The oral history Working is one of the best books by the late, great writer, historian and radio host Studs Terkel. I can’t recommend this book enough. There’a also a graphic adaptation that Harvey Pekar worked on, though I haven’t seen a copy.
An excerpt from “Dolores Dante, Waitress”:
People imagine a waitress couldn’t think or have any kind of aspiration other than to serve food. When somebody says to me, ‘You’re great, how come you’re just a waitress?’
Just a waitress. I’d say, ‘Why, don’t you think you deserve to be served by me?’ It’s implying that he’s not worthy, not that I’m not worthy. It makes me irate. I don’t feel lowly at all. I myself feel sure. I don’t want to change the job. I love it.
Some don’t care. When the plate is down you can hear the sound. I try not to have that sound. I want my hands to be right when I serve. I pick up a glass, I want it to be just right. I get to be almost Oriental in the serving. I like it to look nice all the way. To be a waitress, it’s an art.
I feel like a ballerina, too. I have to go between those tables, between those chairs. Maybe that’s the reason I always stayed slim. It is a certain way I can go through a chair no one else can do. I do it with an air. If I drop a fork, there is a certain way I pick it up. I know they can see how delicately I do it. I’m on stage. I tell everyone I’m a waitress and I’m proud.•