INTRODUCTION: The Very Best Job in the World

Vanessa dropped two plates of eggs and bacon on our table, a stainless steel and Formica heirloom of another generation.

"Got any hot sauce?" Harry asked.

"You gonna use it if I bring it?" she countered.

Harry looked up. Vanessa was smiling. Harry smiled back.

"You're kinda cute," he said.

"Don't kid yourself, honey," Vanessa replied. "I'm very cute."

She grabbed a bottle of Tabasco from a nearby table, slapped it down in front of Harry, and sauntered away. Harry watched her backside as she disappeared into the kitchen.

"I feel like I'm in an old movie," he said, salting his eggs.

"The Green Owl is old Florida," I told him. "It's not trendy, but it works."

Harry looked around. Every table was full, and every stool around the central counter was occupied. Most of the crowd was dressed in working clothes—jeans or uniforms or business suits. And everybody seemed to know everyone else.

"A local place," he said.

"That's the way I like it."

We began to eat. The eggs were good. The bacon was crisp, the coffee hot.

We talked about business. Harry, a career diplomat with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),[1] had just begun a new post in Central America. He talked about his efforts to master Spanish, and about the challenge of motivating a staff that had been there before him, would be there after him, and was used to doing things "the old way."

"And since they are government employees, it's nearly impossible to fire them," I added sympathetically. ...

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