When I was contemplating writing a series, I looked to my own personal experience to see if there was something unique that I could use to create an interesting character. Though I’ve worked in many fields, the industry where I had an abundance of experience was food service. My very first job was working in a doughnut shop before school. And I quickly learned the joy of working for tips.
For several years after that and whenever I was in a pinch for fast money, I waited tables. Diners, greasy spoons, family restaurants, or dinner houses – it didn’t matter what kind of house, as long as it was popular and had a lot of regulars.
Contrary to popular opinion and stereotypical characterization, waitresses are not airheads. Somebody who isn’t sharp, can’t think on their feet or control ten things at once will get eaten alive in the food biz. In fact, some of the sharpest people I ever knew waited tables. So think again if you believe that woman serving you your food isn’t as smart as you, makes as much (or more) money than you and has a dead-end life. Because chances are you’d be wrong.
A good detective is:
- Critical thinker/Sharp mind
- Flexible/able to adapt to changing situations
- Understands human nature, can read body language and other cues
- Can intuit what others think/want
- Good with details
- Can talk a good game
- Knows how to bend the rules when necessary
Any good waitress has the same skills
- A waitress who can’t observe won’t make it. She has to have eyes in the back of her head, be able to sense that toddler zooming around the corner while she’s carrying a pot of hot coffee or full tray – and do it all with a smile and grace.
- A waitress who can’t think critically will never be able to juggle orders, customers, special requests – know what table is turning or how to sweet talk the cooks she’s working with. She’ll fall apart and walk out.
- All waitresses are independent. In their minds, their stations are their own little franchises and they keep their own going concerns humming. They also know if they do it right, they’ll be validated with good tips. Instead of begging some cubicle king for a 50 cent raise after slaving away for two years.
- Waitresses have to be adaptable, they have to be able to think on their feet. It’s how they’re wired. You can go from one coffee drinker in your station to an entire football team in ten seconds. They have to remember who is sitting where and who is drinking what and which person had that special order. This is not a job for sissies.
- To work in the food biz you have to like and understand people. You have to be able to read the cues, intuit what they need before they ask. You won’t have to ask a good waitress for crackers for your baby because she’ll bring them and the high chair when she brings the menus.
- If you work with and around people all day then you have to have a sense of curiosity. Know how to make small talk. Show interest. With regular customers you better remember their favorite meals and drinks and just how they like their stake. Chance are you’ll know their kids’ names, when they’re graduating from high school and their anniversary or birthday.
- Since food service is practically nothing but details, you won’t survive as a waitress if you can’t keep the details straight. Ditto with organization. How could you ever feed 30 people at once if you aren’t organized?
- A good waitress also knows when and how much she can bend the rules. And she’ll do fine if she does it in order to give better service to her customer.
So you see, waitresses and detectives have a lot in common. They’re sharp, quick-witted, adaptable multi-taskers who can see a bullshitter coming from two blocks away but can still handle them with finesse and a smile.
How about you? What do you think of waitresses? Have you ever waited tables? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Would you make a good detective? Tell your tales in the comments.