The first job I ever had in New York was working coat check, on Halloween, at a restaurant/bar in Chelsea. It was eleven days after my 19th birthday. I owned a black wool dress with a crepe bow at the bottom, and I went somewhere in the garment district to buy black elbow-length gloves, and showed up to work as Holly Golightly. I was early, and didn't want to be too early so I stood in front of some brick wall on 10th Avenue and called my ex-boyfriend back home, to tell him about my cool new job. He asked me if it was safe. "If what is safe?" I said. "New York," he said, "where you are." He had gotten me spray mace for my birthday, a tube that attached to my keychain.
"Of course it's safe," I said. I lost the mace. Or maybe I didn't even pack it with me. I don't remember where it went.
It was warm for October, and even though the parade went right by us, not many had coats to check, and they sent me home early with $60. One of the other girls working apologized for how slow it was, but I felt phenomenally rich. I had made $15 an hour by smiling and hanging things sequentially. I felt very lucky and also smug, to be paid so much for doing so little.
I would go on to make a lot more money there. I would also go on to get carbon monoxide poisoning while working one night, and faint in the fire exit, because that's where we hung the coats. At the back was where the guys who worked in the kitchen put the trash, and by 4am everything always smelled like fish. The first, and I think only, time another woman has ever called me a bitch within earshot was at this job.