Picks and Pans Review: Waitress

updated 02/10/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/10/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Leon Elder and Lin Rolens

These books of occupational profiles are full of pungent, unexpected pleasure and insight. Kittle's work (Taylor Publishing, P.O. Box 597, Dallas, TX 75221, $29.95) includes 130 color photographs of people and places connected with oil drilling. Kittle, 29, is a New York-based photographer with an interest in Asian philosophy, yet his pictures show real empathy with the men who handle "the iron," the hardware used to probe the earth for fuel sources. Some of Kittle's photographs show men who are tough (or at least determined to look that way) but not unfeeling; the section showing roughnecks with their women and children is probably the most affecting in the book. Though the text is brief, it is usually to the point. Kittle quotes one man as saying, "I remember my dad used to say, 'See that rig there? Stay in school, you son of a bitch.' " The women in Waitress (Capra Press, Box 2068, Santa Barbara, CA 93120, $8.95) seem to take pride in the fact that they are, like truck drivers, members of a profession that makes them semicelebrities. Elder (a pen name for publisher Noel Young) and Rolens (an ex-waitress who is now creative writing teacher at California's Ventura College) provide a disappointing, dismally printed bunch of photographs of the women they quote. But the quotes are wonderful. Mary Song, working at a cafe in Saugus, Calif., recalls a colleague who was in her 60s: "Ruby was something else. She wore hot pants and had two-toned hair, red in front and white in back. She was from South Carolina and if she liked you, you got the best service in the world. But if she didn't like you, you could sit there for a long, long time." Cherrie Thompson, at an Oxnard, Calif., bowling alley coffee shop, says, "I always try to give the best service, even to the biggest bums in the world. Sometimes I even prefer the bums." Debbie Lipson, from a Santa Barbara bowling alley bar, muses about what she's spilled over the years: "I sometimes wonder if my uniform could be vacuum-packed and sent to starving people somewhere—after a good boiling it should yield up a healthy soup." Suzanne Sullivan remembers the escalation of a fight between two dogs and their owners at a Greenwich Village spot; it ended with one woman customer smashing a bagful of raw eggs on the table of her adversary. And Arlene Fisher, at a California coast cocktail lounge, says, "My son pops off now and then and says he wished I'd done something more than be a waitress. But I tell him I've made a good living, it's 'an honorable profession and that pretty much shuts him up."

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