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  • In 1995 I was a waitress at a fried chicken diner, possibly named "The Chicken Shack", in San Diego. It was my last year of college and that summer I was following my dream and moving to New York City to work in magazines. Everybody at the diner knew me as the waitress with big dreams who was moving to the big city.

    California had just passed a no-smoking inside restaurants law which was great for me but a total bummer for the two men who came in late at night after their shift in a print shop and sat in my section and ate pie and drank coffee and smoked a cigarette or seven.

    Robin and Carlos the managers, in addition to being massive meth heads, had no intention of enforcing the new law as they chain smoked their shifts away, and basically instructed the staff to enforce the law or not.

    So I let my two patrons smoke after they finished their coffee and pie and they were grateful.

    About a week before I quit to move, my print shop patrons came in at their regular time, sat at their regular booth, ordered pie and coffee like usual and smoked their cigarettes. But when I came to refill their coffee, they both pulled out little white boxes, the kind you put jewelry in, and said they both had something to give me.

    These men had never paid me much mind before, just real light conversation, the kind you have with a waitress working the late shift - I don't even recall their names. But suddenly, here they were, both men handing me a jewelry box with their man hands covered in ink stains from the printing presses at the print shop.

    Turned out they were both gem collectors on the side and they had both made me a ring, one of a stone that looked like onyx with a beautiful silver detail and the other out of petrified wood with a very lacy silver detail.

    They wanted to wish me good luck on my move from San Diego to New York City and thought a ring would be a nice gesture, after all I had been such a nice waitress, letting them smoke inside the restaurant illegally all those pie-filled late nights.

    I still wear the black ring, it's pictured here. And I'm stilled deeply moved at the kindness and creativity those men bestowed upon me with such a thoughtful gift.

    Those men knew such a sliver of me, for such a fleeting amount of time, no wonder they liked me.
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