The following information is based upon three years of "participant observation" by the author while an undergraduate student, attending university during the day and working as a waiter at night.

During this period of my biography my two principal "definitional" statuses were that of student and that of waiter. My status as student was both dominant and central, while that of waiter was only situationally salient. However, within that situation - the work context - this salient status was expected by all of the counter-status occupants to be the dominant status. As the old adage tells, "There is a time and place for everything;" Gesllschaft society permits, even encourages such a composite status-set This perhaps accounts for its general somewhat schizoidal character. The pattern variable which Parsons designates "specificity" implies that an actor can maintain more than one dominant status, especially when statuses can be temporally and/or spatially defined and delineated.1 To the extent statuses cannot be accommodated or integrated ("contiguated" may be a more accurate if awkward neologism), a single status must emerge as central and controlling. One particular example of this emergence is denoted by the self-fulfilling prophecy concept, but there are other instances that do not involve a directly applied belief system, e.g., in cases of the material impossibility of temporal segregation or of spatial integration.2

The analysis of social processes is difficult to articulate, largely because they are difficult to extract from the total sphere of ongoing activity. Furthermore, social interaction occurs on several planes simultaneously, much as the solar system is a complex of various movements. The following remarks, therefore, should be understood to be limited to that perspective which considers substantive structural content to remain unchanging. That is, a competent level of occupational performance for each status occupant (actually continually developing over time), a fixed role-set, and a fixed person-set within the work group are postulated as given and non-variant. Also, although there were several waiters employed and working simultaneously, as in most establishments, the term "waiter" will be employed throughout this paper in its generic sense.3

A waiter's section in a restaurant - the tables and booths whose occupants he serves and is responsible for to the management - provides an explicit social setting within which certain activities are expected to occur; e.g., persons who seat themselves are expected to purchase something to drink and/or eat. Other activities are permitted to occur; e.g., these persons may neck or become boisterous. Those persons who enter the setting define their salient and perhaps only relevant status simply by the act of entering the restaurant. Access to this status of customer is not completely unchecked, as will be described shortly. Appropriate cues, usually in the form of clothing, are provided to serve to denote the waiter. In this instance, the waiter wore a bright red, tailored jacket and black bow tie, together with a white shirt and dark trousers. As Merton has pointed out, such cues would be meaningless without a preexisting social vocabulary of cues and symbols and a commonly known status-structure to which they referred.

Initially, then, one actor defines his status as that of customer by seating himself, or by being seated at a table, while another actor denotes his status as that of waiter by both remaining erect and wearing a certain "uniform.4 These are the two most visible cues, unless the waiter is in the act of waiting on a prior customer. This was recognized by the manager in his instruction that while eating his own meals the waiter was to remove his identifying jacket. Since there was no dining space "backstage" at this restaurant, the waiter ate in the same area as the customers. Since this was the "frontstage,"5 confusion was reduced and appearances maintained by reducing the waiter's visibility and, in effect, passing him as a member of the audience. The waiter was restricted to one of several tables near the kitchen and when customers were nearby he was not allowed to wait upon himself or have the cook serve him; he was waited on by another waiter. In this situation, as in his frontstage performance, the status of waiter has some of the characteristics that Goffman ascribes to a "non-person."6 There will be occasion to note this further; here, it is combined with the discrepant role of "shill,"7 although to no deliberate purpose.

The two functionally relevant statuses - customer and waiter--having thus been activated, then lead into a somewhat standardized sequence. Unlike the limiting case of two "strangers on a bus," the customer and the waiter constitute an interaction pair, i.e., they have reciprocally instrumental expectations of each other.8 The customer expects to be provided with information and to make a decision; he is expected to communicate this to the waiter, who is then expected to relay this information to appropriate others and, within a reasonable time, to return with the completed order and serve it in an appropriate manner. For this the customer is expected to pay and to tip, although no explicit agreement has been entered into by either party to the interaction. (Again we see an example of the conscience collective.) The menu examined, the meal or drinks ordered and served, the waiter continues to cater to the customer - clearing and replacing dishes, refilling coffee cups, replenishing drinks, emptying ashtrays, etc. His function is to provide service, and to this end he is both obsequious and ubiquitous. As Orwell remarks, a waiter's skill "is chiefly in being servile."9 Although the social art of privately "having a good time" in a public establishment is one in which Americans are well practiced, the waiter intrudes, to some extent, upon this privacy. To the degree his status is that of a "non-person" he is permitted ubiquity.

