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Once a something always a something

Do our previous jobs get embedded into our DNA?

“You must be the type cast of a waitress,” my friend says casually as I sit back down in my chair at my local coffee shop/office.

It has just happened again. It happens all the time and yet, it always catches me by surprise. I went to pee and on my way back the inhabitants of the next-door table leer at me, checking me out head-to-toe, and finally demand the check.

“This is completely unacceptable,” says the frizzy-haired, furious lady. “We’ve been waiting for like ten minutes.”

They have clearly made a common mistake of thinking I am on duty at this trendy neighborhood establishment. My friend clearly thinks that saying I am the type cast of a waitress is a good thing.

I politely tell the angry customer that I don’t work at this coffee shop and that I’ll be right back with her check. Our two tables have a little chuckle about the awkward moment and then go back to our respective conversations. Inside, I begin the same shame-stricken self-searching I go through every time this happens.

I stopped waitressing eight years ago but I kind of believe that this woman, and all the other angry, impatient restaurant-goers who ask me for cocktails, the check, another fork, can see my past-server self beneath my present day freelancer self.

As a waitress I was flustered, flushed and totally frustrated most of the time. Regardless of the establishment – though I served my longest term as a brown rice slinger at Josie’s on the Upper West Side of Manhattan – I hated that job. I hated walking up to people, interrupting their conversation and begging them to get an appetizer with their main course. In my eyes, there is nothing worse than being empty-bellied and having to watch people shovel in plate after plate of delicious food.

Do we emanate an aura of our previous positions?

Even though I’m not a waitressing anymore, is part of me still a waitress?


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