Raising a glass to the ‘bussies’


Here’s to the ‘bussies’ — the busboys and busgirls who collect our glasses and wipe down our tables. Theirs is a job only noticed when it’s not done.

As a wheelchair user, I sometimes ‘carry’ a drink wedged between my legs as I push. The situation is precarious to say the least. One raised tile, gap in the floorboards or thoughtless bump and that’s it. There will be a suspicious spill stain left across my crotch — not a good look.

I worked as a busboy once, before the wheelchair, as a 20-something at the Royal Bath Hotel in Bournemouth, England. The hotel was 180 years old and more than a bit posh. On Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, me and two others scraped the remnants of expensive meals into a bin while glasses clinked and silver-haired people talked about fox-hunting and real estate. Exhausting, thankless work.

The colloquial term ‘bus boy’ originated in North America just before the First World War. It’s short for ‘omnibus boy’ – omnibus meaning multi-purpose, or dealing with multiple objects or items at once.

France’s ex-President Jacques Chirac was a bussie. Alec Baldwin was a busboy at Studio 54 — can you imagine? Jon Stewart, of Daily Show fame, was too. He named his production company Busboy Productions.

Cool name. Like TV producers, busboys and busgirls play a crucial, but invisible role. In bars and restaurants, they help us avoid all that unsightly stuff: used napkins, half-empty glasses and burritos-come-ashtrays. Oh — and suspicious wet patches on my crotch.

‘Can I bring that drink to your table?’ Absolutely.