Friday, September 28, 2007

Blood In The Suds, 3

(If you’ve missed parts one and two, you can read them HERE and HERE.)

I finished my smoke and went back into the steamy, stinky kitchen. Forgetting for a moment that the tile floor was greasy, I slipped and slid a bit on my way back to the dishwashing station. Thankfully, I kept my balance and didn’t end up on my backside again, as I had on my initial entrance.

I surveyed the situation and immediately became disheartened. There were pretty much as many bus tubs full of dirty stuff now as there had been when I came to work that morning. It was becoming increasingly clear to me that dishwashing wasn’t going to be as easy a gig as I had imagined.

Well, there was nothing to it but to get down to work, so I grabbed a plate and prepared to swab it. When I looked at it, though, I was amazed. There were little bits of fat, trimmed from a steak or chop, and that wasn’t unusual, but in the middle of the plate was a wad of mashed potato, and in the middle of that, a cigarette butt. Some dickweed had used his plate as an ashtray.

(I encountered a few more instances of this as the day wore on into night. Apparently, some people felt that using an actual ashtray for their ashes was gauche. I also encountered toothpicks and their wrappers, foil from after dinner mints, an assortment of variegated spit, and one button. I fed it all to the pig, and no complaints from it as it swallowed – well, maybe just a little when it had to digest the button, but I figured it couldn’t have been that much worse than the bones I had been shoveling into it.)

Although the water in my washing trough was going into the disposal, and much of the leftovers with it, there was still a good deal of filth left in the trough itself, so the smell never abated. Every so often I’d run my hand through the murky depths and kind of push some of the accumulated crap towards the pig, making sure to never get my fingers close enough to it to risk injury.

The afternoon wore on, with me washing dishes; loading those, silverware and glassware into the big dishwashing machine; unloading the machine when it finished a cycle; and trying to somehow get to the end of it all. Even though lunch was long past, bus tubs kept coming in filled with more stuff to wash. I was gaining a bit on them, since the hours between lunch and dinner were slower, but with dinner service coming soon, I knew there was no way I’d be able to finish everything that day. I would definitely have a load of work waiting for me again the next morning.

In the meantime, I was becoming increasingly hungrier. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast at home that morning. I had been told that a free meal was included as a perquisite of the job, but I hadn’t been told when I’d be getting it. The bits of trash I was scraping into the pig began to look tastier and tastier.

(No, I didn’t eat any of it. I can shift into low-life gear pretty fast on occasion, but after seeing some of the things people were putting onto their plates, including loogies and lungers, the temptation to ingest any of the leftovers was not very high.)

I scraped and scrubbed, sponged and sweated, stacked and sorted, and slipped outside, as often as I could manage, to smoke. The overall pace in the kitchen was slowing, so I knew that the restaurant would be emptying. Where was my meal?

Finally, one of the bus boys came into my area and motioned for me to follow him. I did, with him explaining that the kitchen manager had told him to come and get me for the evening meal for staff. We walked a short distance to another room, what appeared to be another kitchen area, though smaller and cooler than the one I had come from. There was a large wooden table, with ten or twelve folding chairs, in the center of the room. Some bus boys were already seated around it and I found an empty seat for myself. It was the first time I had been off of my feet in almost eleven hours, and I could have slept right there and then.

Before I had a chance to doze off, plates of food were being brought in by another bus boy. Apparently, this was the dinner for bus boys and dishwashers. I didn’t see a waiter, waitress, chef, or any other type of personnel present. I didn’t care, though. This was something I had been looking forward to with great anticipation. The Pillar House was a high-end restaurant. I figured the excellent meal I could expect would make up for the sore legs, burnt hands, sweat, putrid smell of the kitchen, and other hardships of the day.

