For 12 years, Jordan (aka Dishwasher Pete) tramped about the U.S. washing dishes. Despite a survey of 740 occupations in which "dishwasher ranked #735," Jordan, then in his mid-30s, sees the inherent benefits of the job: downtime in between meals, free food (and beer), being able to quit at a moment's notice and an abundance of similar opportunities all over the country. The writing is lucid and earnest, and Jordan's passion for dishwashing and, even more so, for blowing-in-the-wind traveling, is infectious. As his quest extends from one year to the next, and he questions the worthiness of his goal to "bust suds" in all 50 states, he demonstrates an ability to convey his deepest fears without losing the upbeat, fun tone that pervades the entire memoir. What does hurt this rather lengthy book's pacing is that every dishwashing job (save a few) is pretty much the same, and the descriptions can get as repetitive as a wash cycle. Still, Jordan's knowledge of famous dishwashers (Gerald Ford, Little Richard, etc.) and dishwashers' roles in creating unions adds a substance that juxtaposes nicely with the author's slacker lifestyle. (May)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty Statesby Pete Jordan
Dishwasher is the true story of a man on a mission: to clean dirty dishes professionally in every state in America. Part adventure, part parody, and part miraculous journey of self-discovery, it is the unforgettable account of Pete Jordan's transformation from itinerant seeker into "Dishwasher Pete"—unlikely folk hero, writer, publisher of his own/em>
Dishwasher is the true story of a man on a mission: to clean dirty dishes professionally in every state in America. Part adventure, part parody, and part miraculous journey of self-discovery, it is the unforgettable account of Pete Jordan's transformation from itinerant seeker into "Dishwasher Pete"—unlikely folk hero, writer, publisher of his own cult zine, and the ultimate professional dish dog—and how he gave it all up for love.
Includes an excerpt from Pete Jordan's new book In the City of Bikes.
An aimless young adult, Jordan happened upon a compelling mission and became the itinerant and eventually rather famous "Dishwasher Pete." In his droll memoir, he describes busting suds in an Alaskan fish cannery, on an oil rig on the Gulf of Mexico, on an excursion train in Rhode Island, in two Missouri communes, at ski resorts in Vermont and Montana, and at dozens of less picturesque food-service establishments from sea to sea. Long hours, dirty work, low pay, and little respect are recurring themes, but so are invisibility and free leftovers. Best of all, because dishwashers are so difficult to retain, Jordan is consistently in demand and universally hirable even while exhibiting laziness, sullenness, and a penchant for walking off job after job without a minute's notice. While on his quest, Dishwasher Pete befriends countless kindred spirits, publishes 15 issues of a zine devoted to dishing, sort of appears on The David Letterman Show, and researches and celebrates historic events that include labor movements, the invention of dishwashing machines, and the dishing pasts of famous people from Gerald Ford to Malcolm X. Warmly recommended for public and college libraries (and institutional kitchens).
Janet Ingraham Dwyer
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt
One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States
A bead of sweat rolled from my forehead, down my nose and into the greasy orange sink water. I wiped my face with my apron, lifted my baseball cap to cool my head and sighed. As I picked at the food dregs that had coagulated from the sink water onto my arm hairs, I surveyed my domain—the dishpit. It was a mess. The counters were covered with the remains of what, not long before, had been meals. But the dishmachine stood empty. No dirty dishes were in sight. No one yelled: "More plates!" or "Silver! We need silverware!" For the first time in hours, a calm settled over my dishroom. Having successfully beaten back the bulk of the dinner rush, I was caught up and it felt good.
Time for another go-round. On my way to the waitress station, I grabbed an empty bus tub and twirled it on my middle finger—a trick I'd perfected while working at a bagel shop in New Mexico. I lowered the spinning tub from my finger to my cap—a new trick I'd yet to perfect. The tub sputtered from my head and plummeted into the full bus tub that awaited me. A couple plates smashed to the floor.
The crash rang throughout the restaurant and was followed by a shocked hush from employees and customers alike. I, too, observed the moment of silence for the departed plates. But I wasn't sad to see them go. If dishes had to break—and they did have to—then it was best to break the dirty ones rather than the plates I'd already worked to clean.
