Dear Madame Zolonga: All’s Not Fair in Hospitality

Posted by Planet Waves


This week’s question to Madame Zolonga comes from a Libra struggling with the inequity of waiting tables. Does he need to perfect his Micky Finn recipe? Or can understanding what astrological houses say about the waiter-customer relationship lend enough perspective to stay balanced?

Dear Madame,

I just started waiting tables for the first time in my life, and I can tell you after one week, I’ve never had such a low opinion of humanity. Your letter last week got me thinking: if there’s an astrological reason for why people steal tips, is there astro wisdom for waiters, too? I get we’re there to help, but frequently I don’t even feel I qualify as human. I’m a Libra, by the way, and not the type who’s into drama, but this is bringing out the inner evil in me.

Nothing Fair Here

Dear NFH,

There’s a story in Chicago that in 1918 over a hundred waiters were taken in by police and four arrested for attempted poisoning of their customers. Whether waiters preyed on their diners, or justifiably loathed them thanks to their boorish behavior, is still a matter of speculation. I bring this to your attention to point out that your troubles have a long history in this country.

Astrologically, waiters fall under the domain of the 6th house, which was traditionally the purview of servants and day laborers. As a Libran, you naturally represent the 7th house of equal partnerships. As a waiter, you are not in one.

Now, the 1st house represents the customer. Note the location of the 1st to the 6th. In astrology, we say these houses are inconjunct. Or, more quaintly, they do not ‘behold’ one another.

When you say you’re not even noticed as a person while performing your role as a waiter, you are living astrology, my friend: your customer does not ‘behold’ you — you are, indeed, not seen because you are inconjunct the customer’s point of view. You will never be an ‘equal’ in this situation, and you as a Libran might not ever cope with that.

This also smacks of feudal blindness, but I’m not sure astrology got the memo about democracy.

We Americans, however, did get the democracy memo. Which is why we are affronted by noblesse snobbage at the local Red Lobster. Are they no better than we? Out on the street, yes. In the restaurant, playing the role of the waiter — no.

Problems arise, however, when we insist on Libran-styled equal footing — or plot to ‘get even’. Let’s turn the tables, or rather the chart, to see why. Pretend you’re still standing in the 6th house. When you twist the chart to put yourself 1st (in the 1st house), your equal partner’s house (the 7th from your 6th) turns out to be the customer’s original 12th house. (Are you following me? See the wheel of houses at the bottom of this post for a visual aid.)

Another way of saying this is that the 12th house is the opposite house from the 6th. Reaching back into astrology’s history again, the 12th house represents ‘hidden enemies’. Trying to be ‘equal’ to the person you’re serving therefore launches you into the customer’s hidden enemy territory.

This makes your customer very nervous. You might do something to them there. They’d prefer you stay ahead of them and just out of sight to the right, rather than in their blind spot. The old nobles knew this well enough: that their servants could easily be their saboteurs.

Of course, there’s history to this blind spot problem here in America, too. But it’s different. We simply don’t like undemocratic behavior, no matter what astrology says. “All men are equal,” including waiters to drinkers. And when we feel we’re treated as servants, well… The infamous Chicago invention, the Mickey Finn, for instance, was chloral hydrate slipped into drinks of customers — and why 100+ waiters ended up in a police station one year.

Why so many poisonings? Presumably the new American middle class didn’t yet know how to handle servants and needed a lesson in handling ‘the help’. Many of them still haven’t learned.

You’ve just started waiting tables, which means you’ve still got a lot to learn if you stick around. No, you won’t ever be anyone’s equal, but some people make a lifetime’s living waiting tables. Truly. Service has a long and distinguished (though largely forgotten) history that reaches into the most ancient stories. Hospitality is more than a degree at your local college, it was an ancient virtue — and the gold standard of one’s humanity (and sometimes immortality!).

Certainly some waiters and customers still value that virtue. I hope you run into a few of these types. When you do, remember they’re honoring something far, far older than the local Denny’s.

Unequally yours,
Madame Z.

12 thoughts on “Dear Madame Zolonga: All’s Not Fair in Hospitality

  1. Amanda PainterAmanda Painter

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I for one am *really* glad I’m not living in 1918 Chicago. Then again, having waited tables, I treat restaurant workers as equal humans, anyway — so hopefully I would not have had anything to worry about!

    That said, I love the illustration of how the houses can work in deciphering this kind of interpersonal relationship. I did not realize the 6th was the house of servants — and never would have thought of the fact that a servant trying to be his/her “master’s equal” might launch them into the role of (potential) hidden enemy.

    I wonder if how much hope there is of de-coding (as in, re-writing the encoded information) of these houses, to bring them up to 21st century American dining standards? Then again, as long as we have minimum-wage “slaves” working fast-food joints here, I guess we’ll continue to prove the rule…

    1. Shelley StearnsShelley Stearns

      I loved that whole 6th 12th interpretation! I have also waited tables and actually I could see it working the whole Virgo/Pisces axis pretty spectacularly. I’m really curious though how “living abroad” ends up in the 7th. Does anyone know?

  2. Madame ZolongaMadame Zolonga

    I’m not sure about the “living abroad” designation, either, Shelley. I chose this chart for it’s readability and relevance to the question. Chris Brennan, the creator of this chart, is a Hellenistic astrologer, and the chart reflects an ancient Greek interpretation of astrology. In one sense, it’s an historical artifact that reflects the concerns and culture of that time. But their ideas often hold enlightening ideas for modern people, too.

    You’ll see each slice of the chart has several designations, as psychological astrology does. The relevance of each designation depends on the context of the native’s concern. This context relationship is later much more apparent when horary astrology emerges as a separate branch of astrology. Certain ideas subtly change, but the basic house associations stand.

    As much as we’d like to have evolved past the problem, we’re still creating (and benefiting from) a certain class of “slaves”. It’s a 3,000 year old concept that’s surprisingly (and sadly) still relevant.

    Thanks for sharing, Pam, Amy, and Amanda. Astrology does reveal, doesn’t it?
    See you next week, everyone!

  3. Barbara

    This is very interesting……..I continue to mull this one….. HMMM….SO THAT IS IT……….I see it as an attempt to shed light on shadow making…….rather evolutionary……WE ALL HAVE TO SERVE SOMEBODY………Kindness is a currency that all the MAKER’S creation would do well to embrace…..

  4. LizzyLizzy

    This is a beautiful piece! I love this, “Hospitality is more than a degree at your local college, it was an ancient virtue — and the gold standard of one’s humanity (and sometimes immortality!). I was a waitress for many years, on and off, while I ws a student and before taking off to live abroad, and I saw the good, the bad and the ugly while doing that job. It also taught me to be partiicularly kind and respectful with waiters/waitresses when I eat out.

  5. pam

    We used to see with ‘difficult’ customers if we could come up with something to turn their mood around.

    Otherwise one friend earned enough from tips in Kensington to finance buying a top floor flat in little venice, another was given more than a month’s rent once in Cape Town as a tip.

    There is a lovely line in Maid in Manhattan about serving people and how that doesn’t mean you are their ‘servant’ .

    Babette’s feast too. (film or Karen Blixen)…

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