Thursday, May 8, 2014

Zen and the Art of Dishwashing

After being short handed at work for a while, two new faces appeared in the dishpit tonight. Well, one new face and one old old coworker was back after a multiple month hiatus. He jumped right back into the swing of things like he never left. The new kid was a dishwasher and bar back, and it was obvious that he had worked in busy establishments before. We were a machine tonight with a consistent hum of productive teamwork. Beautiful.

The new kid was excited and motivated to an almost creepy level. Do you remember in "Field of Dreams" when Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are driving back to the farm, and they pick up Archie Graham as a kid? And he was cheery and upbeat about playing ball? That was this kid, seriously. "I just read this book called Dishwasher," he started.
"By Pete Jordan, yeah," I said.
"You've read it? Cool! A fellow dish dog!"
"Sure, kid. Whatever."
While it was off-putting, I found it to be a refreshing change.

We haven't been down an employee at work because of a managerial decision or because there was no ad placed. We've been looking. Pretty much the only qualification you needed to get a tryout in the dishpit was that you had to be breathing. Unfortunately, the revolving door of individuals that showed either left after one or two shifts or they were just breathers, not workers. One guy had told the chef, "Oh, I've washed dishes before." After seeing him in action, I can only assume he meant at home. The job I have is not one where you spray water on some plates, give a light scrub and send them through a machine at your leisure. "I've washed dishes" is like applying for a line cook position in a busy kitchen and saying in the interview, "Oh, I've made mac'n'cheese. I can work a microwave."

It's a hell of a gig that involves food prep in addition to all the lifting and speedy scrubbing/washing. You're on your own attempting to finish all the tasks that need to be completed while keeping up with dirty plates, bowls and cutlery that streams in constantly from the front of the house. It's a combination of planning out what you need to do in advance like chess moves while participating in a workout program.

Crossfit? Weight room? Not me...I have Dishfit! How do you think I keep this physique? Oh sure, you might say it's high metabolism, hereditary, smoking or past heroin addiction. All might be (are) true. But here's a fact: before Dishfit, I was a pudgy 145 pounds. Now, I'm a lean, cut (some say emaciated) 139 pounds! (Wow. I feel woozy. I should eat some ice cream or something. Be right back.)

If you follow the Dishfit program for just 8 to 10 hours a day, this could be you:

"Dishfit worked for me. Yay." - skinny dude

Here is just a sample of the equipment you will work with:

The squats and dead lift pot! (Get a spotter)

Racks for curls and triceps extension!

Your delts or your somethings get worked by constantly closing and opening this. 400 reps a day, easy.

Strengthen your fingers and grip for no real reason!

Cause massive damage to potatoes and leave your arms and shoulders sore as fuck!

These fill up and give your legs a work out! Or your back if you lift them wrong!

Dishfit. It's not just a way of life. It's...manual labor!

But I digress.

What I say onstage is that I am a dishwasher because I refuse to be a corporate slave and have my soul die slowly in a cubicle every day. I also wash dishes because I am a convicted felon. But more because of that corporate slave thingy. The reality is that I couldn't find another job after rehab because of the felony, among other things. For some reason, the ending scene of "Office Space" stuck in my head, which was where Peter was happy doing manual labor as opposed to being in a cloth-covered box. That along with "Fight Club" (both book and movie) led me in the direction of working in a kitchen. I wasn't a cook, so that left dishwashing. It felt right.

In "Layer Cake", a gangster explains why he enjoys disassembling and reassembling his guns as meditation. He says, "Meditation is concentrating the front of the mind with a mundane task so the rest of the mind can find peace." That is what my profession does for me. I turn off my phone, cut "the world" off, and do my work. For 8 hours or so, I am alone with my thoughts, or I work and think of absolutely nothing. And at the end of it all, I walk out with the slate in my head wiped as clean as the dishpit, machine and kitchen. There is something to doing a job where you see the results of your labor immediately and you can leave, satisfied. Hell, I leave, and it all stays behind. I don't take work home with me. It falls off my shoulders in the ten minutes it takes for me to skateboard home.

I can't have a day job. I can't do some dumb bullshit for money that I hate anymore. Not now that I finally get it, being a "dish dog" as Pete Jordan calls it. This is my profession. I don't do it for the money anymore...but I do need to pay for things so I suppose I'll take payment.

That's why I go back every night and why some of those other guys disappeared after one or two shifts. They just needed a job, and after attempting mine they needed an easier job. It's not for everybody. I hope the new kid tonight keeps up the enthusiasm. I know he wants to eventually move to bar back, but he's thrilled to be doing dish, and I've missed seeing that in any fashion in a coworker or potential coworker.

I was tempted a couple of weeks ago to ask management to let me post the ad on Craigslist, listing the description and job qualifications as I saw them. While it probably would not have generated the buzz I would want, I would be curious to see the replies.

Here is a typical dishwashing ad that I pulled up (not my work's ad, btw):

Looking for a reliable, hardworking individual with full availability. Must be responsible for your own transportation and be able to lift at least 50 lbs.  Duties include dish and pot washing, regular upkeep and maintenance, and deep cleaning. Must have a current food handler certification.


I think I would take it in a different direction:

Looking for an individual who seeks to transcend this materialistic and impersonal society. Searching for a potential employee who would like to have conventions, assumptions and perceptions destroyed swiftly so that they can rebuild physically, mentally and emotionally. Through the trials and tribulations of this daily labor, the preferable candidate can elevate their consciousness until their true self is revealed. This ideal person should be prepared for a life-changing ordeal, and they should have an open mind...and also a current food handler certification.

Too much?