I looked down at the plate that had been put in front of me. There was a middling glob of mashed potatoes (no gravy), a heaping helping of creamed cauliflower, and two lamb chops that had no more than a dime-size piece of meat on either one of them. I looked around the table at the other plates, thinking that perhaps, as the new guy, I was being played a practical joke. Nope. Everybody had pretty much the same as I did, and they appeared to be eating with no complaints or regrets.

Well, I hate cauliflower, so that portion of the meal – and it was a good 50% of it – was out. I tried to cut the meat from the lamb chops, but it was such a small bit of it that I finally took the things in my hands and gnawed as much fat and gristle as I could stand. The potatoes were good, but hardly enough to satisfy my hunger. The next time I would be this disappointed by the outcome of an eagerly-awaited event would be the 1986 World Series. Now, I felt like hucking a lunger onto my plate and putting a cigarette out in the middle of the cauliflower. I might have done so, too, except I knew that I’d be the one having to wash the plate later on. Instead, I just sat there a few minutes until the kitchen manager came in and said that break was over.

Back to the kitchen I went, followed by the bus boy that had summoned me to the meal. He was carrying a bus tub full of the meal’s dishes, another load for me to clean. I resumed my position at the trough and started plunging more dishes into the gray water.

The kitchen was emptying quickly. Wait staff, bus boys, chefs – their day was done. The kitchen manager came by to tell me he was leaving for the night. He told me that the only ones left would be the cleaning staff and me. He told me that I could knock off as soon as I had started the pots and pans soaking, and that the cleaning staff would lock up for the night. He showed me where the pots and pans were – another small inlet off of the main kitchen - and instructed me on how to fill them with hot water and detergent. They would soak overnight, loosening some of the baked on crud, but would need to be scrubbed in the morning.

I had completely forgotten that there would be pots and pans needing cleaning as well as the piles of other utensils and plates. I now knew that I would have twice as much work awaiting my return in the morning.

The manager said good-bye, walked out the back door, got into his car, and drove off. I started filling the pots and pans with water and soap. As I was doing so, one of the cleaners came by with a mop in his hand. He waved to me. I waved back.

I finished filling the pots. I was ready to leave when it occurred to me that I had no earthly idea how to get to the train station. I had been driven to the interview and I had been driven to the restaurant that morning.

I went looking for the mop guy I had waved to. I found him in the main part of the kitchen, swabbing the greasy tile floor. I said, “Hi! Excuse me, but it's my first day here, and I’m not familiar with Newton. Can you tell me how to get to the Green Line?”

He said, “Que?”

(Next: Newton Is A Very Big Place In The Dark, Especially When You're Trying To Follow Directions In Another Language)


Anonymous said...

I am so tired from reading about your labors and hunger,I need to take a nap :) Good God, I hope the story gets better.... correction.... it is a good story, I am hoping your time in the kitchen gets better. I know one thing. At this point in time the manager would be doing the dishes had I been hired!

Unknown said...

That sounds like a very hard job. I hate doing the dishes every night for just the 3 of us. How long did you stay with this job?

Melinda said...

Sully this is great stuff! I can't even imagine doing that job for 10 minutes!!

Looking forward to the next chapter!

Chuck said...

Wow, your gig sounds worse than my experience dishwashing. We didn't get to eat the high end food but we did get a decent amount of it. Plus a free beer end of shift.

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Oh honey, and I thought I had held down some shitty jobs in my time, but reading this - they were all a mere walk in the park! Love the way you tell it, it's so real. I feel for 'ya - hope you quit it in record time..

Merisi said...

Looks to me liek they really needed a second automatic dishwasher and more manpower.
Cheapskates. Slave holders.

David Sullivan said...

I had a similar dishwashing job in my teens. I got a grilled cheese sandwich as my meal after the lunch rush. The time it was served, on what type of bread and the type of cheese was at the whim of the owner. Luckily the fringe benifits of relations with the cute Smith College waitstaff made up fore the $3.25 an hour, pruned hands and soggy grilled cheese.

Anonymous said...

So drunk...