I’ve been a dining hall dishwasher for almost four months now. I’ve learned a lot of things, such as how if you don’t like peas (or any other food,) cleaning smushed ones off other people’s plates won’t improve that feeling. Maybe it’s because I was in some aspect of training in two of my previous jobs, but sometimes I think about advice I’d pass along if I were training a new dishwasher. Some of these tips I was given when I was first starting out, some I wish I’d been given.
- Soaking things can make a world of difference.
- When unloading incoming trays, use both hands as often as possible.
- Certain things – measuring scoops, ladles, some soup bowls – are likely to give you a face full of water if you’re not careful. Learning both volume control on the sink sprayer and angle control on the item is therefore advisable.
- Learning to drive rear-wheel-steer dish carts without running into sinks or counters is also advisable.
- A dry towel will pick up dripped fryer grease better than a wet one.
- Creative stacking when loading dish machine racks is all well and good, but don’t forget they still have to fit in the machine.
- Lettuce pieces don’t sweep nicely – they roll up into little damp green bundles and then stick in the grout. There’s nothing you can do about this but put the dustpan closer.
- Alternating the hand with the towel will help save your arms when wiping tables after the lunch rush.
- If you get any citrus – lime halves from the cook, orange peel from a tray, whatever – put them down the garbage disposal (which, where I work, is nearly as big as my head, so don’t worry about the size of the pieces.) It will help counteract the smell of … everything else that’s going down the disposal.
- Rolls of trash bags have some static electricity. So when peeling one off the roll, if you’re listening to an mp3 player with earbuds in, hold the roll away from your body. Otherwise, when that electricity grounds out through your earbud wire, it stings.
There’s more, such as a system to keep the little clear plastic dessert cups from flipping over in the dish machine (I have yet to find something that works consistently on the little plastic salad bar tongs) but those are better shown than told.
While thinking about advice, though, I’ve also thought of some I wish I could give to customers/patrons. Some of these would genuinely make my life easier, some are just things that bug me.
- I appreciate you attempting to help by stacking your plates (or, at least, making it easier for you to carry them up to the window.) If you do, though, don’t leave the silverware between the plates – playing find-the-silverware isn’t actually very fun when you’re in a hurry to unload trays.
- If you’re going to sit and talk with your friends after the meal is over – and that’s a good thing, friends and talking is a great combination, I’m all for it – designate someone to bring your trays up when you’re done eating. Thinking you’re nearly caught up only to have a table-full of dishes suddenly show up when people finally realize the time is disheartening.
- Unless you’re a small child who can’t reach (and I’ve seen some adorable ones helping to bring dishes up 🙂 ) or a little old person bent by life, set your glass into the window on the counter. If you just put it on the sill, at least the way my dish area is set up, I have to stretch full length across the wide counter to get a finger on your used drinking vessel to put it where it goes.
- If you would like to talk through the dish window when you’re done eating, I’d love to talk (really!), but understand that I have to keep moving. I can listen and talk without looking at you, though I may have to ask you to repeat over the noise of the dish machine that must continue to be fed if I’m not going to be up to my elbows in dishes.
- If you move something – a table, a chair, the salt and pepper shakers – you should put it back, it was probably where it was on purpose. Parents of toddlers get a pass on putting the highchairs back, though, because they have enough to deal with, bless them.
- If you see a plastic bin with some liquid in it near where you’re putting your dishes in (especially if it says something like DRINKS on it), that’s for emptying what you were drinking before you either put your glass in the rack, if it’s washable, or put it in the trash if it’s disposable. This is important because trash bags are not made to be watertight, and the more liquid you put in them, the higher the chances of leaking all down my leg when taking out the trash. This is not very fun either. (If you’re not sure where you should put your drink, either leave it in the cup or ask. )
Of course, there are things that are fun about being a dishwasher, it’s not all stuck-on melted cheese and un-replaced chairs. There’s the camaraderie between the crew as we navigate the unpredictable craziness that is food service. There’s the aforementioned cute youngsters, who always make me smile because they’re easy to see through my dish window. There’s the people who take the time to say thank you. And there’s that feeling, after the kitchen is all dark and quiet, the fans off, the dish machine finally at rest, the freshly-cleaned stainless steel counters gleaming silently at you in the security lights… that feeling of Yes. I did that.
Not to mention all the things I’m learning, which I’m happy to pass along.