enough. Fuck you.