Since different customers will perceive his status differentially, the other's role-taking of him is one of the many discriminations to which a successful waiter must continually be alert. The waiter, therefore, does a great deal of cue-searching. He is interested in the social type or character of his customers so that he may both conform to his idea of their images of what constitutes good service (and therefore, by extension, a good waiter; the essence of service defined as the degree to which such expectations are fulfilled). Further, he must integrate them into a person-set of customers which may be already established and which will variously demand his time and attention. Is the customer a big spender? A troublemaker? A Joe Goodguy? A playboy? A cheapskate? A faker?10 A walkout? Is he with a girl? Is he well dressed? Does he order confidently? Does he handle his money in a practiced manner? These are all questions which direct the waiter toward certain cues."11 (Parenthetically, a "walkout" is a customer who is likely to leave without paying his check unless adequately watched. Waiters often cooperate with one another when a walkout is anticipated and take turns visibly eyeing the customer, thus "cueing him in" to their alertness.12

While it is important for the waiter to type his customer in some way, it is also important that he not do so conclusively and thereby set in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy which would work to his disadvantage. The waiter is interested in receiving the largest tip he can from each customer. Since the waiter provides the occasion, the context, and some of the alternatives for the act of tipping through his manipulation of change, it would be self-defeating for him to type a customer as a skinflint or a tightwad and then rigidly perform on the basis of this inference, e.g., visibly reduce the quality of service or not leave the change on a tip tray. For different reasons, it would also be a mistake to type the customer as a big spender or playboy and then rigidly perform on the basis of this inference, e.g., increase the quality of service at the expense of other customers or not leave change in small enough denominations. This latter instance illustrates the fact that the self-fulfilling prophecy, utilized as a social mechanism, is not equally effective in both directions. A delicate intuitive skill which a good waiter develops is his sensitivity to a variety of cues, not all of which can be readily specified, but which enables him to determine the range within which he may effectively employ the self-fulfilling mechanism to his advantage through his manipulation of change on the tip tray.

The tip tray is itself an interesting device. While its manifest purpose is to attach to the handling of "filthy lucre" a certain decorum and remove some of the odiousness of a financial transaction at the dinner table, its latent purpose is to present the customer with a cue which is both a reminder and a physical site - a prompting occasion - for leaving a tip. It is with this in mind that a waiter develops a very real skill in wielding a tip tray. Ideally, the waiter hopes that the customer will pay his check with a bill of sufficient denomination that more than enough change for an appropriate tip will be returned on the tip tray. This is because the customer is much more likely to leave an amount than to reach into his pocket a second time in order to add an amount. Given this condition, the waiter then employs his skill by determining the way in which the change is returned, i.e., the coins and paper bills into which it is broken down. This is based on all contact the waiter has had with the customer, the cues he has been able to perceive and evaluate, and the knowledge he has acquired through previous experience. The idea is to present the customer with a limited number of alternatives such that he can only tip at least slightly more than he might if he were completely free (he actually is, of course, since, in the final instance, he can always ask for more change, but there seems to be a general norm against doing so) or a good bit less than would be acceptable or proper. This whole process is greatly enhanced if the customer is a male accompanied by a pretty girl; her presence often exerts a social pressure much headier than her perfume.

Let me illustrate this. Suppose a customer pays a fifteen-dollar check with a twenty-dollar bill. Unless the waiter really knows his customer it would be very foolish to return a five-dollar bill on the tip tray. The self-fulfilling mechanism is not that powerful, the customer does have other alternatives, and he may take offense. No. It is obvious that the five should be broken, but how? Five ones, or four ones and two fifty-cent pieces? (Even here the waiter needs to be aware of his money. Although I had no experience with the Kennedy half-dollars, I would not have used them for change when they were new. And, alas, the hoarding of silver dollars has eliminated one of the waiter's favorite alternative offerings. In the West, where the silver dollar was once plentiful, it tended to be much less preferred than paper money because of its weight. It also tended to be lumped together with smaller silver coins.) In the first instance, the customer can only leave a one or two dollar tip, at minimum, without going to his pocket; in the second instance he can also leave fifty cents, up to one dollar and fifty cents, or up to two dollars and fifty cents. One dollar and fifty cents is a straight ten-percent tip; perhaps the customer is a ten-percenter, the average guy. If he is a skinflint he might leave only fifty cents. What will he do if he can only choose, at least from the tip tray, at one-dollar intervals? Of such momentous decisions is a waiter's skill - and resulting income - made. It is not an inconsequential cerebration; twenty such decisions correctly made would add ten dollars to the waiter's earnings for the evening.

