<<  Byron Bay, 25-Jan-2014  >>

Forgotten chapters from January

How I kicked ass of "Michael Jordan of dishwashing" aka defeat of South Korean military, and excitement from going to see Mr. Miyagi

Later I realized, that in my last blog post I actually did not tell the truth.
The truth is that one exciting thing did happen: I decided my next destination.
It is going to be: JAPAN!!!

As Irene’s Australian visa expires some 2 weeks after mine, I was looking for a place where I could stay 2-3 weeks and wait for Irene there, or travel from there to somewhere where we would meet. We haven’t really figured out what to do after Australia. New Zealand, Hawaii, Fiji, Philippines, India. – all of these were among potential next destinations. Finally the most probable seemed to be Philippines, where we could maybe do some volunteering in repairing Yolanda taiphoon damage which had swept through Philippines couple of months ago.
And as I was playing my favorite on-line game called “looking at the world map and checking where can I buy a cheap airplane ticket” I found out that thanks to AirAsia promo I can get really cheap ticket to Japan from Australia, and that tickets from Japan to Philippines are also pretty cheap. And suddenly as I spotted Japan at the world map and find out the price of the tickets everything was decided for me. Motherland of Zen, Buddhist and Shinto temples, kendo and sumo matches, sushi, ultramodern architecture, Pokemon, crazy Japanese people: hardworking kamikazes, Misters Miyagis and girls in miniskirts and socks. Yeah, JAPAN! That spiritual uplift and cultural inspiration that I’m yearning for, after long months of cultural vacuum of Australia. I got more excited than a 13 year old boy overran unexpectedly found porn magazine. Nippon, I’m coming!

And after Japan, I will meet Irene somewhere, and we’ll see where we go.

Too bad, that by the time I’m writing this, things took a dramatic turn, and the trip to Japan is more than questionable. But more on that some other day.

Another story I forgot to mention was how I defeated Michael Jordan of dishwashing.

In the restaurant where I work, the staff is divided into 2 groups: “front of the house” (waiters, waitresses and barmen) and “kitchen” (cooks, here called “chefs” and dishwashers aka “kitchen porters”). They don’t use the word dishwasher, because apart from washing the dishes, the duties of this position are bringing the food from storehouse and large fridges to the kitchen (hence the term kitchen porter), doing some simple prep, such as mixing herbs, shaving parmesan cheese, packing and unpacking food, cleaning the restaurant etc. There are 6 stable chefs in the kitchen: New Zealander, Indian, Frenchmen, two Englishmen and one Australian. They are my regular workmates, usually working in pairs. Generaly, there is one kitchen porter working each day, but not all the day. As I had mentioned before, usually KPs come once there’s a solid stack of dishes waiting to be cleaned and then we have to get through the dishes until the restaurant closes, or until designated break. The point is that there is always either none or one KP in the kitchen, never two at the same time. This means, that I haven’t met almost any other KP that worked/works in the restaurant. But what I did see in a looooong list of names on a weekly schedule which came and went. It’s almost unbelievable, but during those 3 months that I have worked here, they hired and fired 9 other dishwashers! Dishwashers! World’s most simple job, and they fired 9 of them. Average survival rate is 2 shifts. Then they either fire them or they quit, because this job is insane :-)

Here’s the list of dishwasher, who now all rest in peace:
Paix, South Korean (survived 3 weeks, he got fired when they hired me. Sorry Paix)
Sam, Unknown (fired after unknown number of shifts, he got fired when they hired me)
Massuki, Japanese (never showed up, I had to cover his 2 shifts)
Hugh, English (fired after 3 shifts)
David, Italian (quit after 2 weeks)
Kailash, Unknown (fired after 1 shift)
Martin, Unknown (fired after 1 shift)
Jay, South Korean (quit after one shift)
Sammy, Unknown (fired after 1 shift)
Mark, German (still surviving after 2 weeks)

9 people fired in 3 months. For a dishwasher position - the most primitive job in the world!
The trick is, that you have to be fast to survive. Really fast. And in a way, to be fast, you have to be smart and organize your work so that things are happening in parallel, otherwise you have no chance.
I’m still amazed, that I survived there for 3 months. Ever since I noticed what’s happening with all the other KPs, that the restaurant is simply looking for the fastest and most insane candidates, and firing everybody who is less fast than Superman, I was preparing to get fired. I even got one warning: if I don’t speed up, I might get fired. Luckily for me (and probably due to unrealistic expectations of the restaurant), during all these 3 months, there was nobody faster than me, and so I’m the one and only survivor. Well, that’s not quite true, there is one more survivor: Japhy. Japhy has been working in the restaurant for long time and except me, he is the only stable dishwasher. The difference is, that he is 15 years old :-) and he works only 2-3 hours on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, when the restaurant closes at 16:00, and Mondays and Tuesdays are the least busy days. The real KP trial is working Fridays and Saturdays, this is when people get fired.

