The Bitter Busser Syndrome


Medical science has no idea what I am talking about, but if you wait tables, for some time, it is an easy diagnostic: Working at a popular restaurant is a good thing if you are a waiter. Not so much if you are trying to become one.

It is very easy to recognize the logjam of career servers who have seen the light and decided to stay a while. But being a busser while holding your tongue, and paying your dues, with no end in sight is rough, really rough.

First, the bags under your eyes set in from lack of sleep and espresso intake. Then, your legs, wrists and shoulders, aren’t the same skiing because you just “briskly jogged” around for seven hours carrying a thousand plates while doing an uncountable amount of lateral shoulder raises. Oh, and this is all done in a crammed restaurant. But, it’s mind over matter, no pain no gain. Once you start noticing how much the server is making, the psyche starts to go. Hence, the onset of “bitter busser syndrome.”

We, the servers, the ones who have recovered from this terrible disease are solely responsible to help those in need. I, BBS survivor, strongly recommend copious amounts of whiskey, women and powder. This is not a cure, but a sedative. Hide the symptoms. HIDE THEM DEEP!

Whether we like it or not, we servers, guides and transient employees are directly affected by the people and wallets of the folks who come visit our beautiful valley. For some, we are the faces and facilitators of dreams. But besides our smiles and our keen talents of cunning linguistics, there are others who act as our stage crew. I am talking about bussers, runners, bus drivers and the like. And we actors of the realm are directly responsible to pay them. As much as we like to gripe about “tipping out,”  the fact is — JUST TIP THE F— OUT.

Bussing tables isn’t fun. I Promise! If you have done it before, you understand the internal pain it causes. If you never bussed a table, stay away! It’s not the stain covered clothes that used to get to me, or was it sticking my hands into the eternal mysteries of the dish pit. It was the knowing how much I WASN’T making. If I had to describe bussing tables, it’s kind of like being a chicken with its head cutoff. Through all the confusion from the host stand, and the seven different directions servers are pulling you, it is your job to hold it together. As you stare at the dining room, you act almost as a quarterback. You see the field, read the defense, noticing that table 19 is done with their entrées and that position 1 at the bar needs a steak knife. But it’s on you, the busser, the keystone of the restaurant, to make things right. Even though you are the QB, you’re making water boy wages.

About eight months into bussing, I wanted to FREAK OUT. It didn’t matter how hard I worked, how fast I moved, cleared or sweated, my wages were not in my hands. They were in the hands of the server. I did not control my own destiny. And that REALLY SUCKED.

Bussing was hard work on the brain. Some will say bussing is mind numbing, where you don’t talk and just move. Sure that is a valid argument, but you are constantly thinking. And unfortunately you are thinking about the chump change you have to scrap for.

There is a huge difference in being “tipped out” and “tipping out.”  So, the next time you see your busser or runner, or the guy or gal who loads your boats, or shuttles your clients, give them a hug and a big thank you. Maybe even toss them an extra 5 spot. Maybe even a bottle of whiskey and tell them “to get a little weird.” Trust me they will appreciate it.

With the end of the season pretty much here, it’s time to really appreciate the people who helped us make a BOAT LOAD of cash this winter. To my bussers and runners, line cooks, expediters, chefs, bar-backs, dishwashers and my fellow servers, I sincerely thank you.


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