Sunday, April 29, 2007

help wanted

Mrs. Moretti was a 5-foot, somewhat plump, frazzled gray hair 60-year-old battleaxe who made my dishwashing life misery but cried when I left her restaurant after two summers of working for her.

She and her husband owned three restaurants, and she had three sons managing them. She knew the prices of everything, and had a colorful way of letting you know.

“Don’t use so much soap; that costs me 12 cents a quart!!!” Everything she said had two or three exclamation points behind it. She never coo-ed. She always screamed.

One time I spilled some food scraps on the brick walk that ran behind the kitchen extending from the porch over the water (this restaurant sat on a bay looking north) down to the concrete walk in front of the building. She saw my transgression and yelled, “Clean that up!!! Don’t you know that I got down on my hands and knees this morning and scrubbed that sonuvabitch clean!!!”

Basically, if you worked your tail off, she liked you. No – better – she appreciated you.

Once, in describing someone who thought a little too much of himself, she quipped, “He thinks his sh@# don’t stink.” That one didn’t have exclamation points since she was probably saying it before Noon, before she could really get in gear.

When I left, I was 20 years old and had worked there two summers during college. Her oldest son, the manager of the restaurant, gave me a cash bonus on my last night. She came over to me while I was still in the office, gave me a hundred dollars in twenties, held my cheeks in her two hands, and kissed me with lips that had never known lipstick, often had well-intentioned venom, but were always sincere. Her eyes started misting up.

After all, a good dishwasher is hard to find.

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