Wednesday, January 25, 2006

New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni recently moonlighted as a waiter for a week and found out that real work is hard -- especially if you never really absorb the information you need to know to do your job:

... I need to redeem myself with the two diners at [table] X-9, who quizzed me about what the restaurant had on tap and received a blank stare in response. I'm supposed to remember the beers? Along with everything about the monkfish, these oddly coded table references, more than 10 wines by the glass and the provenance of the house oysters?

I had no idea....


...Pinging from table to table, I repeatedly forget to ask diners whether they want their tuna rare or medium and whether they want their margaritas up or on the rocks. I occasionally forget to put all the relevant information -- prices, special requests, time of submission -- on my ordering tickets....


...By 7:30, all of these tables are occupied, and all have different needs at the same time. One man wants to know his tequila choices. I just learned the beers that afternoon....

I bet he was missing the nice, cushy job he has six years ago, the one where he served only one customer, a guy who treated him royally and didn't require him to know anything:

...Bruni, the most influential Bush correspondent [during the 2000 campaign] by virtue of his employer [The New York Times], was so assiduously courted by the Republican nominee that his book should have been called The Seduction of Frank Bruni. It is a case study of Bush's vaunted charm offensive. Bush constantly flirted with Bruni. He would playfully grab the reporter by the neck or pinch his cheeks or put his fingers in Bruni's ears. During press conferences he would wink and nod Bruni's way. And when Bruni mentions that he's taking a break from the campaign trail to celebrate his dad's birthday, Bush whips out a card and signs it for him. So perhaps it shouldn't surprise that Bruni becomes smitten, dishing to readers that Bush was far more charming in off-the-record gab sessions than his guarded public persona would suggest. When Bruni suspected the campaign was angry with him, Bush defused tensions by turning to him during a political event and announcing, "I love you, man." He may not have been kidding.

Bruni was no better at absorbing important information back then than he was in his recent stint as a waiter:

... If [Bruni] recognized significant differences between Bush and Gore---how they would spend the surplus or respond to the terrorist attacks---he doesn't share them....What remains [in Bruni's campaign memoir] is only the most rudimentary explanation of what Bush actually stood for: a tax cut plan for economic conservatives, a faith-based initiative for religious conservatives, and an education plan for moderates. Policies, Bruni implies, tell us nothing about Bush as a person, which is his real interest here.

Fortunately, his job back then was informing the readers of America's most influential newspaper about the candidates for the most important job in the world, at what would turn out to be a critical point in national and global history -- so if he didn't know what the hell he was doing, it was no big deal, right? After all, it didn't really matter how the election turned out, did it?

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