“Ivan.” sticking out his hand.
“My name's Bob.” He looked confused. “You know Bob Marley? Well, I'm Bob Mercer, only 3 letters different.”
I was to meet lots of people here who would have better standards of English fluency, but lacked the clarity of thought. Language is often a barrier to effective communication.
He showed me where everything was stored. I thought my job title was 'dishwasher', but it looked like I would be what the Americans call a 'gopher'- go for this, go for that, or, in other words, a management plaything.
“Here is milks, here vegetables, meats here and here very cold water. How you say?”
Yes, ice in here, beers outside.” I noticed the crates of beer were not enclosed, a fact that might prove useful some time in the future.
I have been a sports enthusiast all my life. I have marvelled at Marvin Hagler, been dazzled by Gareth Edwards, even saw Paul Tortellier play left back for Inter Milan but absolutely nothing prepared me for what I was to see next.
“Now we wash ups.”
He turned the tap and a gush of water kicked started him into action. The speed and dexterity were frightening as pint glasses, half full of beer, as plates full of mustard, as ash trays complete with dog-ends and the ubiquitous olive, as coffee cups with lipstick, as mayonnaise choked cutlery crashed and bashed from the in-tray to the wash sink to the rinse sink to the drying racks with computerised efficiency until he came to the last plate. From the wash sink he spun it on his finger, flipped it behind his back and, while still looking at me, caught it, rinsed it and rolled it along his arm for it to slide perfectly into the rack.
While he was working his hands were a blur as mountain of filth became rows of sparkling pearls and diamonds, glittering in the fluorescent light.
I stood there, mouth agape, eyes bulging and in a mild state of shock. His pride was based on a satisfaction of achievement through hard work. He could not be accused of arrogance as he knew his skill could not be bought.
He waited for me to speak, and, after what seemed like minutes, I said, “Do I have to work that slowly?”
He smiled, knowing I was not a threat, dried his hands and left by the back door. I felt alone.
Joseph was intelligent and worldly wise, but he had been in a managerial position too long. His tone was abrupt almost to the point of rudeness, and, with a mix of first night nerves, the aftermath of watching Ivan and sheer incompetence, life proved difficult.
There was a strict hierarchy- David at the top, well he was the boss and quite useless, next the bar manager, the chefs, the waitresses vied for position amongst themselves, but set firmly at the bottom was the dishwasher, especially a goy, the whipping post for all the others to vent their frustrations.
To his credit I got paid for my time there, even though it was with a tut. One time there was a management meeting. His younger brother was there with a gun by his side and he looked so hard, or so he thought. This guy was 8 stones wringing wet and never been slapped in his life, but that did not stop him staring at me.