Our restaurant had
two factions: the Kitchen and
the Servers - those who prepared the food and those
put it on the tables. There was constant friction between the
two. On a busy night, one mistake by either side
could escalate the tensions to the brink of violence. A steak too well
done meant that the goddamn Kitchen was
trying to screw a Server out of his tips. A changed order was clearly a
goddamn Server who was fucking with the
Both sides viewed
the other as somewhat
incompetent and vastly inferior, while secretly worrying that the other
side might be right. The dishwashing station was the DMZ between the
Servers and Bussers dumped
dishes in my sink, and the Kitchen took delivery of what I cleaned.
me as their own, but fancied
myself part of the Kitchen.
While the Kitchen
and Servers skirmished to see
who should look down upon whom, neither was the lowest
caste. A third group was forever at the bottom: Cleanup Crew - two
sorry, anonymous bastards who showed up
before sunrise and cleaned up the mess from the night before.
The heavy rubber
mats that grid the kitchen
floor were taken out in six foot sections, hosed off with scalding
water, then reinstalled. The ovens were degreased with “Pink Death”
a caustic goop that burned the eyes and
lungs, and scarred any skin left exposed. Cleanup Crew vacuumed up the
dining room seat
cushions, changed the rat traps, swept, mopped, dusted, buffed and
there was any
time left before
Servers and Kitchen staff arrived, Cleanup Crew washed the leftover
No one talked to the
Cleanup Crew. They were
filthy, nameless wraiths, who punched out just as everybody
else was punching in. So it wasn’t surprising that nobody knew what I
wasn’t the Assistant Dishwasher.
Six mornings per week, I was one half of the Cleanup Crew.
The other half was
Joel was everything
Doc was not. He bitched
constantly. To hear him tell it, his was a life of victimization; a
string of wrongs stretching from his birth to his inevitable, sorrowful
demise. He was overworked, underpaid,
unappreciated and unloved. And THAT was the reason he was such a
I vacuumed the
restaurant while Joel hunted down
any booze the bartender forgot to put away. I wrestled
the slimy floor mats out the door while Joel smoked cigarettes and told
about the women who dumped
him. Despite his aura of lazy doom, I liked Joel.
And the day when he
produced a fifth of Cuervo
he had purloined from the bar, I liked him even more. After
our shift, we went back to his place to drink it. We got sloppy drunk,
listened to Joel’s collection of old blues
LP’s until I passed out on his floor.
As the Summer
stretched out towards Fall, I
found myself at Joel’s more often. Eventually it became routine.
After cleaning up the restaurant, I’d go to Joel’s and get loaded.
and Saturdays I’d go from the restaurant,
to Joel’s, then right back again to wash dishes.
We rarely got
falling down drunk like we did
during my first visit, but we I smoked a tremendous amount of
weed. And like a million stoners before us, we fell into a comfortable
routine of familiar lethargy and called it
friendship. And like a million other bongwater friendships, it changed
Joel made a new
friend. And he introduced us.
And at first, I thought his new friend was pretty damn sweet.
His new friend was opium. But there just wasn’t room for all three of