While the waiter is acutely interested in cue-searching, he is also engaged in cue-emitting. But he is much less concerned with providing accurate personality cues than with presenting a good performance, or at least the impression of one. This is what Goffman refers to as "dramatic realization"13 and for a waiter involves demonstrating personal attention to the customer and highlighting his service. One method is to remain potentially ever present - a silent shadow, hovering just off stage, waiting to be summoned from the wings. However, this must be accurately gauged; some customers want an efficient minimum of the waiter's presence at their table so as to maintain their privacy, while others prefer a waiter's continual attendance. Another method of calling attention to the waiter's activity is to reduce the amount of participation required of the customer. This can be done by anticipating his next round of drinks, responding to his slightest indication, or inquiring just before he seems ready to order. Timing, of course, is as important as tact. Another practice which is effective is to remember who drinks what so that a second enumeration of the order can be actively declined ("Bring us another round. That was... ." "Yesir. I've got it." Wheel about. Move rapidly.) The smartness and quickness of a waiter's movements serve to call attention to his actions and impress the customer with the waiter's concern for his well being. As Orwell has pointed out, appearances are of the utmost importance in the "serving art," and other qualities are often sacrificed to this one.14 A good waiter will move almost as fast when waiting on one table in an otherwise empty section as he will when he is five orders behind. Furthermore, the waiter can actually announce his activities ("Let me get you a clean ashtray, sir." "May I check your coats for you, sir?"), dispense favors ("Would you and the young lady prefer to have a booth, sir?" "Let me see if they have an end cut for you."), and indicate an activity which will occur soon ("Your steaks will be up in just a few more minutes, sir." "I'll be right back with your drinks, gentlemen."). As these examples illustrate, the waiter has occasion many times to provide an actual verbal description of his activities. Servility is a difficult trait to trade on; by its nature it tends to go unnoticed. Furthermore, it is often practiced by "non-persons." By providing a running commentary on his service - continual cues - a waiter calls attention to both its quantity and its content, and reminds the customer that he is there. The verbal report not only serves to accentuate the activity, but can also stand in lieu of it for short periods of time. Thus the waiter's reference to his impending return is, in the tradition of MacArthur, almost as good as his being there. Finally, the waiter can exonerate himself in the case of delays, faulty product, and mix-ups simply by explaining the mistake as someone else's. Thus, in the worst of circumstances and against the greatest odds, the waiter can strive to do his best for the customer. No matter what the result, the waiter's effort can remain untarnished and - hopefully - deserving of reward. This is largely a function of a structural position that can be described as a middleman or intermediary. The waiter's success in fulfilling the requirements of that status are greatly facilitated by the fact that the statuses to which he is functionally interrelated have almost no observability of each other. Nor, for that matter, do they have much observability of the waiter in his role vis-a-vis the others. As will be further described, this is an important structural characteristic of the waiter's status; one of which he is aware and which he utilizes to his, and perhaps the whole establishment's advantage.

In his status as manager, the owner of this particular restaurant acted as status judge of the entire work group, including the waiters. It was he who hired and fired. In his status as maitre d' he also acted, in effect, as a status judge of the customers. He relied upon very few explicit formal status qualifiers: primarily style of dress, degree of intoxication, age, and race. Otherwise, admission to the status of customer was readily accessible. All members of the work group presumed that the most instrumentally relevant status qualifier - adequate monetary assets - was present on the person of the customer, although he was in no way required to provide evidence of it. Cues again, including those relating to social type or character, and the tacit convention - the uncontracted contract - that a person who presents himself for admission to the status of customer is personally responsible for this particular status qualifier.

Since there was only one entrance to the restaurant and since the maitre d' met the potential customers there prior to seating them, his physical location in the ecology of the establishment corresponded with the greater amount of observability which attached to his status, structurally defined. Furthermore, this separated out the function of customer gate-keeping from the waiter's status, where it could come into conflict with his principle role of providing service and the lower rank this implies. This was particularly true of the status qualifier of age. The waiter, of course, was finally responsible to see that no one under the legal age was served alcoholic beverages. Age is not only often difficult to estimate accurately, but those who are most questionable are also most sensitive. To ask for proof of age requires that the waiter step out of his subordinate role and act in his authority as representative of the management's legal interests. This contradicts his subordinate role and if he is proved wrong in his implicit presumption of underage, he has precipitated a situation in which he has violated the role relationship, over-stepped his bounds, and affronted his customer. (Here, if the customer is male, the presence of a pretty girl is of decidedly little advantage.) This breech can usually be effectively healed, but it does not ordinarily predispose the customer toward any generosity in tipping. Thus, there was continual agitation on the part of the waiter to have the maitre d' conform more strictly to his responsibilities as status judge. This was complicated by the fact that this particular maitre d' also held the statuses of manager and owner. There was, therefore, no neutral status judge to whom such appeals could be directed. The most workable approach was to tactfully discuss the matter with the owner while he was not occupying his status as maitre d'. (The ideal was to critique the maitre d's performance when another person occupied the status, as occasionally happened. This indicated that the function attached to the status rather than the person.) Since the person who occupied these three statuses did so not only simultaneously, but also sequentially, it was possible to engage him while he was principally the owner.15 Thus, every evening after the restaurant was closed, the maitre d'-manager-owner became the manager-owner with the departure of the last customer, i.e., the last counter-status occupant (although there were many customers who knew him in all three statuses), and moved behind the bar to count the receipts, keep the books, and deposit the cash. When these tasks were largely completed, the manager-owner would interrupt his work to draw an employee a beer or pour him a drink from his bottle, and would often come from behind the bar and sit and drink with the employees. If in vino veritas, then in commensalism fraternitas. In this setting, his status was that of owner - an owner who worked with his men, true, but those work statuses had been dropped.16