And now to the story of Michael Jordan of dishwashing.
Every time they hired a new KP, the chefs or the management would say some bullshit like: “Marcel, we hired a new KP, you’d better watch out, he’s gonna be real good!”. After first KPs “killed in action” I understood the situation and I stopped caring, because first of all, I knew that one day I was going to be fired anyway, and second, I knew that most of the new KPs will not survive more than 2 shifts, and that they can hardly threaten my position. Because quite naturally, the more you do certain job, the better you become in it, and this is true even for such a no-brain job as dishwasher. There are little tricks that you learn in time, how to be faster, more efficient, where is everything stored, etc. and the more you know, the harder is it for a newcomer to be faster than you. But apart from this, I really think I worked hard. I sweated off oceans of sweat. I never showed up hang over (except after New Year’s Eve), I never complained, I just worked and worked like a robot.
So this time they hired a guy called Jay. They hired him on Friday and he was supposed to work a trial shift on Saturday. And on Friday evening the chefs (there are always at least 2 working at the same time) were talking their regular bullshit: “I’m excited to see Jay in action tomorrow. He looks really good, man! He will be a star of dishwashing”, “Yeah, he looks like he was born for this job”, “Do you remember that he said that he loves hard work? That’s some attitude!”. This time even the owner of the restaurant joined them: “Hey Marcel, we hired a new KP, he’s gonna be awesome, I feel it. He is from South Korea and he said that the loves hard work, and that we had served in military. He’s gonna be Michael Jordan of dishwashing. Watch you, because he’s gonna get all the shifts!” and he laughed. I looked at him and told him: “Michael Jordan of dishwashing, you say? Well, I have heard this ‘superstar’ blah blah blah couple of times, so I wouldn’t rely on it so much, but if he’s as good as you say, I can stop by tomorrow evening to ask if I still have a job, or if I should go look elsewhere”. Then the owner said something like: “Nah, don’t worry, we are not firing you. We need two ‘guns’ in the kitchen. You’re, and this guy is gonna be the other one.”

I was off on Saturday, and Jay, Michael Jordan of dishwashing, had his trial in the afternoon. I was also supposed to be off on Sunday, as Jay had been assigned that shift. Sunday morning I see on my phone an incoming call from the restaurant.
I picked up and the owner had this to tell me: “Ehhh, Marcel, can you come to work today?”
“Hey, what happened to Michael Jordan of dishwashing?” I asked laughing
“Ehm, he quit. He sucks. For sure North Korea is going to beat the crap out of them if this is their military! Can you come?”
“Hahahah! Yeah, sure, I will come”.

2 hours later when I arrived to the restaurant I grinned at the owner: “So, who’s Michael Jordan of dishwashing here?!?!”
“You are Marcel, you are! You are the best!” he admitted.

Later the chefs told me, that this Jay guy, South Korean ex-military, completely exploded. On Saturday night, 1:00am is usually the time when all the dishes are done and I start to clean the kitchen, the machine etc. and sometime after 2:00am I’m out of there. On this Saturday, at 1:00am the kitchen was completely loaded with dirty plates, pans, pots and all the equipment “all the way to the roof”, and desperate Jay realizing that this job is impossible to do, said that “I cannot do this!” and simply walked away. And as he walked away without money and without finishing the job, he left the kitchen loaded with all the dishes to the chefs, exactly those ones who were teasing me the day before how excited they were about this new Jay guy. As a result, that stayed there until 4:00am(!!!) washing all the dishes that their Michael Jordan of dishwashing left them.
I guess, this was the last time, I heard the “we hired a new guy, watch out Marcel!” bullshit :-)

Slovakian ex-bankers vs. South Korean ex-military 1:0 !

Click for photo gallery

     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak