birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Waiting Time

Everyone should have to wait tables at some point in their lives. It's better than military service to teach us how to be better people and to launch our careers.

I know this because my first real job--the one I could actually support myself on--was as a waitress at The Grille, a greasy-spoon diner that was the hub of the small downtown in the small college town where I grew up.

The Grille had been a mainstay of the town since my father was a college student there in the mid 1940s and, by the time I graduated from high school and started college in 1976, it was still thriving. The food wasn't great, the coffee was worse, but the clientele was delicious.

That clientele included a group of local men who had their own table at the back of the diner where their mid-morning "El Toro" (translate that to bullshit) club met. The club was made up of local businessmen and politicos who gathered talk politics and spread hearsay in the way that only men can gossip...stating things as fact and actually believing it whether it was true or not.

Then there was the couple I always loved and dreaded seeing. He was a college art professor and she was his graduate student-turned-mistress who was much more talented than her paramour but also devastatingly bipolar and often had come-aparts in the middle of the diner.

Another regular was the barber, a tall, thin man who wore a bad toupee and strolled in for breakfast every morning at 7 a.m. before he opened up his shop and cut on the revolving peppermint stick barber pole outside his storefront.

I only spent six months at The Grille, but I learned more there than in any other job I have ever had. I learned how to be nice to people, the importance of good puns and corny jokes, how to appreciate strangers and strange people. I also learned, of course, the importance of tipping. And most important of all, I learned that one job leads to another...it was through my gig at The Grille that I landed my next job...running diamonds.

That Figures

File Clerk