My Job as a Dishwasher

By Mike Johnson

The dishwasher sprayer fit my hand like the throttle of our 1970 Ski-Doo. High-pressure water blasted those crusted chili pots, reverberating like that 300cc engine.

If I ignored the 100 degree temperature difference, I was flying through snow, rather than dinner plates & saucers. Onions combined with fryer grease, smell remarkably like gasoline, supporting the illusion.

The Friday & Saturday 11pm to 7am shifts at Mr. Q’s Restaurant crawled like geometry class. To make time move, I’d come up with an angle – radio music. On a good shift, I’d hear The Carpenter's, “Yesterday Once More” three times.

That anticipation & bar rush, kept the clock moving.

80% of the night’s business occurred between 1am & 2 am.

Mr. Q’s marketing message was simple: The bars closed at 1am & we did not.

Silent one moment, rowdy & raucous the next, every seat packed with dozens waiting to get in. Ranch Breakfasts & Big Sir steak dinners flew from the kitchen behind me. Waitresses bounced like pinballs.

It was worse for me.

I had to witness the carnage for 20 full minutes, helpless, as my inventory of clean dishes melted, one, two & four at a time, before any dirty replacements arrived in buspans. By then, cooks were screaming for clean plates & waitresses begging for the red-hot, dripping silverware.

They say time exists so everything doesn’t happen at once. Space exists so everything doesn’t happen to you. For 45 minutes, cosmic laws were suspended.

That was when I learned a workplace truth. Front-line staff always sees obvious solutions before unaware owners.

Just buy some more damn plates & silverware.

The coordinated calamity eventually petered out & once again I was Midas. Standing proudly in my treasure room, admiring clean china & cutlery stacked to the ceiling. Nodding in time to the second “Yesterday Once More” of the evening.

Al, the grizzled old cook, poked his head into my steamy room & introduced me to employee theft. “Hey Mike, if I made a mistake on a Big Sir, how would you like it cooked?”

Low man on the restaurant food chain, and recipient of the treat, I saw Al as kind & generous.

Now I know better. Integrity is a slippery slope.

A few hours later my dish-dog replacement arrives & I realize my song only played twice tonight.

The most delightful paperwork you ever perform is punching that time clock on the way out the door.

The best math problem you’ll ever solve is turning the combination to release your Schwinn.

Pedaling alone, coasting through sleeping neighborhoods, crisp breeze on your face, free from work, free from home, free from writing this post, you awaken.

And realize it was Yesterday Once More.


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