In some Illinois cemetery, Josephine Cochrane was spinning in her grave. She wasthe 1880s socialite who'd grown fed up by her servants breaking her precious china as they washed it by hand. Cochrane presumed that by reducing the handling, there'd be far less breakage. So she invented the motorized dishwashing machine. Her contraption became an instant hit with large restaurants and hotels in Chicago. Even the machine I was using at this place—a Hobart—was a direct descendent of Cochrane's. But now, more than a century since the introduction of her innovation, human dishwashers—particularly this one—were just as cavalier about dish breakage as they'd been back in Cochrane's day.
As I looked down at the wreckage at my feet, the boss-guy charged around the corner wide-eyed with his hand clutched to his chest as if he'd been shot.
"Plates fell," I said.
"Again?" he sighed. "Try to be more careful, Dave."
Six weeks earlier, when a fellow dish dog had tipped me off about this gig—an Austrian-themed inn at a ski area in Vermont's Green Mountains that came complete with room and board—I was immediately intrigued. I'd pictured myself isolated in the mountains and hibernating through the winter at this job while getting caught up with my reading, saving up some money and crossing yet another American state off my list. When I called about the job from Wisconsin, the boss-guy assumed that if I wanted to come all that way to dish in a ski area, then I must've been a ski nut.
"No," I told him. "Actually I don't ski."
That made him suspicious. He then asked, "Do you have long hair?"
"Not anymore," I said.
"Okay," he said. "If you can get here by next week, the job's yours."
I rode the bus most of the way and hitchhiked the rest and when I arrived, the boss was no longer suspicious. I was willing to dish and that was enough for him. In fact, he gave so little thought to me that by the second day, he started calling me by the wrong name.
"And Dave, clean it up," he said, looking at the broken plates on the floor.
I'd never bothered to correct him.
"All right," I said.
When he turned and walked back to the dining room, I kicked the debris under the counter and headed back to the dishpit with the full bus tub.
While unloading the dirty dishes, I mined for treasure in the Bus Tub Buffet. The first find was fool's gold—a half-eaten schnitzel. I couldn't blame the diner who'd left the second half uneaten. It was the place's specialty, but it wasn't very special. I snobbishly passed on it as well and continued excavating.
I unearthed more dishes and then struck pay dirt: some garlic bread and remnants of crème brulée. I smeared the crème brulée on the garlic bread and scarfed it down. Scrumptious, said my taste buds. Queasy, countered my stomach. The gut had a point. Bus Tub Buffet? More like Bus Tub Roulette: you win some, you lose some. So far I was losing.
As I was guzzling water from the tap, the call went up in the adjacent kitchen: "Wine o'clock! Wine o'clock!"
I looked at the clock. Indeed, it was already wine o'clock.
Dick, one of the cooks, entered the dishpit with a grin on his face and a jar in each hand. He handed me a jar and held up the other in a toast.
"Wine o'clock," he said.
"Wine o'clock," I repeated.
We clinked jars and then downed their cooking sherry contents. Wine o'clock was eight o'clock—an hour before closing time and an occasion observed by the cooks with rounds of sherry. Closing time—nine o'clock—was celebrated in a similar fashion except with shouts of "Five o'clock! Five o'clock!" and the consumption of Five O'Clock brand vodka.
A couple of weeks earlier, the inevitable cook/waitress tension had come to a head here over the question of how the waitresses should place their orders. The waitresses wanted to just give the ticket—the food order—to the salad cook, who in turn would relay it to the line cooks and then to the dessert cook. The cooks argued it'd be better if the waitresses wrote their tickets in triplicate and distributed copies to each of the three cooking stations. The waitresses were less than thrilled.Dishwasher
One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States. Copyright © by Pete Jordan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Pete Jordan is the author of the memoir Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States. Pete's work has been featured on public radio's This American Life and in the New York Times. He lives in Amsterdam.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Thought ths was a great book. Well written and humorous. Couldnt wait to see where Dishwasher Pete was off to next.
My first job was dishwasher which is the lowest rung on the ladder and this guy's ambition it to remain a dishwasher because of it's lack of responsibility. This is a lifestyle of getting by and the quirky things that he learns and does to maintain his freedom. Perhaps if you have never worked in a restuarant you wouldn't find it so entertaining but I miss the restaurant lifestyle and this book transports me to earlier time of hard work and different people.
i thought this book was ok? in some chapters i had to make my self finish because it kept talking about the same things over and over...if i met dishwasher pete in real life, i dont think id like him. he let the duty of washing dishes define him... i recommend this book if u wash dishes for a living and thats it.
not worth wasting time reading, glad it only cost me 99 cents