Auld lang job

Some must ring in the new year behind a cash register

By: Hilary Parker
   Perhaps old acquaintances were brought to mind, but — as old friends and auld lang syne were celebrated — the hustle-bustle of the daily grind often was forgotten as 2005 rolled into 2006.
   Forgotten, that is, for those people who had the luxury of partying the night of Dec. 31 away and spending the wee (and sometimes not-so-wee) hours of Jan. 1 snuggled in bed, faced only with the decision of how many aspirin to take or what strength of coffee to brew.
   Others, like John Maz, general manager of PJ’s Pancake House in Princeton, had to be prepared for the New Year’s revelers, hungry after a long, hard night of celebrating. He spent New Year’s Eve at home with his children, and Jan. 1 was just another day to the pancake proprietor.
   "It’s just like any other Saturday or Sunday," he said. "Jammed."
   Jon Sotovando, a 17-year-old senior at Lawrence High School, was up bright and early on New Year’s Day to get to his part-time job as a cashier at the Princeton Wawa. Though the not-yet-of-age cashier enjoyed non-alcoholic beverages on Saturday night at home with his family, he sold plenty of coffee, soda and sugary sweets to those few early morning customers who had been somewhat less restrained in their celebrations.
   Brett Bauman, an associate at Panera Bread in West Windsor, was thankful for the extra hour of sleep on Sunday, when his alarm went off at 6 a.m.
   "It means I don’t have to get up at 5 a.m., because we get to open later," he said thankfully, and he didn’t mind the work demands in the slightest. "It’s for the customers," he said.
   While getting that first cup of coffee or satisfying a sugar fix wasn’t a life-or-death situation for bleary-eyed overindulgers early on Sunday morning, they may have viewed Mr. Maz, Mr. Sotovando and Mr. Bauman as lifesavers, figuratively.
   There were literal lifesavers working New Year’s Eve into Jan. 1, as well — part of the staff who worked the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift in the Emergency Services Department of University Medical Center at Princeton.
   "It’s a very busy holiday," said Nancy Panarella, director of emergency services, who lauded the staff’s open-minded approach to working holidays, even New Year’s Eve.
   Although the nurses and physicians had their hands full treating patients and saving lives, they were able to take part in their own tradition, a New Year’s Eve celebration ER-style.
   It was not wine or champagne that accompanied their New Year’s meal, which they ate sometime after 3 a.m. They couldn’t even all sit down together with their Diet Cokes to enjoy the potluck feast they had prepared for the occasion. Still, the culturally diverse staff shared laughter and recipes as they did their best to make sure that 2006 started out just as it should have for patients in Princeton’s emergency room — happy and healthy.