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The Service Is a Nightmare

In a food-obsessed culture where Restaurant Week lasts twenty days (it ends this Friday), the stress suffered by waitstaff carries over even into sleep. Here, veteran servers recount their dreams—and a Jungian analyst divines what they mean.

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The Dream:
I had one where I had to use the bathroom. The captains at the restaurant would constantly remind you how you were doing your job incorrectly, and in my dream my captain barged into the stall and, in a very methodical and surprisingly sincere way, taught me how to wipe my own ass in a more effective and efficient manner.
The Dreamer: Matt Phillips, Pastis.

Fanciful Interpretation:
Maxson J. McDowell, Jungian analyst: The captains are infantilizing him. He needs to do his own creative work.


The Dream:
I’ve actually had this one numerous times: People walk into the restaurant where I’m working, recognize that I am a long-lost descendant of the Ming dynasty, and return me to my rightful place. They have the whole garb from The Last Emperor. And I just say good-bye to everyone. That’s the end.
The Dreamer: Larry Poston, ­Hotel Griffou and Jimmy.

Fanciful Interpretation:
McDowell: The unconscious is hinting that his sense of importance is unrealistically high.


The Dream:
I was eating with the Real Housewives of Atlanta. The problem was I was also waiting on myself. I kept bringing over bread plates, but they weren’t good enough for NeNe, and she kept sending them back.
The Dreamer: Sue Smith, Café Gitane.

Fanciful Interpretation:
McDowell: The server is feeling abused by her own perfectionism, wanting to do it all, like the Real Housewives.


The Dream: The restaurant had run out of fish, so I had to go fishing in this pond to catch the fish myself. No one even told me to. I just remember thinking that the only way to fix this problem was to take care of it myself.
The Dreamer: Rachel Kopf, Joe’s Pub.

Fanciful Interpretation:
McDowell: It’s a reference to Christ. What’s she being paid, $10 an hour? She’s not Christ. She doesn’t have to solve the problems of the world.


The Dream: I worked at this New American place in San Francisco. On the weekends, it was packed with a financial-district crowd. In the dream, I was twelve feet tall and surrounded by these incredibly short finance guys. They came up to my knees and were scratching at my legs, begging for Heinekens.
The Dreamer: Caryne Hayes, Isa.

Fanciful Interpretation:
McDowell: In mythology, dwarves are phallic figures because they’re male, short, and almost phallus-shaped. These guys are behaving like—the word is dick. The image expresses the vulgarity of it.


The Dream: I’m wearing this blue button-down shirt, and all of a sudden I discover that somehow I have castrated myself and put my penis in my shirt pocket. I told a friend about it afterward, and he told me I really needed to stop working in restaurants.
The Dreamer: Anonymous, Craft.

Fanciful Interpretation:
McDowell: He’s oblivious. Everything looks proper—he’s wearing a proper shirt—but there’s something wrong.


The Dream: I’m working at Pastis, but there are two restaurants, Pastis 1 and Pastis 2, and they’re both fully booked. I’m the maître d’ for both, so as soon as I’ve gotten everything settled for the first seating at Pastis 1, I’m running down the street to try to get everybody seated at Pastis 2. A lot of times there’s a train involved, too, like the Pastis shuttle, and I’m the conductor of the train.
The Dreamer: Andy Ness, Pastis.

Fanciful Interpretation:
McDowell: He feels at least twice as much responsibility as one person can handle.

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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