Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Why Your Punk Waitress is Angry

Andrew Leonard's long, navel-gazy, but ultimately fascinating essay in Salon about Richard Lloyd's book about "Neo-Bohemia" as personified in the apparently happenin' neighborhood of Wicker Park in Chicago contains this great snippet:

Wicker Park's economy, which depends largely on its hip, young residents either working long hours as bartenders or waitstaff, or long hours in various digital design occupations. This is fascinating, original and deeply humane sociology at its finest; he demonstrates that in the name of freedom, young people working in allegedly relaxed service-sector jobs waste years of their lives in a whirl of drugs, alcohol and deceptively low wages. It's a classic example of a circular economy: While a bartender at an upscale Wicker Park club may earn $250 or more in tips from a shift, he or she is likely to go right out to an after-hours club with friends and spend it all on lavish tips to another bartender on the circuit. To anyone who's ever worked in the nightlife business, all this will ring sad but true.

The book sounds very meta: a theoretical dissection of the nostalgia and "performance of cultural distinction" of hipsterism is exactly the type of book best discussed loudly in a cafe over microbrews and free trade coffee.


Andrewx1966 said...

Ms. Kamenetz:

I have not read the book. But someone who makes $ 250 an evening, and then immediately "blows" the money is making a choice. It isn't a person to feel sorry for.



Anonymous said...

Dear Andrewx1966,
Obviously you have no idea how hard it is to be disrespected, verbally abused, and taken advantage of at work. Obviously you have never worked in this industry. And you are probably the guy at the bar who tips shitty and treats your bartender and/or server like they are your personal SERVANT. Next time you go out, remember that these are the people that usually don't have mommy and daddy paying their school tuition and their rent. We work very hard and get absolutley no respect for the job we do. I would like to see you last an hour behind a bar or an apron and see if you would make the same niave, ignorant comment.

Anonymous said...

I've spent the past 10 years of my life (before I finally got a job utilizing my degrees) behind an apron or a bar while simultaneously finishing my degree and my Masters. Therefore I do know how hard it is to be 'disrespected, verbally abused, and taken advantage of at work'. Especially when someone treats you like a subhuman while you stand there with a Masters, refilling their diet coke for the 28th time. However, I would have to say that I absolutely agree with Andrewx1996. There were many shifts where I made very decent money but I certainly never turned right around and spent it all at another establishment.
The servers/bartenders who DO do that ARE making that choice and are NOT someone to feel sorry for. I've seen many of my past co-workers do that and then have to scurry around and pick up shifts when rent is due while I'm actually doing alright because working in a restaurant is a JOB, not somewhere to make barfly money to go drop on my barwench friend up the street after I clock out.
Maybe you're so offended because that's exactly what YOU do. It's really amazing how you can manage to pay ALL of your bills and purchase textbooks for school and gas for your car if you clock out and go home. Beer is much cheaper from the liquor store, you know.
Also, you never really addressed the content of Andrewx1996's comment. He never said working in the restaurant industry was a cake-walk. Perhaps it's time you also got out of the service industry. Getting a 'big girl' job was the best thing that ever happened to me. Saved my soul and my self-respect.