I had just graduated from high school and was not doing a lot of anything when my sister, who was a soup girl at a local Greek restaurant, told me they had an opening for a dishwasher.
Hmmm. It was only two weeks before the start of fall semester at the local junior college. But I did need money. I agreed to take the job and they hired me sight unseen.
Not a good sign.
My sister and I walked to work. It was two miles in the sweltering August heat of Florida. Our shift started at 2 and ended when the last customer left, which could be as late as 2 a.m.
The restaurant adjoined a motel, and both were owned by a large Greek family who used the kitchen as their personal food-preparation facility. When I reported to work that first day I was greeted by a mound of unwashed pots and pans.
I was instructed by the owners to:
A. Never rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher - it wasted money.
B. Only use half the recommended amount of dish soap.
Somebody had shut off the valve that allowed the sink to drain, and it was filled with water so turgid you could not see to the bottom. After half an hour of frantic plunging we discovered the valve and let the water out.
The work was hot and frantic. When certain kinds of dinnerware ran low I would wash an entire loaf of just spoons, or just soup dishes, or plates. Often these items had to be hand-dried with a towel that was used over and over again, throughout the afternoon and evening.
One of the owners, a brother, would sweep through the kitchen with a flyswatter. He would crush a fly on a plate waiting to take an order, then scrape it off with the swatter. The day before the health inspector was due he moved several boxes of pesticides out of the kitchen. When he lifted the box, dozens of cockroaches scurried out.
Another brother had a habit of walking through the kitchen with a bottle of champagne and using it to goose the waitresses. Nobody had heard of sexual harassment in those days.
On days when business was surging we worked so hard that none of us had time to eat. But I discovered an untapped source of food - the uneaten orders I was scraping off the plates into the garbage. My favorite was steak. How could anybody order a steak, eat a small portion and let the rest go to waste?
On night a fast-food burger joint opened next door. Our business was reduced to nothing. So we of the kitchen staff stood outside throwing tomatoes at the burger joint.
I worked six days a week. On Sundays I was expected to report in the morning to do other work, like painting, scraping, repairs, etc.
At the end of the two weeks I was paid $55.
I left the restaurant before school started but immediately moved into another really crappy job - delivering newspapers. I did not find a good job until the next summer when I worked on an assembly line for Texas Instruments. The pay was excellent, the work environment comfortable and the people ... well, they were sane.