jailhouse-door-2Almost all the cooks at Suburban worked split shifts. On Bill’s second day of work, Robert informed him  that he would be the pot washer and would start on split shifts the following week, when he would be sent to Suburban East where he would be trained to be a cook. That meant he would be at work at six in the morning, work until two in the afternoon, have a three-hour break, then work until closing. During the week they stopped serving dinner at eleven. On weekends they stopped at one in the morning.

Meanwhile, Robert informed Bill that he would stay close to him and work twelve hour days, from eleven in the morning straight through to eleven or twelve at night. Bill didn’t care. They were paying him a buck-sixty cash per hour and the more he could work the better off he was. He knew he would need a car, and quickly too, since no buses went out to the east side location.

All day two and day three of work, Bill was up to his elbows in pots. The water was so hot it scalded his hands. The large steel wool rings used for scrubbing scraped his skin. But Bill was happy. They played loud rock music on the radio in the kitchen and both Robert and the waitress Bill had stood up for fed him beers at regular intervals. That waitress, Eleanor, became super-friendly, even more so when Robert told her he was going to be the new broiler cook out east. Eleanor knew that even before Bill did.

On day four Bill was moved up to the dishwasher. This machine was a three-man operation, one man to load, one man to rinse and one man to unload and stack. Bill, least senior man on the machine, was the unloader. The dishes coming out from the wash were scalding hot, so Bill’s hands were continually being burned, not enough to be a second or third degree burn, but enough to cause continual pain. Bill was reminded of the workhouse, working at the practice range making bullets, more precisely, sawing through the lead and separating the copper wires inside. Bill remembered the blisters. He remembered the pain.

Drenovis wouldn’t let go. He got on Bill’s case every chance he could. He inspected the pots when Bill was in that station and if he found the slightest bit of dirt left, he made Bill wash the pot over again. Bill did as he was told. He was getting paid. That’s all that mattered to him.

“You know what they call the dishwasher department?” Drenovis asked Bill.

Bill said no.

“The asshole of the industry,” Drenovis said. “And you sure are an asshole.” Drenovis laughed loud and long. Bill wanted to smack him, but then he remembered he had more education than Drenovis and he laughed internally. Bill would come to understand that if the dishwashers couldn’t keep up, the cooks ran out of plates. When that happened, the flow of food to the customers stopped, the cooks fell behind and never caught up. He would come to realize that if he took care of the dishwashers, they would bust their butts for him, for the cooks. It was a simple, symbiotic relationship. Bill would also come to understand, knowing how crappy and hard the potwasher job is, never to dirty a pot unless it was completely necessary.

Of course Robert heard about Drenovis’ antics. Eleanor ratted him out for what she saw. When Bill was on the dish machine, Drenovis ran Bill from one end of the kitchen to the other making him carry stacks of hot plates, making him carry racks of mugs and stock them at the bus stations in the dining room before they cooled down. But Robert wasn’t one to let go either and he wasn’t one to be bested. He got on Drenovis’ case and wouldn’t ease off.