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Faith in Fate: Real or Ridiculous?

By Michelle Cacciatore
On April 23, 2010

It's been a long road to graduation. I started college as a freshman in 2004, and I'm not graduating as a doctor, so you do the math. When I started college, I majored in Musical Theatre, and as my first spring semester was starting to come to an end years ago, I walked out of my guidance appointment annoyed. I had lost a year of credits in a major that turned out not to be what I had expected. Despite it seeming useless, I finished out my final weeks having changed my major, but a two minute conversation with a guy in one of my acting classes changed my life.

I needed a job, and I had heard through friends at school that this guy, Andy, worked as a waiter at a local Greek restaurant. Even though I didn't know him, I went up to him. "I heard you work at a Greek place and the money is good. You think you could get me a job?" I asked with my friendliest smile. It turns out Andy really was the ticket to working at this apparently coveted place, and three weeks later I was learning a menu with Greek foods I'd never heard of as well as getting to know a new boss with a heavy Cyprian accent. Little did I know that I would spend the next five years of my life in what would become the best job I've ever had.

There was a reason that getting work there was nearly impossible. There wasn't even a real printed application to fill out? Because everyone who had ever worked there stayed forever (sometimes even coming back after having a child, or getting married) and the only way to get a job was through word of mouth or knowing someone there. I quickly became friends with the small crew this charming restaurant employed, and before my first year was out, I knew about seventy percent of the regulars who ate there. I soon learned the Greek words for "hurry up" as well as few others that they probably wouldn't teach you in school. The small and humble table in the storage room became the place where most of us would eat dinners together more than with our own families. We laughed about our bad dates and fought over filling the paper towels. We even had poker games together at someone's house.

At the restaurant we all felt part of a community. People would come in twice a week, greet us by our first names. It wasn't uncommon for us to know what most were going to order when they walked in the door. There was Phil and Lynn on Thursday nights: Salmon well done; salad, no onions; split pea soup and club soda with lime. Scott who would sit at the counter sometimes two nights a week with a glass of merlot and some pickled octopus. Or one of my favorites, Danny, the retired cop, who came every Friday for lunch, telling me stories about his days in the NYPD over Manhattan clam chowder and a cup of decafe. It didn't take me long to realize this place wasn't just a restaurant, but a home away from home for most who came there to eat, and I was proud to be a part of it.

Where else does your boss give you a huge catered Christmas party every year, and not fire you if you sleep through your alarm clock making you late to open up the place? (It's happened a couple times over the years, and he's woken me up on my cell phone saying, "Move your ass!")

He was generous to the local charities and little league teams. He always offered his help to those less fortunate, and worked harder than most people I know. He would reprimand me for always coming in three minutes late by saying, "I'm yelling at you because, at a real job, you'll be fired for this." Was he a pushover? No. He'd let us have it if we were screwing around, but he was the best boss anyone could ever hope for. He showed me what hard work and integrity could get you more than anything else, which is a lesson I'll take with me for the rest of my life.

Fast forward to 2010. It's been half a decade since my first day at the restaurant. The crew is mostly the same, and Andy and I have grown into great friends. Some of the older patrons I've served over the years have died, others have had babies that are now a couple years old, and we've all gone through our fair share of life changes. We're all a bit older. Perhaps my boss has acquired a few more gray hairs, and we've all put on a few pounds because of the amazing food at our disposal -- food I once didn't recognize the name of and now have to fight to resist.

Recently I realized that my days are becoming numbered at this beloved job as graduation is approaching, and phase two of my life is about to start very soon. I'll be leaving for a new job once I find one. It's in the midst of all this graduation talk that everyone wants to talk about their dream job; what it would be, and how it would feel. I can't help but feel lucky because in some ways, I've already had one.

So, as I continue to work there in these final months, I take a little extra time filling up the salt and pepper shakers or cleaning the ketchup bottles. I know sooner rather than later it'll be time to go, and I'll miss the place. I guess you could say my starting out as a Musical Theatre major wasn't such a bad decision after all. Had I not met Andy, my life would've been completely different. I'm certain I'll fret over what the future holds, or what new job I'll eventually enter into. But I suppose I take small amounts of solace in fate, knowing that perhaps no matter where I end up, or what I do, it might just be exactly where I'm supposed to be.

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