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“It is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”


“When you’re a waitress you gotta be so many things: you gotta bring the food, you gotta talk to people, you gotta please the people, you gotta laugh with them, you gotta cry with them sometimes. You gotta feel like I’m a psychiatrist, really.”

When Jeanette Bruhn dropped out of business school, she felt no need to return to her native Denmark—she was in her 20s, in love with New York City, and wanted to pursue fashion. She always supported herself by waitressing, so when she was offered a job at Gracie Mews diner, she jumped at the chance. “I like working with people, interacting with customers, and getting to know them, and it’s a huge part of the business because you see them with their children, and being pregnant.” These customers are part of Jeanette’s extended family, a family she’s chosen: “You get to be involved in their lives, and they’re very excited to have you.”

Jeanette works the fast-paced shift between 3 p.m. and midnight. The high turnover of customers, mixed with a staff that fights like family, can be intense: “Everything goes from 1 to 100 in a second, so you just gotta be able to deal with stress really, really well.” Jeanette’s stress is balanced by the pride and independence she gets from making her own living: “I make good money so it gives me freedom. I’m all about being happy and positive, and just living your life to the fullest, and this job gives me that. I’m lucky: I live in the best city in the world, I live by myself, I can take care of myself. I have more than a lot of people do, you know. And I’m doing it on my own, so I’m grateful for that.”