22 January 2024


When I was in college, I waited tables during the summer at a new fancy shmancy restaurant in my hometown. I had waited tables the summers before at a more local joint, but now I was old enough to serve alcohol. I would bank no less than $100 a night, and if a night was looking slow, like, I would not clear $100, I got cut, cause I never had to stay on a Monday, cause I was a weekend anchor. That shitty Monday shift was for the shittiest, laziest server of the bunch. 

I pulled doubles, regularly. So regularly, in fact, that I burnt myself out after working seven days a week for an entire month, doubles on the regular. Obviously, I had a breakdown and ended up in the owner/manager's office, and I've told this story before, but basically, she just asked me what the problem was, and I told her that she never gives me a day off, and she laughed. She laughed in my face, and said, "You never ask for days off." And I sniffled and wiped my tears, and was like, "What the fuck?" 

Anyway, she's one of my role models, and someday, I will be her. She is an unofficial official mentor of mine as I emailed her, not so long ago, and she replied with her phone number and a "call me," which I did. So, yea. She's my mentor, as well, to this day. 

Anyway, I would bring in big bucks at that restaurant. I would easily make $10K over the course of the three months between spring and fall semester, and then, I would live off of that money during school. 

I did this for two summers, and during the second summer, one of my coworkers, who worked there year-round, started treating me more like a coworker than a child. I was old enough to drink, now, lol. And it was during this summer that she started to become more of the owner/manager's Right Hand, and I smashed every weekend with her pulling doubles. We worked so well together, and we made some serious cash.

And then there was Thursdays? I can't remember which day, exactly, but there was this rich old man who would stroll into the restaurant every week on the same day of the week, and no matter what he ordered, he'd leave a $100 bill. Lunch would run him no more than twenty-five bucks, so that's that. Whoever got to be his server that day had their day shift made with just this one guy. So, we would trade. She was generous like that. She could've easily, easily, had that guy all to herself. She outranked me, and she out-aged me, but she was cool like that. She would give me a big top sometimes that I knew she wanted, but she would just give it to me every once in a while. Maybe she was just tired. Who knows. 

Anyway, it was this server who said the thing that changed my life, forever. FOREVER. 

One afternoon, we were just chatting, cause restaurants are typically slow between lunch and dinner, and so, there's some time to chat when you're setting up for dinner, etc. So, I just asked her some stuff about herself. She hailed from Bulgaria and was making a life for herself and her family in America. And she smiled, and she was so satisfied with her life, and she had just put 90% down on her first house, a house with TWO BEDROOMS! 

She was living the Dream. The American Dream. 

And I remember being so shocked by her love for America. There was so much possibility in her voice, in her outlook, in her life. She was so happy. She was working hard, and it was paying off. 

And then, she said it; she said the thing. She said, "FREE MONEY." And I was like, what? And she was like, this job is free money. And I was like, explain more, please, and she said,

"I come here, and I stand around, and I wait until someone comes to eat food. Then I bring them what they want to eat, and they leave money on the table. I go over there, and I pick up the FREE MONEY."