For several years now, I have thought of waiting tables as a hunter-gatherer kind of job. Each morning, I stalk my prey at their usual watering hole, serving up coffee and eggs with a sleek and casual smile; I am quiet, unobtrusive; I bide my time. My earnings are gifts from the gods of generosity and good luck, coming in unpredictable floods and trickles. I gather the silvery coins from the tabletops, I fold the bills into my apron pocket, and I move on again, cleaning, preparing for the breakfast rush, the lunch rush, the next herd to come and go. I'm no agriculturalist.
My first customer of the morning was a disheveled-looking woman with suitcases and overflowing canvas tote bags piled up around her in the tiny booth where she sat sipping her coffee and fingering an unlit cigarette back and forth across her knuckles. The waitress from the midnight shift shrugged and shook her head. "It's not like she's out of her right mind or anything..." I glanced at the woman grinning dreamily across the dining room. "When she came in, she threw up her arms in the air in a bear-hug," my manager chimed in, "I thought she was going to attack you!" I walked a fresh pot of coffee over and topped off her mug. The woman winked. "It's cold enough out there to shiver my timbers!" I smiled. "That's what we're here for," I said, gesturing gently with the steaming pot.