As suggested earlier, the waiter's status is structurally a somewhat anomalous one; he functions, in effect, as a customer surrogate within the work group. Using Merton's list of characteristics, his role-set can be described as follows:

1. Size or volume. The size of the role-set was constant, except for that required by the counter-status of customer. Although the physical limitations of the waiter's section fixed the maximum number of persons who could occupy this counter-status at any given time (fifty to sixty), these persons were continually replaced as they finished and left. (This implies, of course, a whole sub-system of recruitment, which will not be discussed here.) From the point of view of the waiter - a service specialist17 - each new person who enters the status of customer requires a full repetition of the "service-cycle." As the number or rate of turnover of occupants of this counter-status increases, interaction is expanded across the total role-set; both a greater amount and more rapid interaction with other counter-statuses is required. Since, in this instance, size increase in one role precipitates volume increase throughout the entire role-set, these characteristics may be distinct. This increase occurs because the amount of interaction between the waiter and any given customer must meet the minimum demanded by the service-cycle; therefore, increases in the other role-performances are required to maintain this constant. This is especially true because of the importance of what Orwell calls "punctuality and smartness"18  the further demand of appearance requires of a good waiter that, however swift he appears on the floor and to however good effect, he does not hurry his movements in front of the customer - the food may come from the kitchen quickly, but it is not served in haste. Thus an increase in size of the person-set of the counter-status of customer within a fixed period of time is translated into disproportionately greater degrees of activity in the other roles.

2. Elasticity. The status of waiter could be described as the locus of potentially conflicting demands; his function could be described as that of satisfying these demands while preventing their conflict. The waiter is expected to accumulate information, disseminate it to the proper counter-statuses, collect its transformation into the form of finished products, and distribute those products, all of this accurately and promptly. This requires taking completely random orders and demands for various finished products and integrating them into a pre-established mechanism of routines of production and supply. The role vis-a-vis the customer is least elastic and, perhaps relevantly, is both the most formal and the most symbolic of those in the role-set.19 It is the "dominant role;" other role-performances are accommodated to it. The other roles are each also significantly more elastic, having been pragmatically established over a period of time, and continually subject to working, it not formal, redefinition. As Homans has graphically shown,20 interaction over a period of time tends to develop between status-occupants rather than status-occupants.21 Especially where the formal system was not explicit or adequate, informal practices evolved, often on the basis of the personalities of the individuals involved. Furthermore, the individual waiting styles of the various waiters seemed impossible to standardize beyond a certain point.22 Finally, certain points of a role-structure allow for only a "working definition," i.e., one which is continually adaptable to the exigencies of the moment.23 These friction points in the structural system were constantly lubricated by the personal relations and esprit de corps of the work group members.24 Without this, the restaurant would not run. Attrition mechanisms were built into the status; a poor waiter remained poor, a good waiter made money.25 It was simple as that. A primary status qualifier was honesty, another was industry. Further attrition mechanisms were built into the structure of role-relationships. Since the establishment tended to lean heavily upon its informal system, those who did not fit in on a personal level failed to facilitate interaction adequately at the points of strain, and this tended to upset the precarious balance of the whole work group. This will be discussed later.

3. Visibility.26 This, of course, varied in relation to the various counter-statuses. The maitre d'-manager-owner had the most observability of the waiter's role-performances, not only because of the number of statuses he occupied, but because each of these has a fairly high "observability coefficient." This is particularly true of the status of manager. While he views the waiter primarily as a series of connecting movements, the manager has direct access to each of the terminal points: he has the physical mobility and the normative authority to view the waiter's interaction with the customer, to observe the finished product as it appears ready for consumption, to solicit an evaluation of both product and service from the customer, to watch the waiter's interaction with occupants of his other counter-statuses - the bartender, the cook, the customer. Furthermore, he has access to "backstage," which the customer does not ordinarily have. He can go into the kitchen and the backbar, and it was he who established such discrepant practices as using milk in place of cream and bleu cheese for Roquefort dressing. On the other hand, the waiter's frontstage and backstage activities are conducted largely in the open. For example, his manipulation of change and the tip tray itself occurs directly before the customer and is completely visible, even while it is informed with a practiced esoterica available only to the initiate.27 Moreover, the waiter is peddling appearance. He studiously attempts to increase the visibility of certain of his activities. But his role-performances in relation to his counter-statuses are discrete and disjunctive, and in this regard physical distance and geography play an important part.28 While the waiter stands in relation to each member of his work group as a customer surrogate, he reciprocally stands in relation to the customer as a surrogate for each member of the work group. Except to the manager, the waiter's performance is only segmentally visible. Finally, if the waiter's status is the intersection of potentially conflicting demands, it is also the locus of potentially cohering decisions. There is a certain amount of very essential "covert action," to borrow Schutz's phrase,29 which is not visible, in this case - and perhaps in all statuses - except to the status occupant himself. This is the process whereby the waiter determines the total integration of his various behavioral activities and their contextual relations with each other. Together with the waiter's general function as a go-between, this requires a degree of structural autonomy, which in turn reduces visibility.30 For example, when two tables are signaling for service at the same time, the waiter usually has a great deal of criteria for determining to which he will go first - he is likely to know which was most recently served, who is going to be most demanding, how long it will take, what orders are just about ready to come out of the kitchen, what else he needs to do in the next few minutes. Solely the waiter is in a position to know intimately where he is in each of his customer's service cycles and how they fit together to make some cohesive, coherent, and manageable task.

