Early jobs and other horror stories

How not to keep a job...

Great Jobs I have had--and not so great

Getting fired as a Busboy/Dishwasher

Another in a series on work called THE REAL WORLD

By Russell D. Hoffman. Copyright (c) 1996 by Russell D. Hoffman.

Almost anyone who's had 40+ jobs can tell you: Sometimes you get fired. One wrong move. One careless word the week before, and Monday morning, you're gone. One worried owner...

I Hope--Or Pray...

The first time I was fired was pretty upsetting. I was working as a dishwasher in the local shop of a chain of breakfast restaurants which I hope--or pray will remain nameless in Westport, Connecticut.

I was accused of stealing tips. A few days before, one of the waitresses had claimed to have lost about $13.00 in tips that she had left on the counter near my station. I searched the Dempster Dumpster for about ten minutes looking for it for her. I was such a nice guy! Turns out though, I doubt she ever lost it...

A day or so later, I'm out busing tables, and there is a dollar bill tip on the table, but when I'm finished cleaning off the table, the tip's gone! Now normally, of course, the busboy busses the table and leaves the tip for the waitress. (And often, waitresses give a percentage of their tips to the busboys at the end of the day. In some restaurants it's mandatory that they do that, maybe 5% or something. I think that's how this place worked it.)

Evidently I had accidentally picked up the tip along with the dirty dishes, and afterwards I poked around the busbucket for it, but decided either it was deep in the busbucket somewhere, or (more likely, I thought) it never existed and I hadn't seen it to begin with. I figured I'd do what we always do when this happens--tell the dishwasher who's emptying the buckets, and return the bill to the appropriate waitress. Sometimes they find money we never see. People like to hide it, I guess from other customers. Sometimes nobody finds it! Have you ever seen laundered money, laundered by a commercial dishwasher? It's very clean!

I fill the bucket busing other tables, and go back to the dishwasher station to leave the bucket and get an empty one, and the owner and a manager and a waitress or two are standing around saying they've been watching me, and they put that dollar on that table to test me. I instantly realize, of course, that there had indeed been a dollar on that table and I tell them that, and that I know that dollar is somewhere deep in the bucket, since that was the first table I had bussed and the bucket was now full, and since I don't empty the buckets, I obviously wasn't stealing. (Esp. since the dishwasher was a family friend of the owner...) They say if it isn't in that bucket I'm fired.

Can I get a Witness?

I leave to go bus more tables. I don't wait around to watch them find the buck in the bucket. When I get back, they're all standing around, and the guy says I'm fired, wait here while he goes and makes out my severence pay. I say why, didn't you find the dollar? He says they did, but it was "crumbled up in a corner" which for some reason, apparently means I was stealing it.

I couldn't understand this. Hadn't I struggled to help that waitress find her money last week? Hadn't I always washed the dishes well, never been late, always been friendly? Another guy that worked there threatened to quit when he heard, if they wouldn't hire me back. He stood up for me. They told him go ahead and quit. He did.

I couldn't understand it, until a few years later when I was talking about it to my grandfather Nelson Cruikshank. He asked just one question. "Did you ever mention a union while you worked there?"

Yes, I said. There were a couple of boys working there who had talked about that. It had kind of surprised me because one of them was a friend of the owner. I had agreed with them. The place treated the dishwashers (getting $1.80 an hour) pretty bad.

Moral: Don't ever mention a union in a non-union shop unless you want to loose your job and have your name slandered.

If you enjoyed this story, please check out these others:

(Highlighted entries are currently online. The rest I'm writing as I get time.)

Table of Contents

The Animated Software Company

Mail to: rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com
First placed online July 31st, 1996.
Last modified March 27th, 1997.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman