Once, in my twenties, I was a coat check girl in New York. It was the cusp of 2003, tapas were trending, and my boyfriend had a job waiting tables at a Spanish restaurant on the Lower East Side. The restaurant’s cavernous dining room was surrounded by a black-hued moat into which diners were constantly dropping their possessions. The staff would dredge the moat with a net every morning and discover gold credit cards, Blackberries, drugs. My boyfriend made more money as a waiter than I did working as an assistant at a prestigious literary agency, so when the restaurant opened a coat check counter, I decided to moonlight.

Men in business suits threw heavy laptops in my general direction, hardly bothering to take their tickets before stampeding to their tables, cocktails in hand. But a slender blonde woman with the eyes of a doe refused to relinquish her hat and gloves until I showed her exactly where I was going to put them. And even then she stood there, supervising, as I gingerly placed her things on the shelf while her date did whatever it was that bored people did before the invention of smartphones. All night I kept glancing behind me at her white delicate-looking hat and gloves. I wondered if she’d knitted them herself. I have never learned to knit and am too messy to wear white. I envied that woman, having something she loved so much that it was worth being difficult to keep it pure.

After that first night, the owner suggested that I should show more skin, and I decided that coat check was not for me. Almost twenty years later, I’d forgotten everything about that job except for the businessmen throwing laptops and the blonde woman’s precious hat and gloves. But when my husband reminded me why I’d quit, I wasn’t surprised. I am an experienced quitter.

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