4. Priority. The waiter's role-performances exhibit a fairly well evolved system of priority assignments. For example, serving hot food takes precedence over serving drinks; an order for a drink takes precedence over a request for a tune, and in fact, for an order for food, since the greater time lag between ordering and receiving food serves to make invisible minor discrepancies of arrangement instigated by the waiter. Depending upon status cues, presentation and receipt of payment for a check sometimes has priority over everything else, since the waiter was financially responsible for a walkout; fulfilling the demands of the customers in his section has priority over customers elsewhere in the house, etc. These priorities are neither formal nor completely explicit. Rather they evolve out of the waiter's own experience and the "folk-lore" of the profession as it is passed on by previous and current occupants of the same status and counter-statuses in the work group.

5. Consistency. The waiter is expected to integrate and coordinate his various role-performances on a pragmatic, momentary basis. This can become a complex task, especially with a large number of customers, but aside from temporal and spatial demands and limitations, there are no inherent inconsistencies between the various roles, with the exception of acting as an age status judge, as discussed earlier. There is, however, a very real problem of rank in relation to two primary counter-statuses within the work group. Both the bartender and the cook have a higher rank than the waiter, as do the maitre d' and the customer. But the bartender, cook, and waiter are what could be referred to as work peers - they are each engaged in a different aspect of a mutual enterprise. Yet strictly speaking, they do not occupy the same rank. The occupational statuses of bartender and cook are generally considered higher in rank because they are skilled and salaried jobs, while the status of the waiter is viewed as an unskilled, servile job not secured by a wage remission, but dependent upon tips - "gratuities." This distinction tends to hold up even where the waiter out-earns the other status-occupants. As Orwell remarked of cooks thirty-five years ago and a continent away, "They do not earn quite so much as waiters, but their prestige is higher and their employment steadier. The cook does not look upon himself as a servant, but as a skilled workman . . ."31 And, as a matter of fact, in the situation reported here this was true: a good waiter could average between $2.00-$2.50 an hour, while the cooks and bartenders made from $1.50-$1.75 an hour. The rank of the bartender and cook relative to one another is rather ambiguous. (This may be related to whether the primary emphasis of a restaurant is on dining or drinking.) However, the bartender and cook interact very little with one another. Their statuses are not directly functionally interrelated, although they do exchange products on an informal basis. Furthermore, the cook's job is much more distinct from the bartender's and waiter's than the latter two are from each other. Between the bartender and waiter there is not only greater similarity in activity, but poor operational differentiation of rank. For example, they often dress similarly. Finally, the cook's place of work is geographically separated from the bartender's and waiter's: it is located completely backstage, although by tradition the customer may secure entry to it. The cook does not deal directly with the customer, as do both the bartender and waiter. Thus, his is a distinct profession, complete with its own uniform system and rank symbols, e.g., checkered trousers, white coats, chef's neckerchief, ring, and cap.

The bartender, on the other hand, is in some ways a spatially fixed waiter, serving one large table. Since he is in continual attendance, customers often sit at his "table" in order to escape privacy. He is therefore a "socially available Alter," a somewhat institutionalized role which tends to become attached to those occupational statuses of an essentially service nature which require of the occupant continual personal contact - face-to-face interaction - over some extended period of time. This is a structural characteristic of such occupations as bartender, barber, and beauty parlor operator. This role can usually be activated at the customer's discretion and is one of the less formal and more demanding services that the bartender provides. His lack of mobility substantially reduces the bartender's privacy and increases his visibility. The bartender, along with the cook, also serves the customers for whom the waiter acts as surrogate.

The inconsistency of the waiter's role-set comes about in the following manner: The customer, superordinate to the waiter, gives the waiter his order, which the waiter then transmits to the bartender and cook. The waiter, also in a subordinate position relative to both these statuses, is thereby caught in the anomalous situation of issuing orders to superordinates. Since both the bartender and the cook control the waiter's access to the product that he serves the customer, they can greatly affect the quality of his work performance, the rate at which he is able to operate, and the number of customers he is able to serve. The waiter, who earns only what he receives in tips, is interested in making as good a wage as possible. This is accomplished by two means: quality of service and quantity of product, since, although tipping is ostensibly for service, it is usually computed as a percentage of the total amount spent. The waiter is therefore interested in enlisting the cooperation and, if possible, the preferential treatment of the bartender and the cook. (There is an informal hierarchy among the waiters, between whom there exist not only bonds of cooperation, but also a polite yet often rugged competition. Rank is a function of longevity, and longevity is a matter of adaptation and survival. It is rewarded by choice of sections and shifts; the senior, and by that definition the best waiter having first selection.)

