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Diana Kuyper: A tip of the hat to waiters, waitresses

Updated: July 1, 2011 2:26AM

National Waitress and Waiter Day passed by quietly last month, but hearing about it after the fact triggered me to reminisce about the hardest job I ever had — being a waitress at the now defunct Taste of Wisconsin at Highway 50 and Interstate 94 in Kenosha.

It was only a decade ago, so I was well beyond the days of my teenage working years. But for some odd reason I got the idea that being a waitress would be fun and the pay with tips would be excellent.

What was I thinking?

It was backbreaking work. Some customers were great, but many others were demanding jerks. A few left generous tips, but many others were miserly. After all, I wasn’t working at a high-end restaurant, and if I had, maybe the experience would have been different.

I was working with older women who had made waiting tables a career and they had the job down to a science of balancing out the busy times with the slower pace of off-hours. Other co-workers were high school students who had endless amounts of energy.

The guys already had the strength to carry heavy trays filled with food. Meanwhile, I developed some nicely defined biceps.

We also had the classic cast of characters in any diner-type restaurant: The crotchety cook who uttered swear words that I had never heard until I screwed up an order, to the serious and hard-working owner who barely cracked a smile, but had a heart of gold.

I only lasted four months, until our first grandchild was born and that was my excuse for taking off a week that resulted in me never returning to that onerous job.

The result of my summer stint as a waitress resulted in an appreciation for waiters and waitresses, or for that matter, anyone in the business of serving and preparing food.

A good example was last Friday’s fish fry. Typically, the restaurant we chose was packed. People were waiting to be seated and the place was so busy some customers were sitting outside on the front stoop.

It was non-stop action for the entire staff because at this particular restaurant you can see into the kitchen, so I could see all the scurrying and cooking. The waitresses were running in and out of the kitchen, and back and forth from the bar filling orders, grabbing drinks from the bartender and always serving them with a smile.

Our waitress cheerfully and promptly served us our drinks and our fish dinners and at that particular moment all was right in my corner of the world, where I could sit back and appreciate the hard work someone else was doing on my behalf.

Thank you to hard-working wait staff everywhere!

Diana Kuyper’s column appears Fridays. You can e-mail her at

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