“Whoever pulls the short match gets the janitor job,” I said. My friends agreed, and we drew our matches. Alicia came up short and took the janitor job. Evelyn and I would be dishwashers.
After we set up our work and living arrangements with the HR office, Father John dropped us off at Keystone’s employee housing. We might as well have joined the army. A row of cheaply built six-story buildings would be our barracks for the near future.
After thanking Father John, we climbed the stairs to the fourth floor and surveyed our two-bedroom, one-bathroom suite. It was dorm life all over again, with the bare necessities — twin beds on skinny mattresses, a single pine dresser in each room, curtainless windows.
Again, we drew matches, and this time I came up short. I’d share a room with another employee, a pleasant, plump girl from Vermont name Sheila, who worked as a landscaper.
Sheila shared her six-pack of Coors and a bag of potato chips with us, as she gave us the lay of the land.
“Just show up on time and do your job, you’ll be fine,” Sheila said. “But watch out for those Southern belles from Texas. They’re evil.”
# # #
I crawl over to the stretcher and climb aboard, folding my hands over my chest and laying flat on my back as my guides straps me in. Jennifer hoists my skis and poles on to a horizontal rack parallel to the stretcher.
Sean points out a course with his partner and turns to me.
“We’ll be heading straight down and into that forest over there,” he says as he readjusts his goggles over a sun-cracked face. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride between the trees. Jennifer will be behind you securing the sled with ropes. I’m in front, holding the stretcher poles and leading the way. Are you going to be okay?”
“I think so. But is it okay if I close my eyes?”
“Sure. Just hold on tight to the side rails and try to keep your weight evenly distributed.”
Wow, I think to myself. This will be the run of my life.
# # #
If our goal was self-discovery that first summer out of college, I quickly learned two things about myself. I was a pretty good dishwasher but a terrible waitress.
Our pale, bespectacled manager handed over the green slacks and white collared shirts and pointed to the unisex bathroom. Evelyn and I were the first female dishwashers in the Brassier Café’s history — Father John couldn’t be too choosey with his last-minute job requests. We emerged in our baggy, male-designed uniforms and took our place at the industrial Hobart machine.
“You rinse and load,” the manager said, pointing to me. “And you unload,” he ordered Evelyn.
It was easy to fall into the repetitive swing of dishwashing and we quickly gained our rhythm. Evelyn soon pointed out the advantages of unloading. The steam shot out at the end of the assembly line directly into her face.
“I’m getting free facials all day long,” she announced.
Staring at our patron’s leftover glop for hours on end and digging Swiss cheese off stubborn French onion soup bowls grew tiresome. Dishwashers were also required to mop the kitchen floor, a new experience for me, as I had never worked with a heavy string mop before. The manager corrected me a number of times.
“Look here, see how I make the figure eight? Around and down. Around and up. If you’re not strong enough, I’m sure we could find some young man to do the job.”
“No, no. I’ll get it. Don’t worry.”
Lifting that water-soaked mop over an entire kitchen floor was physically draining. Bone tired after our first eight-hour shift, Evelyn and I headed home to our barracks and dropped into our beds for another marathon sleep session.
One sunny afternoon, just weeks into our new jobs, Alicia popped into the kitchen in her brown khakis and name-embroidered uniform shirt, dangling a heavy string of keys.
“How’s it going girls?” she asked, as I poured her a free coke.