Two different mechanisms, and a somewhat extensive after-hours ritual, were utilized to reduce the strain at these junctures where the waiter brought pressures and demands to bear on status-occupants of higher rank. Running banter was the social mechanism that tended to lubricate the friction point between waiter and bartender, while positive feedback was the mechanism utilized between waiter and cook. Thus between the bartender and the waiter there was a continual exchange of wry, assertive, sometimes aggressively pointed humor and criticism, in which the bartender, with his captive audience, usually had the last word. This served not only to maintain the pace, as Orwell suggests,32 or simply to "blow off steam" as Whyte indicates,33 but also to facilitate interaction at a structural source of ambiguity and strain. Because the cook turned out more of a "hand-made" product (particularly in the situation reported here), he was likely to be interested in how it was received by the customer. The waiter supplied this link of communication, utilizing his structurally provided observability, and with tact and discretion relayed both real and manufactured compliments and remarks to the cook. Here again, the waiter takes advantage of what has been referred to as the segmental visibility of his role-performances.

It is interesting to note that the mechanism of gate-keeping attaches to these various statuses and does so in different ways. As just indicated, the waiter can function as a gate-keeper of information between customer and cook. But of more importance to the waiter are the gate-keeping potentials inherent in four of his principle counter-statuses: the maitre d', who controls the supply of customers to his section (not only the number, but who they were was often important), the bartender, who controls the supply of drinks and change (the latter has not been mentioned, but it is easy to see, referring back to the earlier illustration, that the waiter can control the change on the tip tray only if he has the necessary range of alternatives at his disposal. Since the waiter is continually making purchases and paying checks across the bar, he is dependent upon the bartender to keep him supplied with an adequate source of change. Thus, if the waiter pays the check with the customer's twenty dollar bill and receives a five dollar bill back from the bartender, he cannot manipulate the change to his liking unless he has or can get four one dollar bills and two fifty-cent pieces. For this he is dependent upon the bartender.34 The bartender greatly expedited the waiter's movements when he kept in circulation the proper flow of change without being specifically asked or instructed, and the cook, who controlled the supply of food and the information as to its readiness for serving. Finally, of course, the customer controlled the supply of income that the waiter received for his labors. The waiter, then, is truly a man in the middle, and those most likely to survive will be alert, sociable, good-humored, and nimble.

The after-hours ritual served both to foster work group morale and to function as a mechanism of social selection and attrition. As Whyte points out, the restaurant is a unique work organization; furthermore, the "job and its human relations can never be fitted into a pattern of routine."35 And as Orwell remarks of hotel workers, "the employees take a genuine pride in their work . . . "36 Thus, Orwell writes, "everyone in the hotel had his sense of humor, and when the press of work came we were all ready for a grand concerted effort to get through it."37 In the rush of business and flurry of activity during the peak hours of the evening, the work group would meld into an integrated, unitary operation - all became copartners in an attempt to keep the establishment running. Four hours' work was indeed packed into two hours.38 But as the end of the workday approached, the formal structure re-emerged with the slackening of demands, the status hierarchy became more pronounced, and routine was engendered. Although the waiter's wages stopped when his last customer paid his check, all of the tables had to wiped down and straightened, the ashtrays cleaned, serving trays and bar towels washed out. Furthermore, there was a great deal of work still to be completed behind the bar: toward the end of the evening a back-log of dirty glasses would accumulate, and these needed to be washed, dried, and stacked on the back bar; the beer coolers needed to be filled and the empty bottles re-boxed and packed; the whole work area needed to be cleaned and the bar itself wiped down. The waiter became privy to these duties under the supervision of the bartender - thus was the bartender's higher rank reasserted. The bartender, who had been more or less at the waiter's disposal during the working hours, now retired to his more skilled responsibilities such as wrapping the change, assembling the customer checks in numerical order, taking inventory, directing the waiters. One interesting indication of the difference in rank was that at no time was a waiter allowed to handle "house" money or operate the cash register.

