I've always said that if I have kids, I'm going to make them hold jobs in two industries while they're in high school or college: retail and restaurant. Your appreciation for the hard, often thankless work these folks do -- and your treatment of them -- changes in drastic and exponential ways afterward. I can promise that if you wait tables for even a week, you'll never leave anything less than a 20 percent tip on a bill ever again...unless your service was truly execrable.
And although not all BOH (back of house, or the kitchen and other areas not generally seen by the public) atmospheres are always as wrath- and despair-filled (or pubic hair-filled, for that matter) as in movies like Waiting would have you believe, there are large grains of truth in that movie that make it tragic-comically relatable: The endless waves of customers with complaints or personal issues over which you have no control, the tiny tyrant syndrome suffered by many restaurant GMs, the occasional utter lack of understanding between the kitchen and the waitstaff and vice versa, the horribly devastating feeling upon seeing that a table has left you either no tip or -- worse -- a savagely insulting one. I was once left a 20 percent off coupon for Bath & Body Works at a crappy Mexican restaurant in Waco; I'm sure other people with more table-waiting experience than I have received worse.
Below are four movies that anyone who's waited tables can sympathize with. And if you haven't, watch and learn. And maybe treat your server with a bit more kindness the next time you're out.
Amelie Poulain's job at The Two Windmills may be highly romanticized, but it still presents familiar situations to veteran waiters; namely, the bizarre idiosyncrasies of your coworkers and the parade of oddities presented by customers, both newcomers and regulars. You have to patiently deal with both on a daily basis, or risk a freak-out of flight attendant proportions.
3. The Slammin' Salmon
As previously mentioned, this may be one of the funniest movies you've never seen. After the cult success of Super Troopers, the Broken Lizard comedy team went on to create one of the unfunniest, most disappointing sophomore efforts since Knocked Up (sorry, but nothing will ever top The 40-Year-Old Virgin). Luckily, they redeemed themselves first with Beerfest and then The Slammin' Salmon, a movie about one incredibly trying night of service at the eponymous restaurant. If there's one demographic of people who know a thing or two about satirizing the industry, it's formerly starving comedy writers and actors.
2. Office Space
Although much of this cult classic from Texas director Mike Judge was set in cubicle hell, a significant and memorable handful of scenes took place in Chotchkie's, the TGI Friday's-esque restaurant down the street from the main characters' office. It also single-handedly introduced the phrase "pieces of flair" into the American consciousness and gave us Jennifer Aniston's only other great movie role besides The Good Girl, for which it should always be praised.
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SHOW ME HOW
While the delivery of the classic line, "Welcome to Thunderdome, bitch!" might have been Dane Cook's only decent work in cinema, it's just one of the many magical touches in Waiting, the movie that did for the service industry what Animal House did for frat houses and Caddyshack did for golf courses. That's right; I went there.