Life Advice from 'The Bitchy Waiter'
If you've ever worked in a restaurant, you'll relate to The Bitchy Waiter's rants about people who linger too long at their tables and pain-in-the-ass Yelpers.
Photo via Flickr user desiretofire
The Bitchy Waiter is a font of service industry snark. If you've ever worked in a restaurant, you'll relate to the rant about the couple who lingered too long after the restaurant had closed for the night, or the shout-out to the restaurant owner who put a pain-in-the-ass Yelper in her place. Even if you've never donned an apron or taken an order, The Bitchy Waiter's voice is irreverent, self-deprecating, and just mean enough to satisfy everyone but the customers whose bad behavior he bashes.
The man behind the bitching is Sunnyside, Queens resident Darron Cardosa. The 48-year-old Victoria, Texas native originally moved to New York City in 1993 to pursue a career in acting and singing. Between playing an 80s nerd in an HBO short film (costarring Jon Stewart) and writing and starring in a one-man live show, waiting tables has always been his constant. Cardosa began the blog as a side project, a way to vent about his service industry gripes.
Eight years and 300,000 Facebook likes later, Cardosa is getting ready to unveil The Bitchy Waiter, a book based on the blog that comes out in April from Sterling Publishing.
I sat down with the very funny (and very sweet, IRL) Cardosa over coffee to talk about the journey from blog to book, how one of his best acting gigs was playing a costumed recyling can, and why nobody should ever feel ashamed about working in the service industry.
MUNCHIES: Hi, Darron. Tell me the Bitchy Waiter origin story. Darron Cardosa: When I started it in 2008, I was waiting tables full-time, cater-waitering, and going to school. It just started as a way for me to vent, and it was just for my friends. And it just kept snowballing and snowballing.
Does the restaurant you work at currently know that you are the Bitchy Waiter? They do! For a long time, it was a "don't ask, don't tell" thing. I've been at my current restaurant for five years now, and eventually the chef/owner learned about it. We never talk about it, but he's OK with it, because I think he understands it's written as a character. I'm actually really nice. I'm good to my customers.
Do customers ever recognize you? Very rarely. I've done TV spots, CBS Sunday Morning, Dr. Phil. I was on the news a couple times, so every once in a while someone will recognize me, but usually not. Our restaurant is in my neighborhood; it's almost all regulars—they just know me as me—and I don't tell them about the blog. If they ask me, I'll admit to it. I'll even say, "Yes, that's me, but you know the real me, you know I'm not really that guy writing those stories." Otherwise they would never want to sit in my section. "That guy's horrible!"
Are any of the stories in the book or blog made up? They are all based in truth, but I try to write them as, "If I could, what would I actually say? What would I love to do?" I like to call it "heightened reality" or "heightened fiction."
So you didn't actually flick a penny at a customer who stiffed you? No, that's true. I really did flick a penny and I really did get suspended by my manager for three days for it. It was totally worth it.
What are some other jobs you've had outside of the service industry? I've done a lot of really ridiculous jobs as an actor here. I was in the Macy's Day Parade once as the recycling trash can—it paid really well!
What are your favorite depictions of the service industry in books, movies, or TV? Every server's favorite movie about waiting tables is that movie Waiting, because it's really funny. You know how in the movie the restaurant is called "Shenanigans"? I worked at a Bennigan's in Texas, and at a Houlihan's in Times Square in the 90s. Waiting so accurately portrays the people and the experiences that happen at a restaurant like that.
Would you say you've made your peace with working in the service industry? The ironic thing is that I started this blog as a way to vent about waiting tables. Yet, I've painted myself into this corner where, if I want to keep this career that I've made out of it, I have to keep doing it so I can say, "Yes, I still wait tables."
What advice do you have for people who feel down about working in the service industry? I get a lot of emails from people saying they hate the way their customers treat them, they don't like their coworkers, or they don't feel like they're treated properly. I always tell them, "The thing about waiting tables is there's always another restaurant you can go to, and you can almost always find a place that works for you, to be happy."
If you can find a place to work that makes you happy—and more importantly, you're happy when you're not there—then you're winning. I hate when people feel bad about being a waiter.
But I get it. I was there when I started the blog; that's how I felt. "I'm in my thirties and this is what I'm doing with my life? This is not what I wanted to do." But it's turned out to be something really great for me, and it has its rewarding moments. You just have to not let the bad ones take up too much space.
Of course, I'll probably feel differently Thursday night, when I'm at work.
Thanks for speaking with me.