Reglar Wiglar Logo
Facebook logo
Twitter logo

Google plus logo

Book of Jobs Part 2


by Chris Auman

Nineteen eighty-eight. It was the summer of Hair Metal. The summer of “Nuthin’ But A Good Time” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorns.” “Sweet Child of Mine” was blasting out of the open windows of every Camaro and Trans Am in town. Every time I hear “Pour Some Sugar on Me” I want to vomit and every time I hear “Kiss Me Deadly,” I want to cry (it ain’t no big thing).

Dish dude

The summer of 1988 I spent in the bowels of the Eagle Ridge Inn at the Galena Territory. I was a dishwasher, it’s true. The Territory was, and still is as far as I know, a gigantic, sprawling private development covering thousands of rolling acres of resort-y splendor, including two golf courses, a man-made lake and a large, seasonal population of wealthy Chicagoans. The Eagle Ridge Inn was a hotel and restaurant complex where two restaurants and a bar were connected by one big kitchen. Each restaurant had its own line and dishwashsing station but shared a common prep area and a three-compartment sink for pots and pans. A single window connected to a separate bar area allowing for dirty glasses to be passed back to the dish area off the main dining room. As a part of a teen-aged dishwashing crew of five or six, I washed dishes in that kitchen for four months, moving from one dish station to the next as need dictated.

Unlike almost every other dishwasher at the Eagle Ridge Inn, and most of the general population of rural northwest Illinois at that time, I was not a headbanger. I hated cheese metal as much as I loved punk rock. I wore no bandana on any part of my body and no mullet flap rested comfortably on the nape of my neck. I was definitely in the minority in that respect, but there I was among them, nonetheless. There were some lazy dudes on that dish crew, some of the laziest I have ever encountered before or since. When I could, I volunteered to work downstairs in the banquet kitchen. Even though I had to wash all the dishes by myself: glassware, flatware, and all the side plates, dessert plates, soup bowls and serving containers for parties as big as two hundred people — and sometimes until one or two in the morning! — I preferred it to working with that slacker crew upstairs in the main kitchen.

Four months I wore the dishwasher’s uniform, which consisted of white pants and a white button-down short-sleeved shirt. I guess technically it was a snap-down shirt (which I wore snapped up to the top with the bill of my baseball cap flipped up in the style popularized by the West Coast gangstas of the time) and accessorized by my soon-to-be-destroyed-by-kitchen-scum and completely-unsafe-for- any-commercial-kitchen-floor Chuck Taylors.

There were some characters in that kitchen too. A less kind individual might have called them freaks. There was Flash, who every day wore a different colored bandana tied around his head. Flash chose the color according to his mood that day. “If you see me wearing a red bandana, don’t fuck with me.” The Department of Homeland Security has employed a similar color-coded warning system. The fact that Flash’s headwear incorporated any sort of warning system at all, regardless of the color, was enough for me to steer clear of him altogether. Then there was Popeye, a compact and wiry, bearded biker who was more cross-eyed than what you might call pop-eyed. He was a lewd, crude, pot-smoking, hard-drinking dude. And talk about sexual harassment! The waitresses (they were all female in the main dining room) were subjected to his many colorful, shouted refrains throughout the course of every dinner service, “I need a blow job!” being one of the more popular ones. “Just like Mom used to buy” was another one Popeye used endlessly when plating up a grilled duck or a filet of beef. It’s a line I stole from him and have used many times in my cooking career. Very seldom does it fail to get a laugh.


Almost every teenager who has lived in Jo Davies County has worked at the Galena Territory at some point, either as housekeepers, dishwashers, bussers, bellhops, or attendants at one of the golf courses. I don’t know why I chose the grimiest job available, but dishwashing has a certain appeal. It’s pretty straight-forward. There are no gray areas. You take the dirty dishes and you wash them, then you put them away. Repeat until quittin’ time. You mostly work alone and everyone who isn’t a dishwasher pities your plight. So, as much as it did suck to get off work at midnight or later, soaked to the bone and covered in a thin layer of grease, and to bust ass six days a week, it wasn't too much, and it was only temporary. The job ended when I left for Chicago and college. It was time to leave the townies to their town and bust out of the sticks never to return — or at least not for nine months.

Law Clerk >>

Originally published in RW#23, 2014

RW #23

© 1993-2018 Reglar Wiglar Magazine