Working in New York
It was after I’d been working at the sandwich bar for over two months
that my boss told me she’d only given me the job because I looked like
It’s just as well she had, too, because it was my salary that was paying
for the rent on our dimly-lit basement apartment in Brooklyn. My
girlfriend was spending most of her money on paying off her school fees
(thousands and thousands of dollars in America, by the way) and on top
of all that we were trying to save money to leave the States and start a
new life together somewhere else.
Despite the fact that money was tight, I was having a ball. Catching the
bus along Atlantic Avenue to go to work, and occasionally the D train
into Manhattan to go sightseeing. Food shopping in Korean delis and
drinking beer in sports bars with the locals. How many Brits get the
chance to live an authentic New York experience?
I was having fun at work, too. My colleagues were young and up for a
laugh, the Filipino chef was a bright, cheerful woman with huge glasses
perched precariously on her tiny nose. She made excellent food and I can
still taste her spicy chicken salad to this day. Even the customers were
civil, polite and friendly. They loved my British accent and would often
chat enthusiastically as I refilled their coffee cups and took their
sandwich orders. In addition to my salary, I made pretty good money on
tips and I even scored a side-gig as a barman serving cocktails in a
black tuxedo at dinner parties.
When I first arrived in The Big Apple, I was unemployed. I went from
shop to shop for days on end looking for any casual job that didn’t need
a formal work visa. By the end of the second week, I’d found work in a
religious Jewish supermarket, packing boxes at the checkout and carrying
the shopping to customers’ cars. But that job didn’t last long and it
was badly paid and ridiculously long hours.
The sandwich bar was a much better job and I only worked from 9am until
3pm. After work, I would catch the bus back to the apartment and jog
around Prospect Park for an hour enjoying the spring weather and laid-back
vibe of one of Brooklyn’s green spots.
Six months after I arrived, my girlfriend and I were packing our bags
for the next exciting chapter of our lives. I was sad to leave Brooklyn
and it holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been back there to visit,
but it no longer holds the same magic. Not only had the neighbourhood
changed, but I had, too.
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