The patron had engaged me as kitchen plongeur; that is, my job was to wash up, keep the kitchen clean, prepare vegetables, make tea, coffee, and sandwiches, do the simpler cooking, and run errands.... (Ch. XX)
...And yet the plongeurs, low as they are, also have a kind of pride. It is the pride of the drudge -- the man who is equal to no matter what quantity of work.... (Ch. XIV)
-- Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933
Because the temperature in my apartment rose with the sun, and sleep became impossible, and I realized I had dreamed I was a dishwasher again. I took the book off the shelf (whoever snagged my copy of Catalonia, bring it back) and found my favorite passages again before the dog woke or I even made coffee.
"What keeps a hotel going is the fact that employees take a genuine pride in their work, beastly and silly though it is. If a man idles, the others soon find him out, and conspire against him to get him sacked." (Ch. XIV again -- aside: isn't the searchable Orwell site awe-inspiring, and doesn't it make you grateful for somebody doing excellent, hard work on something that matters?)
That statement is still true. I participated in at least two such conspiracies, and never was the victim of one.
The worst thing I ever heard of in a restaurant where I worked: The most hated kitchen manager in the world tripped over two empty plastic buckets that saboteurs had left in front of the freight elevator (this was before the executive chef made him turn in his key to the wine cellar). The saboteurs were hiding (and included everybody), so the kitchen manager had to collect the buckets himself. He did what you do with two buckets, he slammed one down inside the other, to carry them together. The prep cook had lightly dusted the insides of both buckets with cayenne pepper, which blew into the kitchen manager's eyes and lodged inside his contact lenses. This happened a week before I started, and people were still whispering about it a year later, when I quit to take my first job in a law office.
The worst thing I ever did in a restaurant where I worked: I said, "I'm taking a smoke break." Then I went downstairs, gathered my knives and my toolbox, put on my coat, and walked out the back.
Incredibly, they would have taken me back, and they even mailed me my last check when I refused to return the chef's phone calls.
Also, there's this:
"And there is another feeling that is a great consolation in poverty. I believe everyone who has been hard up has experienced it. It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs -- and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety." (Ch. III)
On the El this morning, the Tribune headline blared, "MOB SECRETS GO ON TRIAL" and I laughed out loud, so people looked at me, but I couldn't explain, and I went back to Orwell.
Next, I will shop for a used bike, and, publicly, I will be value-hunting, but, privately, I will be thinking, "MOB SECRETS GO ON TRIAL."
Here are more Dishwasher links. My favorite issue of the zine was when he reviewed The Autobiography of Malcolm X from a dishwasher's perspective. (Malcolm busted suds too.) I hunted for it, but sorry.
Tags: politics, George Orwell, Quotation du jour, QDJ, dishwasher, "Down and Out in Paris and London", "Homage to Catalonia", Paris Hilton, Picasso, "Guernica", Victor Gollancz, Daphne du Maurier, Bronte Sisters, Symbionese Liberation Army, Patricia Hearst.