@choffy: I too am a server, and man, reading your description, I was like, " that was me last night, lol". I know some people tend to think that waiters dont do shit to earn their money, but man we do. And we dont all rake in insane cash like some think we do. I worked a 11 hour shift this past saturday, and walked out with $175, and that was an awesome day for me, but we were pretty steadily busy all day. And I only get that one all day shift a week, so thats my money day. Other days it varies so wildly like you said, it can be anywhere from 20 to 90 bucks from day to day 5 hour shifts. Id say working close to full time(35 to 40 hours/week) I bring in about 1200 to 1500 a month, low to high. Maybe 1700 if I have a really good month.
And i dont mean to make it sound like im complaining, dont get me wrong, I like my job, and I understand that I chose to do this work. There just seems to be this misconception that servers make buttloads of cash without having to hardly anything, and while that may be true of certain restaraunts(mainly high/price ones), I will proudly say that I do bust my ass for my money, and that the harder you work to do a better job can at times lead to better tips, it just isnt anything you can count on. You can give the best service ever and a table will still stiff you. Its their choice to be sure, doesnt mean its right.
I will leave with this though, I chose to do this job becuase it lends me a lot of free time for my hobbies and to try and persue my art career. That, and I am pretty much only responsible for myself and have a fairly low debt to income ratio. It can be tight, but I make it. And yes, I live on my own. That said, I would not recommend this job to anybody who absolutely NEEDS a steady income, and has to worry about providing for a family. Money is just too unpredictable for that kind of situation imho.