Every evening she's outside, waving her menus, spotting previous customers
as they walk down the street, calling them by name. She remembers everything
they ate, what they liked, what they didn't. "Where's your friend tonight?"
she asked me, a week after I last stopped by. "Never mind, sit down, we knew
you come tonight, we make your favorite."
Around midnight, when the foot traffic has slowed, she has time to sit and
share a beer with her customers. As she talked about the business, it was
amazing to learn the level of detail with which she categorizes and
remembers people. Tiny details tell her what country they come from (and
what language they will speak), whether or not they're vegetarian, whether
they'll want a beer or a Coke. And with all that computation going on, she
still has a joke for everyone.
2001 update: Well, the restaurant has expanded and remodeled, and
she's still there, waving those menus from sundown till closing time. But
she looked more haggard than before; the years seemed to have worn off her
smile. Too bad.
2003 update: No sign of her.