March 19, 2006

Other: The Dish-Pig Manifesto

Now, don’t get me wrong: I do like working where I do. The hours are reasonable, it’s not particularly difficult, and the boss keeps hiring these total hotties, so I get to hang out with several women for most of the day.

It’s just that it’s, well, work.

As a result, I’ll be quitting when the Significant Other and I bugger off to Scotland for May. I’ve already given notice, and the boss has already found someone that will be able to take my place. Not that I expected her to have a difficult time of it – I wash dishes, not exactly a post-doctorate position.

If you’re wondering why someone my age (old) and questionable ethics (but not so questionable as to be rich yet) is washing dishes, ask me about the sit-com I’m writing. The material never ends!

The new kid is just that – a kid. So the boss has asked me to write a list of what the heck it is that I do around the place, other than talk to all the hotties. (Lovely women, by the way, but I get more understanding nods if I just say “hotties”.) So I’m compiling said list, though it occurred to me that there is an underlying philosophy behind what I do and when I do it. Maybe I’m trying to justify what many consider a “shit job” to myself, maybe it’s just a way to alleviate boredom, but what happened when I started writing that list ended up a little different from its original intent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…

The Dish-Pig Manifesto

Consider the pig.

Many stop at appearance: filthy, smelly, nasty creatures grunting at the world with squinty eyes and mean dispositions. Who would want to emulate such an odious beast? Me.

Consider the pig.

Pigs are industrious – you want a stump dug up? Put a few acorns under it and let your pig loose.
Pigs are clean – if given clean water to wash in.
Pigs are fiercely protective of their turf and of their friends, and are widely hailed for their intelligence.
Pigs can make people laugh.

What a dish-pig does, what is most important that a dish-pig does, is make everyone else’s job easier for them. This means many things.

First: Front of house (what the customers see) is the top priority: everyone’s job is easier when the customers keep coming back. The quicker that they can be served, the better they feel, and the less pressure on front-of-house staff. But never sacrifice skill for speed!

Imagine: A customer gets a dirty fork. If they are reasonable (and most people are) they will say, “Excuse me, this fork is dirty” and ask for another. If they get a second dirty fork, they will say “I was at this restaurant the other day…”

Customers know they are using dishes that complete strangers used before them; they do not wish to be rminded of this.

Second: Learn the language. If the sous chef tells you she’s running out of blue plates, discover what “running out” means to them. Does it mean they will run out in thirty seconds or five minutes? When the cook “needs” a food processor cleaned, must they stop working until they get it? Or can they wait for a few minutes? Training the staff may be difficult at first, but it will make everyone’s job easier if they speak the same tongue – yours.

Third: Remember that you are in a hot, enclosed space with others. You’re going to sweat, so make it clean sweat. Shower before heading in to work. It’s just polite.

Fourth: You probably have the least pressure of all the staff or owners. Whatever you can do to keep the atmosphere light in the kitchen is a good thing. Sing in invented languages; make horrible, horrible puns; shower employees with odd compliments; mock the customers who need it (but only to other staff!). Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself, but measure it out over time: funny and slightly odd is good, hysterical and possibly dangerous is not.

Practical matters:

Never put wood through a dishwasher.
Never put edged knives through a dishwasher.
Never put knives in soapy water without knowing EXACTLY where they are; likewise with glasses.
Never let anything out of the pit without being clean: even if someone “needs it right now!” clean it quickly by hand.
Don’t let anyone drop things – anything – into your sink. They don’t know what’s in there; you do.
Drop a towel on the ground to soak up water. Keep it flat and leave it there until the day is done.
Try not to date co-workers, especially if you’re married to one.
If you can’t bring your own music, get into whatever groove is going.
Listen to advice, then figure out your own way to do the job.
If the Health Inspector says something, listen. He’s the law, not an opinion.
Be cool.


posted by Thursday at 1:14 pm


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Needed to take a second job, so last night was my first night as dish-pig in 15 years.

I was expecting to hate it and want to leave 30 minutes in, but I found it calming (not sure how constantly moving and sweating can be calming, but it was).

The manifesto was a good read, I may hang it on my wall.

9:17 am  
Anonymous Soon to be dish pig said...

This illuminated certain things to me. It was a good read, thanks for the advice.

1:12 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a long standing (now retired) dish-pig, I agree with 99% of what you said. Great stuff. Have you read 'Down and Out in Paris and London?' It's by George Orwell and is about when he used to wash pots for a living.

7:42 am  
Blogger Erin Butler said...

Everyone's experience is a bit different - employers, co-workers, etc - but there's a lot in it that's universal, I think.

Thanks for the comments!

3:59 pm  

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