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And they say waiting tables is just a “temporary job”

New York’s veteran waiters aren’t going anywhere

Posted on 28 December 2009. Tags: , , , , ,   

Tommy Rowles has been working at the Carlyle's Bemelman's Bar for 51 years. (Photo: Joel Meares)
Tommy Rowles has been working at the Carlyle’s Bemelman’s Bar for 51 years. (Photo: Joel Meares)



Tommy Rowles has been shaking martinis at the Carlyle Hotel’s swish Bemelmans’ Bar for 51 years. He was 17 and fresh from Dublin when he first got the job.  

“I came in to go to the bathroom and there was this Irish bartender here,” says Rowles, standing at the bar on a quiet November morning. “He said, ‘Are you looking for a job?’ Then he asked, ‘Do you own a pair of black socks?’”  

Rowles told the man to mind his own business – he wanted to work in an Irish pub, not a ritzy hotel – but he was soon swayed. Just weeks later, he was serving his first drink in the bar named for “Madeline” creator Ludwig Bemelmans.

Read the rest of the article here: 

Just a style note here – in this article, the term waiter mostly refers to male servers, with one exception, referring to her as a “waitress” (the “New York waiter” is often perceived as a legendarily cantankerous, garrulous and crusty old dude, especially the oldtimers at Carnegie Deli). In my blog, waiter refers to both sexes. I feel that women have the right to be perceived as cantankerous, garrulous and crusty as well. 


4 responses to “And they say waiting tables is just a “temporary job”

  1. waiterextraordinaire February 26, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Those people are the last of a generation.

    • teleburst February 26, 2010 at 9:37 am

      If you’re saying that that *specific* generation is having to leave the workplace due to advanced age, I obviously agree. However, if you’re saying that it’s the last generation to make it a career, I’m not so sure about that. In my restaurant alone, we have a third of the waiters over 45 and those have been in the business at least 15 – 20 years already. Every other server, with the exception of one or two, is at least 30 with at 7 – 15 years of service already each (most of them are actually mid-30s – 45). Only three of those other 13 servers are actively pursuing education in order to get out of the profession.

      Obviously we aren’t a typical restaurant, but there are still quite a few people from the generation just below those listed in the article that are still plugging away. You should know because you’re one of them.

      It’s always been true that for a majority of the waiting pool, waiting tables is a bit of a stopgap or temporary job, a job you do while waiting for your “real job” (pun intended). but I suspect that more people than normal might find themselves sort of “stuck” in this job long enough to end u0p staying in it for the long term due to the financial upheaval that’s occured.

      that’s one of the reasons for my blog – a hope that more and more consider it a “professional career” that requires a lot of specific knowledge that you just don’t get from a college degree.

  2. waiterextraordinaire February 26, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    True enough. I just happen to work in a place where everyone is 20 or more years younger. But the last place I worked I was third youngest out of 5.

  3. nativenapkin February 27, 2010 at 11:58 am

    There was a woman at the Silver Skillet, a “meat and three” in midtown Atlanta, that had been there for 60+years.

    Here is a link to a recent article about “career waitresses” that was in the SF Chronicle.

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