As someone who has worked in the restaurant business in Washington for more than a decade, I was distressed by the tenor of Elizabeth Kastor's Dec. 10 Style story. In it she described Basil Hangemanole's job as a waiter as "anonymous" work and detailed his frustration and embarrassment at having to do it. Hangemanole should do his customers a favor and quit.

During the years, I have witnessed a tremendous decline in the quality of restaurant service. One reason is the low esteem in which the American public holds the service industry. In many other nations, a waiter or bartender is considered a skilled professional, but here waiting tables is regarded as something to do when one is not qualified enough or educated enough to do anything else. Can you wonder why service has become so poor in restaurants?

I have worked with doctors, lawyers, journalists and other trained "professionals" who find restaurant work rewarding. I might add that many also found it more lucrative than their "real" jobs.

The next time you dine out and you find yourself looking down your nose at your server, wonder not why your soup winds up in your lap. And don't be surprised if you should see your server the next morning when he or she is catching a cab to the airport for a trip to Cancun, while you are going to work.

-- Edward Seitz