an Assistant Dishwasher
Dishwashing is a team
sport. One guy cleans the big, awkward
things by hand, while the other guy
loads the dishwasher with small stuff. Yes, the dishwashers (human) have a dishwasher (mechanical).
It’s a stainless steel cabinet that squats awkwardly at one end of the station. Plates, cups and silverware
are sprayed off and loaded into a rack. The rack is slammed into the dishwasher. The door is shut and
the minutes later, you have a rack of steaming, clean dishes… Unless you didn’t rinse them well before
you loaded the rack. If you got lazy, and hoped the machine would do your job for you, you end up
with food cement on the dishes.
So it’s critical to
rinse them very fucking well before you feed the
dishwasher. And so I did. I
down the plates with the goofy spring-loaded nozzle that hangs over the sink, and slapped them into
the rack as the dishwasher did its thing. The idea is to have your dirty rack ready when the clean rack
Meanwhile, Doc attacked the sauce pans.
“Good to have you
back,” Doc intoned. He stared intently at
a stubborn orange lump adhered to his
pan. Scrubbing. Scrubbing.
“No. This pan, milkface.”
“I’ve been here every night, Doc.”
“Not all of you. Just most of you. But tonight you are here. 100% It’s good to have you back.”
I knew exactly what he
meant. Even though washing dishes is
a shitty job, it’s a job. And here I was
in the moment, working the job, getting it done. God help me, but I was concentrating on washing the
dishes. This sudden self awareness, and the idea that Doc was aware of it before I was made me
“I have no idea what you are talking about.”
dishwasher opened and steam poured out. I
grabbed the clean rack and turned my
back to Doc as I nestled it on a stack of clean racks. I slammed a new rack of cups into the waiting
maw of the dishwasher and closed the door. The pile of filthy dishes in my sink grew while my back
was turned. A busser hustled back out of our station.
Like the tide.
Hunched over our
sinks, we worked in the spray and clatter
without speaking for a good two hours.
Doc had the ghost of a grin on his face. And with every passing minute I felt a little bit more like an ass.
Before my mind knew what my mouth was doing, I made an awkward verbal lurch for common ground.
“You must have done some pretty amazing drugs when you were a shaman. Did you ever do peyote.”
“Ya. The cactus.”
“Peyote?! Do I look like a Ute to you?”
I had no idea what a
Ute was, let alone how one looked. I
opened my mouth, then closed it.
I opened my mouth again. Nothing came out. So I closed it again. I had no idea how to respond,
but I was feeling like an even bigger ass now.
Doc stopped working on
deep soup pan and looked straight at
me. Expressionless at first,
then a smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. And then he laughed. A radiance spread out from
Doc; a brilliant, invisible light shone out of him. A Mexican saint on a velvet tapestry has nothing on
Doc when he laughs.
“I’m messing with you,” he grinned. “I’ve eaten peyote.”
“Ya. Really.” His smile slowly hid back in the folds of his face, but his eyes were still bright.
“Sacred mushrooms. Hensbane. Marijuana. Bad bread. Ant venom.”
“What was the best?”
“The ant venom.”
“No. I’m messing with
you again. Ant venom makes me sick.
Sicker than peyote. I only used it in
Staring hard into the
SOS pad in his hand, he stopped
smiling altogether. He looked old all of a
sudden. An old man. Tired and hunched.
“Even if it was fun…
which it wasn’t... I was too busy to enjoy
myself. Medicine is
Dangerous work. You go out there. Way out there, and you don’t always come back whole.
It’s not like this.”
real. This is easy. When it’s done, I walk away. I
never leave any of myself behind.
Best job I ever had.”