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There have been a lot of dishwashers at the restaurant since I started working there a million years ago. Some of them have been teenagers, some of them have been grown men. Most of them have been from Mexico, although a couple of them were white boys right out of high school. That didn't last that long, it may have been a summer job, but all of them left looking for something more; a promotion, a different position in the kitchen, or anything else besides being in Dish Land. Being a dishwasher in a restaurant is a brutal, thankless job. It's hot and wet and the dishes seem to never stop arriving from the dining room. On top of all of that, you are expected to mop the dining room, the kitchen and the bathrooms every day. You have to be the last ones there most nights, cleaning the kitchen, and a lot of the time, you have to be the first one in to clean the dining room. Sometimes you have to help in the preparation of food, doing the most mundane of chores; peeling carrots, dicing bread, peeling shrimp. Because of this challenging workload, and it is a challenging job, most people do not want to have anything to do with it. That, and it doesn't pay well. If you are working in a restaurant, being a dishwasher is the low end of the totem pole, and usually you want to work your way up through the ranks as fast as humanly possible.
I started out as a dishwasher at my aunt and uncle's restaurant, called Bishop's Terrace. I worked the lunch shift when it wasn't that busy. I am thankful for that now, because the fast pace of dinner would have been a bit much for my childhood self to deal with. Having to load, and unload an industrial sized dishwasher under pressure can be not only difficult, but incredibly unnerving. You are dealing with scalding hot water and extremely hot dishes; the metal ones burn your hands and the ceramics slip and can shatter. And then there is the mess. The whole job revolves around taking something that is dirty and making it clean. Dealing with food waste is particularly disgusting. People forget this, and are mindless with their plates. They put butter everywhere, ketchup everywhere, and all of it ends up on the dishwashers hands. I rarely eat ketchup to this day because of this.
I washed dishes a couple other times in my life. Mostly just to help out when there was a spot that needed to be filled, but it was never my only job. I would supplement it with waiting tables and working the counter at the fish market, for example. I can't imagine washing dishes 5 or 6 days a week as your only job. And yet, people do it. We have a guy named Carlos who started at the restaurant the same time I did, worked the dish pit for 7 years, and then took all his money that he made and moved back to Mexico. He bought a house, married a girl and had a baby. A couple months ago, he moved back and got a bunch of his old shifts back. I guess if you can save money, it doesn't matter how bad the job appears to be from the outside if you can deal with the day to day monotony of the thing. I have said it before on this blog that every job can be monotonous and awful if you have a bad attitude about the whole thing. After all, you don't want to be defined by your job, even though a lot of times, people actually will judge you by what you do. It's one of the reasons I stopped asking people what they do. They have to actively tell me what they do for work, but I have stopped asking. I have good friends that I have no idea what they do for work. In the end, it doesn't matter to me what you do if you are a interesting person to be around.
The whole reason for this dishwashing rant is that one of the dish washers who work with Tim and I at the restaurant contributed to this edition of "Mind on Loup." The kid's name is Alex and his last day was actually just last night. Like Carlos, he is taking the money that he made here for the last couple years and is moving back home, where presumably the money will last way longer than it will here in New York. Alex has some talent as an artist, he would sometimes draw pictures on the white board in the kitchen and is always interested in the progress of these drawings. I don't remember which night he contributed to this one, but he wrote the "Graffitty" in the lefthand side. Then, he wrote "Mexico" on the right hand side, which got turned into a monster of some sort. In the colored-in version, you can't even make out the word as it has been completely integrated into the drawing. I don't know Alex's last name and I might never see him again, but I will always remember him through this picture. He is a good kid and I wish him luck in Mexico and wherever else his life might take him. I hope he continues to draw pictures and make art in some way. I also hope that he never washes another dish if he doesn't want to. Dishwashers are an integral part of every restaurant but they never get the respect.