The artist’s view: the art of waiting

WAITING: It is important that waiters see their work as a profession where intuition plays a part as does timing, plus the ability to scan the room.
WAITING: It is important that waiters see their work as a profession where intuition plays a part as does timing, plus the ability to scan the room.

The very art of waiting lies in one of the concepts it contains. The concept of patience. Since the greatest reward of the practice of patience is patience, the art of the great waiter lies in being patient.

The concept of waiting well, whether it is for a bus, dinner or a date has always interested me. This is probably because I, like most other beings, spend too much time waiting, and do not like it.

Being impatient, I used to get annoyed when I had to wait. Consequently I became punctual, believing that if I did not let people wait they would return the favour. Fat chance. I now realise that to wait well, is to use the time waiting in a positive way, rather then getting upset, which is the negative version and uses far too much energy.

Come to think of it, it is quite incredible to realise that there is an actual profession which is called waiting. This means there are people who wait for a living. This seems a most incredible concept, although I believe the reality of it is quite different.

What do these professional waiters spend their time waiting for? One of my friends thinks that in the main the bulk of waiters wait for many things. They wait for the weather to improve, they wait to be discovered, they wait to finish university, they wait for better job opportunities and most probably they wait for that generous tip they deserve.

As an artist I have done my share of waiting, mainly for payment of my artwork, but also on other people in a cafe environment. And, although, this is not my profession I like to do it well. So I question it. What does it take to be a good waiter, to wait well? The basis of this is the same as any other profession.

Probably the best thing is to order a coffee and put the question to a few of the professional waiters I know and respect. The question, not why they wait, but how they wait well. What, in other words, makes a good wait(er)?

A very professional waiter I know reckons that to wait well is to have a harmonious cacophony of spirit, mind and body with a definite liking for the follies of the human species and the capability to deal with the breast feeding neurosis of the average person. 

How do we see those people who like waiting? The employer of waiters I know, looks for a waiter who, first of all, presents well, secondly has a personality which is compatible with the task at hand, he looks for initiative in a waiter, dislikes moody waiters and prefers an even temper. Waiters who can handle stress, are team players and can take care.

He particularly dislikes arrogant or patronising waiters. So far, so good and even better. In addition he believes that a good waiter is able to look ahead and understands, or develops, the finer points of waiting and finally has excellent product knowledge and is alert to the customer’s needs. That’s the bones of it, he believes, in the art of waiting.

A waiting artist, believes that good waiting has a common sense approach. Feels it is important to have a twelfth gear and aims to serve how he likes to be served. 

That’s common sense. If you enjoy the work in the first place the rest will follow. The rest being the ability to adjust to anyone’s personality and mood (big ask), being able to read the customer, understanding their body language and signals.

It is important that waiters see their work as a profession where intuition plays a part as does timing, plus the ability to scan the room without invading the privacy of the diner, observe their needs, and be of service.

My waiting teacher, told me that people know they have had a good waiter when they haven’t realised they have been waited on. Almost Zen like.

There are so many waiters around town some good, some bad.

However, I can’t wait around, I am going to have a coffee because I’d rather be waited upon than wait.

- Petrus Spronk,