When our chef de cuisine asked me to approve the hiring of a new dishwasher, I briefly glanced at the neatly filled application form and assented. Then, while sitting at my desk and completing the background check,  I did a double take – according to his date of birth, the applicant was 68. I cannot discriminate based on gender, race, religion or age and, as an “older female”, I am becoming sensitive about the age part  but I couldn’t help thinking that the work required of this man was too physical for his age. Then I thought of the mass of unemployed older people out there and decided to stop questioning and giving him a go.
The dishwasher is the most humble position in the kitchen and the most crucial – young cooks complaining about the dishwashers or ignoring their presence should spend a couple of hours in their shoes to understand how brutal the work is.  Sometimes, when I am at home  and I replicate some of the dishes made in a professional kitchen I end up staring in disbelief at the amount of pots, bowls and pans that amass in the sink. And on an organizational scale, I am up there with the maniacally organized.
A dirty kitchen is obviously no desirable thing and dishwashing just doesn’t involve standing at a sink with your arms in water up to your elbows but it also requires the detailing of counters, walk-in fridges and storage, mopping floors, organizing hundreds of pots, pans, dishes and utensils, spending hours behind a hot conveyor belt otherwise known as a dishwashing machine which shares very few genes with the ones in our homes. Ovens need to be deep cleaned and stoves and ceilings and vents – as I said, brutal and crucial. All for not much money at all.  Senor B was hired and showed up to work with a blue baseball cap and deep creases on his face – not much English to his credit and very courteous manners.  I watch him work and he doesn’t stop for a moment, pushing carts, washing, mopping – after a week, there was no need to tell him anymore what needed to get done. His small body is a well oiled machine from years of backbreaking work, no doubt – his integrity stemming for a need to fit in, to make a success of his new life north of the border. I look at him and all I can think is ” What a good hire”, never how old he is.
It’s not news that older workers, in any position, bring wisdom, calm and better judgement to the workplace. Maybe not innovation but is innovation always needed? As I age I think of all the career avenues that are closed or closing to me, someone who always thought she could do anything she set her mind to. I resent that feeling while instead I should focus on what I have to offer that I didn’t 20 years ago. Nothing much rocks my boat anymore when it comes to work related problems – I have come to see there is most often a solution, especially when looking in the less obvious places and that speaking your mind while treating people respectfully goes a long way in buying you credibility. There are many who have helped me along the way, most of them older than I was –  colleagues, bosses, underlings I all learnt from.  Looks like I still am.


Filed under aging

3 responses to “SENOR B

  1. sue

    See, Senor B and Portia – these are some of the things that make me love you.

  2. This post gave me a clear picture of my 18 year old son’s job in Los Angeles. I miss him every day. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Your son is so wonderful! He has made several friends and I told him that, to assuage his need for recognition, he better get busy becoming famous! He cracks me up!

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