Thursday, March 10, 2011
Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in all Fifty States
When Pete Jordan started college, "Other classmates talked about becoming lawyers. Still others aspired to being accountants and dentists. When asked of my own plans... What I wanted was to be free of a job; to travel the country and have friends nationwide whom I'd visit. So my standard answer was, 'I'm just gonna come crash on your floor when you're a successful lawyer/accountant/dentist.'
"It was a claim many took as a joke. Years later, they'd discover firsthand that I wasn't kidding."
After his rude mouth cost him his college bookstore job, Pete worked at a burger joint, and was demoted to dishwasher fairly quickly. "Why the others despised this chore was beyond me."
When he moved to Kentucky, and found another dishwashing job, "hungover, I dragged my sore body and aching head over to Perkins, managing to arrive only twenty minutes late."
[Working at UPS, he was told, "You have a lack of enthusiasm for your work."
"Enthusiasm? I picked up smooshed boxes off the floor. What was there to be excited about?"]
"... Karl asked for my half of the rent...
"'Take it easy... I'm gonna find a job right now.'
"If I wasn't even qualified to pick up packages off a floor, then I definitely wasn't qualified for any of those jobs that demanded 'experience.'"
"A sign in a ... window caught my attention: 'Dishwasher Wanted.'
"The boss-guy asked if I could start in the morning. I could.
"That was it. I was hired."...
"Karl refused to believe that I'd found work in only ten minutes."
So Pete Jordan became Dishwasher Pete. He traveled around quitting one "suds busting" job after another, and publishing a zine about his (and friends' experiences).
"For twelve years, I was the most prolific dishlicker of them all. From 1989 to 2001, I dished my way around the country, unwittingly searching for direction. From a bagel joint in New Mexico to a Mexican joint in Brooklyn, from a dinner train in Rhode Island to the Lawrence Welk resort in Branson, Missouri, and from an upper-crust ladies' club to a crusty hippie commune -- I washed the nation's dishes."
Your reviewer washed dishes in Blacksburg, Virginia years ago, but Dishwasher Pete was a master. He was booked to appear on the Letterman show, and publishers liked the zine so much, they pursued him with book offers.
A reviewer for the San Francisco Bay Guardian called Jordan's book "an instant American classic." Another reviewer said it is "as compelling to my mind as Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
You wouldn't think a book about washing dishes would get those sorts of reviews. I, too, loved Dishwasher.