The cooks, meanwhile, operating in their own sphere of influence, cleaned and set up the kitchen independent of the other employees, another mark of their distinct status. As previously noted, the maitre d'-manager-owner gradually discarded statuses, also working behind the bar. Often, with the manager taking care of the books and the waiters cleaning up behind the bar, the bartender would sit outside the bar, enjoying a smoke, and working with the checks.39 This was a loosely defined division of labor; the waiters were never explicitly instructed to stay and they participated differentially in the work. However, as has been suggested again and again, there was a great deal of what could be best designated as a "you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch yours" Gestalt. Participation in this general activity helped define and solidify the informal group. It was during this "decompression" situation that mutual positive sentiments were formed and reinforced. Furthermore, the day's activity was discussed, gripes were aired, steam let off. By the time the cooks drifted up to the bar from their duties in the kitchen, most of the work group had finished and were sitting at the bar having a drink, relaxing and talking. In-group feeling was further promoted by the fact that the bar was legally closed and drinking was technically a violation of city ordinances at that time of night. Often, the maitre d'-manager-owner, in his status as owner, i.e., the person who had just made the evening's profits, would take whoever remained after he locked up across the street for an early morning Chinese dinner, where the work group was now waited upon. No one was under any formal compunction to stay, but those waiters who did not remain, at least through the major completion of the after-hours work, were also very unlikely to remain long on the job. The waiter who consistently stayed after hours, and did a majority of the work was the waiter who most likely would get his order filled first during a run on the bar and would most often get his change broken down the way he needed it without asking. And the waiter who worked behind the bar after hours could make sure that the cook, who did not go behind the bar, always had a full glass of beer in front of him (a man gets thirsty working in a hot kitchen for eight hours) and thus feel confident that a side dish which wasn't listed on the menu might be provided him to meet the special request of a customer or that an order which did not quite meet the approval of a customer would be quickly repaired, the steak done a bit more, a more thoroughly baked potato substituted, etc. Thus the nooks and crannies of the formal structure were filled with the countless little, subtle acts of human interaction and sentiment, cementing it all together, providing its resiliency and cohesiveness. It kept the restaurant functioning and it kept it functioning well.

* This is a slightly edited version of a paper published in the Proceedings of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, Vol. 47, Part I, Spring 1970.  As I reread it now, I recognize that it would be a bit obscure for anyone not well-versed in the theoretical constructs around which the analysis was developed.  Therefore, somewhat belatedly, I've provided an accompanying lexicon and explanation of the key concepts, which were developed in Robert Merton's justly famous theory course at Columbia University in the 1960's.


                     Role-Set Characteristics
                                       • Size or Volume – the number of roles in the role-set.
                                       • Elasticity – the degree to which the role can be readily expanded.
                                       • Visibility – the degree to which the whole set of roles can be seen by other role occupants.
                                       • Prior Assignment (Priority) – the order in which the roles have accumulated in the role-set.
                                       • Consistency – the degree to which the roles require divergent activities.
                                       • Differential Involvement (Role Distance) – the degree to which the role occupant is invested in and/or identified with the role.

                                  Status-Set Characteristics
                                        • Size – the number of statuses held by an individual.
                                        • Variability – the degree to which they are different from each other.
                                        • Empirical Duration (newness, recency) – sequence in which acquired.
                                        • Expected Duration – how long the status will last.
                                        • Rank Consistency (congruency) – degree to which the statuses are of similar social rank.
                                        • Social or Structural Differentiation – the degree to which statuses vary from one another.
                                        • Integration (substantive consistency, modal frequency) – the degree to which the required status activities do not conflict with one another.
                                        • Visibility (identifiability) – the degree to which they can be seen by other status occupants.
                                        • Hierarchical Sequence – rank order within the status-set itself.
                                        • Dominance (primacy) – which status takes priority over others.
                                        • Centrality/Controlling (access) – degree to which a status controls access to other statuses.
                                        • Salient (activated) – a particular status precipitated due to interaction in a specific context.                

                                   ● Person-Set: The number of persons with whom interaction occurs in a specific status.

                                   ● Cross-cutting Statuses: Statuses which are identical with other persons’ status sets.

                                    ● Cue-emitting: Self-presentations which provide role and/or status information to others.

                                    ● Cue-searching: Gathering role and/or status information from the self-presentation of others.

                                    ● Status Judges: Status positions whose occupants determine entry or exit to specific statuses.


1 The Child Labor Laws are a formal recognition of the physiological status of child as dominant, although not central, and can be viewed as the legal expression of an attempt temporally to delineate two dominant statuses.

2 Temporal segregation would be impossible, for example, if a class required for graduation were scheduled only during the busiest night at the restaurant. Spatial integration would be difficult to accomplish if restaurant and college were separated by more than one hundred miles.

3 It would be interesting to determine the significance of gender and lack of gender among nouns that denote occupational statuses. "Waiter," "waitress," "actor," "actress," each denote two statuses - occupation and sex - with only one word. Does "seamstress" have a female denotation and is "tailor" therefore its male analogue, or is it there is no such thing? The term "nurse" connotes a female occupant so strongly that an explicit explanation, "male nurse," is used when appropriate. "Teacher" is fairly neutral, even though if it were qualified in certain ways - preceded by the word "kindergarten," for example - the implicit suggestion of a female occupant is probably as strong as for the term "nurse." It seems this area could be profitably studied, particularly for comparative purposes.

