What can a diner cook teach a prosecutor?

 Tons. Here Penny explains how cooking her way through law school made her a better prosecutor.

“Being an overnight line cook in a 24-hour diner was a perfect job to put myself through law school - grants and scholarships only go so far! I learned many lessons behind the grill that proved helpful when I became a prosecutor. Case in point: people watching 101.

“When the shifts changed at the nearby hospital we got so busy I wasn’t watching anything but the bacon. But when it was slow, the wait staff and I would guess at what was troubling people based on their mannerisms, the way they spoke to each other, and the food they ordered.

“For instance, there was a teenage son who ordered fries but mom told the waitress to make it a salad. Then she reached across the table and snatched the baseball cap off his head. On the surface, it looked like a manners lesson but they were really fighting about control. You could tell from the scared set to her eyes that she was frightened by the prospect of him escaping her sphere of influence when he flew the coop.

You can always spot those who want to have their cake and eat it too, if you look hard enough.

You can always spot those who want to have their cake and eat it too, if you look hard enough.

“Then there was a girl wearing shabby clothes who sat as far back in the booth as possible and looked everyone except her date. Our guess: she was wishing she’d never said yes to the date even though she hadn’t eaten a decent meal in days and couldn’t wait for the date to be over. He ordered dessert, she didn’t.

“Or the middle aged couple - you could tell they were both married - but not to each other. He’d twirl his wedding ring nonstop, blink way too fast and lick his lips while she sat stonefaced, arms crossed, barely breathing. We figured she‘s his mistress who delivered an ultimatum and he’s trying to keep her from leaving. He ordered cake, she ate it.

“Of course, we never knew if we were right. But it taught me to watch people more carefully and listen for nuance. I can’t always spot those who are really skilled at deception, but you can bet I’m watching for it.”