The XX Factor

Let Them Eat Pancakes

Susannah Jacob meant to write a humorous account of her failures as an IHOP waitress. Instead, she offered yet more fodder for our “entitled generation” conversation , and revealed herself, intentionally or not, as being unable-or unwilling-to succeed at one of today’s most elusive goals: an actual, if unglamorous, job.

Jacobs lives in an affluent Dallas suburb. She’s heading to college in the fall. She doesn’t, by her own admission, “need the paycheck.” And it’s clear that she thinks it’s funny that someone like her can’t succeed at a job that her trainer, Suzanne, an immigrant ex-con, a former drug addict, and a multiple divorcee, is not only good at, but takes pride in. This young scion of the upper middle class just can’t do it. “Waiting on tables, it seemed, violated my very constitution.”

If you’re not wincing enough already, the rest of the essay-intended as a send-up of her failures (putting powdered sugar on hamburgers, breaking things, and splashing hot coffee)-stands out mostly for the throw-away descriptions of those she’s condescending to work with and wait on. A tattooed family “even manage[s] somehow to smell British,” a baby unlucky enough to have a family who eats at a major chain “slouch[es] on his mother’s lap.”

There’s no dramatic turn-around; no Shop Class as Soulcraft realization that Suzanne the self-professed “damn good waitress” has a valuable, un-outsource-able skill set , no admission that any job worth doing is worth doing well. Instead, drinks are spilled, pancakes are ruined, and the writer … quits. And however relieved she thinks her mid-shift departure made her manager, it left this reader, a parent and a veteran of plenty of service jobs, fuming.

Photograph by Getty Images.