Enter their world. Experience life on the other side. You’ll never look at a waitress the same way again.
Directed by – Maya Gallus
Sorry but I couldn’t find a good list of the people featured in this documentary. I couldn’t even find an IMDB page but Director Maya Gallus was nice enough to send me an email directing me to their website and the trailer on Youtube which I had been looking for.
This was the first flick I saw at Hot Docs this year and it was a great way to start things off. I’ve never worked in the service industry at all. I’m a factory boy and prefer the solitary confinement of a long lane of boxes to interacting with an endless amount of people. This doc explores many different aspects of the serving industry and through different cultures as well. In the end I’m still glad I never got into the service profession because I would go insane. This doc only serves to reinforce those thoughts!
We start in North America, looking at the role of the waitress in our own society. Service with a smile is on the menu and it shows that our culture really seems to prefer a female waitress. Some scenes in a truck stop diner show how the waitresses feel like they’re the woman that the men are coming home to. They’re hauling rigs for weeks on end and look to the diner as a sort of home away from home and their servers take a great pride in being able to offer some friendship and a hot meal to men that spend lots of time alone. There’s obviously some clear lines drawn. Nobody is there to con a lonely guy into believing that something is going on but at the same time they realize that sexuality plays a role as well. A hand on the shoulder can go a long way towards making that extra money they need. I think there’s something wrong with the service industry when these hardworking men and women aren’t paid what they should be and have to rely on tips to make ends meet.
There’s a lot of focus in the beginning of the film on the North American market. The industry is staffed mainly with women and it seems to be something that our culture prefers. This is quickly changed when the doc travels to France where the majority of the servers are men. They have a feeling of it being traditionally a mans job to serve and that men bring a certain class to the job that they feel women can’t. There are some female servers but they’re constantly thought of as ineffective. They can’t carry the heavy trays and they don’t handle themselves the same way. This is highlighted in a hilarious scene where a female waitress goes about her job with ease and grace while a male server rushes to get things done, breaks a few dishes and generally looks like he’s not having a good day at all. It’s funny to see them talk about a male server being the way things should be done when it seems very apparent that a woman can easily do the job just as well.
Later in the film we get a look at some of the more niche marketing that some restaurants have taken. Maid cafes in Tokyo and, of course, Hooters in North America. While the job still contains all the same responsibilites, it also contains a completely different take on the actual role the servers play in the job. Maid cafe’s seem to cater more towards the lonely guy, someone who just doesn’t communicate well with a woman in the real world but gets to go somewhere and instantly feels comfortable with the female servers. They’re playing a fantasy role, to a point, and are providing much more than just some food. It’s a chance for someone to interact with the opposite sex and be comfortable with themselves.
Hooters is probably the complete opposite of the spectrum. Again, the rules are clearly defined. The servers aren’t picking guys up and don’t accept or give out numbers but the role of sexuality plays a much greater part than anywhere else. I’ve been to a Hooters, I don’t think many people are going for the food.
While the doc shows us the very different styles of serving, one common theme is apparent throughout the film. This job is not easy and it takes a special kind of person to pull it off. Patience, understanding, the ability to please and the stamina to work the long hours for a pay that isn’t exactly promised to you is a challenge I would never want to take on. I never assumed that the art of serving was an easy one but the film did show me that it’s still harder than I had imagined.
There’s plenty of humour throughout the movie as waitresses tell some of their bad customer stories and how they dealt with it. It was also pretty funny when it was pointed out a couple of times that a female waitress, serving a man with his wife or girfriend with him, always trys to make sure that the woman is happy. Once she’s happy then the man will be happy as well. I’m sure a lot of men would agree with that. This is the film that needs to be shown to those jerks that just don’t know how to tip, or for someone who assumes that waitressing is a low level job that any schmuck could do. If you can sit through this and not have a better understanding and appreciation for what these people must go through then you shouldn’t be allowed in a restaurant again.
You can check out the opening shot of the film on Youtube now and it gives a good introduction to some of the ideas that are explored in the documentary.
Anyone interested in picking up a DVD of the film can do so through the website Dish Documentary. Now I’m off to get some sleep, watching all those servers working hard made me tired and I’ve got a busy day tomorrow as my second, and sadly last, day of Hot Docs kicks off.
Under the marquee – Will