4 A uniform seems to serve at least four functions: 1) it increases visibility and permits ease of identification (observability), 2) it facilitates standardization, logistical efficiency, and universalism, 3) it increases the effectiveness of social control mechanisms, and 4) it reinforces a specific self-image and may, in fact, act as a transition mechanism from one status to another.

5 The terms "frontstage" and "backstage" are used in a manner closely corresponding to that described in Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959), pp. 106-40.

6 Goffman, op. cit., pp. 151-52.

7 Ibid., pp. 146-47. In this case, the waiter is "someone who appears to be just another unsophisticated member of the audience," but he does not promote any particular interests of the "team."

8 In this limiting case example, the immediate reciprocal instrumental expectations obtain between each passenger and the bus driver.

9 George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London (New York: Berkeley Medallion Books, 1961), p. 56.

10 See Orrin E. Klapp, Heroes, Villains, and Fools (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1962), pp. 27-91.

11 Over a period of time a waiter builds up a great deal of sensitivity to various cues and patterns of behavior. One generalizable pattern, which eluded me for some time, was that of two men-- especially when with a group of four or more couples--both insisting on the check. Often these arguments reached such unmanageable proportions that I was forced to adjudicate. Only after several disappointingly small tips did I realize that it is the man who asks for the bill first who wants to pay the check. To give it to the second man is to insure a small tip, whereas giving it to the first makes the second very happy, and thus he is likely to leave a sizeable tip out of appreciation for the waiter's perspicacity, thus substantiating the sincerity of his original declamations and (more cheaply) demonstrating his generosity.

12 This can be taken as an example of what Merton has termed the "suicidal prophecy."

13 Goffman, op. cit., pp. 30-34.

14 Orwell, op. cit., pp. 58-61.

15 In order to activate a status it is often necessary to get Other's cooperation. In this case, this was accomplished by utilizing an appropriate setting or situation. The implicit suggestion here is that power can be measured in terms of the number of statuses which Ego can activate independent of Alter's cooperation. Thus legitimate power could be viewed in terms of the number of instrumentally relevant statuses, while illegitimate power could be described in terms of the number of instrumentally irrelevant statuses. Thus, a legal judge, for example, could, under certain circumstances, activate all three of this individual's statuses and many more, e.g., his status as husband. Independent of the owner's cooperation, however, the waiter could not activate this latter status, unless, of course, he had seen the owner's wife out with another man or something of a similar nature.

16 Thinking in a "Simmelian vein," there are many ways in which this suggests the grandparent-child relationship; the maitre d' and manager statuses corresponding more closely to that of parent.

17 Goffman speaks of "service specialists," op. cit; pp. 153-58, but in this context the term does not have all the connotations of his usage.

18 Orwell, op. cit.. p. 59.

19 Symbolic here means least determined by strictly instrumental considerations.

20 George C. Homans, The Human Group (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1950).

21 That is, activities formally initiated because of the functional necessity of status interaction is often supplanted, supplemented, and even sometimes superseded by the personal relationships of those who occupy the statuses.

22 See William Foote Whyte, "When Workers and Customers Meet," in William Foote Whyte (ed.) Industry and Society (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1946), pp. 123-47.

23 Ibid., pp. 129-30.

24 See Orwell's remarks, op. cit., pp. 55-56.

25 During the three years of my employment, I witnessed a turnover in waiter personnel of about three or four times, totaling about eighteen or twenty men.

26 The terms "visibility" and "observability" are slightly confusing since they may both attach to either object or subject. It may be helpful to substitute two distinctive words, such as "aspect" and "prospect".

27 It should be obvious that it is not only physical visibility which is important, but also social knowledge. I am reminded of the distinction between knowing what is going on and knowing what it is that is going on.

28 Orwell's classic description of the assistant maitre d'hote departing the kitchen amid a volley of oaths and sailing through the dining room "graceful as a swan" is appropriate here. Op. cit., pp. 50-51.

29 Alfred Schutz, "On Multiple Realities," in Maurice Natanson (ed.), The Collected Papers of Alfred Schutz (The Hague: Matinus Nyhoff, 1962), Vol. I, pp. 211-212.

30 Within the occupational sphere, this suggests an inverse relation between the degree of visibility of the product and the probability of being a salaried status.

31 Orwell, op. cit., p. 56.

32 Ibid., p. 55.

33 Whyte, op. cit., pp. 131, 144-47.

34 There was such a continual demand for change that certain verbal expressions emerged to facilitate its distribution. For example "Break ten, one down," meant the waiter wanted change for a ten-dollar bill, with one dollar in coins.

35 Whyte, op.cit., p. 129.

36 Orwell, op.cit; p. 56.

37 Ibid.. p. 58.

38 Ibid.. p. 55.

39 It would seem that especially in occupations which require the personnel to perform on their feet there would automatically attach to those statuses which allow the occupant to sit a higher and coveted rank.