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Unexamined Waiting

Sokrates, Antisthenes, Chrysippos, Epikouros
Sokrates, Antisthenes, Chrysippos, Epikouros


It was immediately clear to me that the best possible use of my philosophy degree was waiting tables. Late nights and later mornings spent drinking and reading philosophical texts really prepared me for customer service. My education was very handy for answering the questions “What’s on special?” or “What do you like?” or “What is meaning in a world filled with emptiness?”

So when a customer asks you a dumb question, don’t get angry, get philosophical!

Does your bread contain gluten?

Bread by its very nature contains gluten. This is fundamental to what Heidegger would refer to as bread’s “beingness.” If it didn’t contain gluten, it follows it wouldn’t possess beingness and subsequently wouldn’t exist, but be part of “the nothing.” Since awareness of the nothing is the state of existential dread, this question is not only invalid, but also terrifying.

Is this an authentic Italian restaurant?

According to Jean Baudrillard the concept of authentic has long been subsumed by simulacrum. What we think of as Italian food is really a mere symbol used to commodify our experience and to support the economic hegemony of capitalism and its goal to separate humans from one another so we each buy our own can of spaghetti-o’s and refuse to share.

Would I like the tuna or the salmon more?

The Tractatus by Ludwig Wittgenstein tells us there are two types of meaningful sentences. There are those that express a logical truth, like expressions of math or tautologies. And there are those that express an empirical truth, such as a scientific observation. Any sentence that is neither logically sound nor empirically founded is mere nonsense. As such your question is invalid and will be passed over in silence, perhaps with an accompanying cold stare.

How long will the wait be at 7pm next Saturday?

Since Saturday is one of our busiest nights, I can assure you there will be a wait. In order to move to the top of the waitlist you’ll, of course, have to move halfway up to the top. In order to move to that halfway point you’ll again have to move halfway. Since there are an infinite number of halfway points between the top of the list and the bottom, your approximate wait time will be anywhere between 45 minutes and an eternity.

What was the chicken’s name?

When considering the Causal Theory of Reference, names are known as “Rigid Designators.” In order to use a name successfully, the name must refer to the referent in a causal chain that begins with the original naming of the thing, in this case, a chicken dubbed ‘Colin.’ Whether or not we refer to Colin by name or as “that chicken over there” or “tonight’s special” doesn’t matter as each indicates the same thing in all possible worlds. In fact, Colin has been quartered, roasted and basted with herb butter and is served with a side of spinach. I highly recommend the Burgundy, as it was Colin’s favorite.

Jack Hott

Jack Hott has more than 20 years experience in the hospitality industry. Along the way he’s flipped burgers, tossed pizzas and spilled a lot of wine on white table cloths.

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