Western civilization

French Waiters – Conservative Heros?

Here is a great piece by David Warren about French waiters.


In a politically-corrected world, where there is one side to every story, although it changes from day to day, I was delighted to see the Wall Street Journal publish a courageous article. It was in defence of French waiters. They are, as Cristina Nehring hints, among the last upholders of Western civilization; and in their settled attitude of pas possible, doing a job even Rome has been abandoning.

Unlike so many miserable wretches in contemporary Parisian society, the garçon de café has a calling. And it is not a calling to anything else. He is, like the ancient English butler (who survives only in old movies), a man of dignity; and of a wide knowledge, at the disposal of those who politely ask. He knows what is possible and what is not. He gives respect to the respectable; and he demands respect in turn. Like an officer in the field, he is called by his office, and not by his name; never should he be treated as a familiar.

“Hi everyone, my name is Johnny and I’ll be your server today! Do you have any questions about the menu?”

The journalist quotes this painfully common line, and adds what follows from it: “servers” who pester throughout the meal; put you on the spot by asking your opinion; freely interrupt dinner-table conversation with their feigned concern for your wellbeing, breathing empathy in a mist-like spittle over the fancy entrée; and again unbidden, suddenly they nail you with the bill. This is arrogance of a kind that would be unthinkable to a true French waiter.

Some years ago a visitor from Montreal, to the then still-existing Idler Pub, whose kitchen was not inadequate, confessed the ugly truth about the decline of his city. He frankly admitted that, in Toronto nowadays, even the food is better. But in his prideful despair, he cried: “Dieu merci! … At least we still have real waiters.”

Aheu, for the civilizing mission of Catholic Quebec, to our North American wilds! The waiters he admired provided the last distant echo of Brébeuf and Lalement, gone to martyrdom in Huronia.

Waiters, he recalled; and not the art students, who were then scurrying about us, at pains to let us know all about themselves. How deadly the idea that “serving” should be a means, justified by some selfish end; to do a job for which you advertise your contempt, and right in the face of your victims. No: waitering is a calling in and of itself, and considerably higher than most to which the young now aspire. (Such as lawyering, or banking.)

Read the whole thing here and check out Mr. Warren’s other thoughtful and thought-provoking blogs posts while you’re there.