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Much to the disappointment of good people everywhere – this world is not a meritocracy. Our society does not usually compensate people fairly for their good deeds, honed intellect or genius capacities, and this reality is only made more incongruous by the sad employment prospects of our ailing economy.
Currently, thirty percent of adults over twenty-five have a college degree, and yet of that thirty percent a large chunk are unemployed or vastly underemployed. It is undeniable -- the general public is becoming more educated, culturally enlightened and capable, and yet our job descriptions have not yet evolved with the rapidly changing times.
Perhaps no profession is quite as demeaning to this new class overeducated, and underemployed class than restaurant serving.
Chase McCown was educated as a writer at one of the top journalism schools in the nation. He has also found great success in the comedy world, headlining Main Stage shows at The Comedy Store in Hollywood, and performing as a graduate comedian at The Second City. He has a reputable talent agent, a successful manager and a resume lit with commercial and guest appearances on major TV shows. However, his artistic success as a satirist does not save him from the fiscal tolls of making-it in the expensive and unforgiving economic landscape of Los Angeles. Even though he has a better career than ninety percent of his comedic counterparts, he still has to wait tables.
McCown’s scholarly merits find him hustling tables as a server at a discount Mexican restaurant in Hollywood, where his daily uniform is a muscle tank-top, neon apron and cowboy hat. He chronicles the demeaning occurrences of his humiliating job on his hit blog ‘The Bitter Waiter’ (www.thebitterwaiter.com), and was even recently invited on 20/20 to discuss the horrors of restaurant serving.
So what happens when Chase’s intellectual brilliance bumps up against the dishonorable reality of serving food to the general public?
Well, like many servers, he is very realistic about the debasing nature of restaurant work. “Waiting tables in and of itself can be fairly demeaning, I mean you are wearing people's food on your apron, and you are performing a task that any monkey can do,” he observes. The physically barbaric reality of the work he argues, is to be expected and withstood, but what he loathes is the emotional degradation exhibited by idiot guests., “What exacerbates the insufferableness of my job, is when I am dealing with someone that I perceive to be so ignorant, and they are treating me as though I am the lowest common denominator in the equation.”
McCown believes negative attitudes are what make dumb guests so particularly grating. “The real red flag as to whether or not I am going to be able to tolerate waiting on someone comes up in those important first seconds together - wherein I can discern whether or not the guest views me as a human being, or as someone who lives downstairs at Downtown Abbey, and has devoted his life to being a servant.”
What fuels Chase’s bitterness as a waiter is a sense of moral injustice. “I don't care about the color of your skin, what you are wearing, how high your bill is, or where you come from. My only point of contention as a waiter is how entitled, classless, and ignorant certain people from all walks of life can be,” he proclaims.
The burdensome injustice of serving disrespectful, patronizing, umm patrons all day is not an easy pill to swallow, so McCown turns to the bottle to calm his flaring nerves. "I am a functioning drunk when I am at work, and after nearly seven years of doing this, I don't really see any other alternative than going to work with a flask of vodka in my pocket,” he laments, “The alcohol serves as a social lubricant, and by social I mean having to be out in public amidst people whom I wouldn’t associate with if I had a gun pointed at my head.”
In a sadly ironic twist of fate, McCown’s restaurant happens to be in close proximity to almost all the major Los Angeles film and television studios, so he is forced to wait on high-profile celebrities daily, many of whom are some of his rudest customers. “Renée Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon were two of my absolute favorite guests because of how polite, genuinely friendly and generous they were. On the other hand, twenty men with twenty guns, and a Guadalajara execution squad couldn’t get me to wait on Teri Hatcher, or Christina Aguilera ever again.”
Again, it was Hatcher and Aguilera’s attitudes that ruined Chase’s life during those waiting hours. “Teri Hatcher said everything with a pained grimace on her face, and looked at me like I was insane when I approached her for her drink order, as if the notion of a waiter asking such questions was completely foreign to her,” he says.
Aguilera augmented her nasty behavior as a guest with a pathetic tip, “Christina Aguilera is to this day one of the most miserable human beings I have ever been around, and she smells like skank. For a girl who is worth that much money, to tip eight dollars on a four hundred dollar bill – well I find that particularly reprehensible,” he says. For the sake of cheap, heartless, gossip I asked Chase what Aguilera ordered, “She brought her entourage in and it was ‘fried this, and fried that’ stuff people order at TGI Fridays, just classless,” he regaled with bitter judgment.
While this world does not often reward people for exceptional effort, McCown is having his go around and is currently meeting with major television executives who are interested in turning his blog into a network television series. As for the rest of us, we can learn from McCown’s bitter reflections, and tip our lousy, overeducated waiters well -- while judging the hell out of them internally.