20080616-servedbug.jpgJosh (not his real name) was our dishwasher until a few days ago. He was also Micky's favorite employee.

I found Josh on Craigslist right at the start of Micky's tenure at my restaurant. He was a young, sweet kid from a pretty scary neighborhood. He had smart eyes, and turned out to be a really bright person. He was a recent high school grad with plans, but no means, to attend college.

His pretty girlfriend was embarking on her first year of undergrad in the suburbs. They could usually be found fighting over the phone. Sometimes the fights would escalate into soap opera intensity, and Josh would shake with rage.

When we were short on cooks, Josh jumped behind the line. He assembled little pickled wasabi beets into a collage of a salad. He artfully swiped preserved Meyer lemons across a plate, carefully layering hamachi sashimi and puffed wild rice and miniature flowering cucumbers.

Josh had no aspirations of cooking, and was relieved to return to the less stressful job of washing dishes when line cooks were hired. But he helped with lots of preparation. Josh became the sausage authority; he tied little saran wrap packages with eggs to poach for brunch; he juiced corn kernels for soft polenta. He did a lot.

"Josh might be leaving soon," Micky said for the first time in spring. He was young, smart, and eager, and Micky encouraged Josh to move on to bigger and better things. My vote was for college. The older he got, the harder it would be to begin. Josh explored joining the army. Micky urged him to get a foot in the door in the music biz. Music was Josh's passion. Perhaps he could get an internship and start from there.

But Josh stayed. He yelled into the phone out back and came back to the kitchen bleary eyed. He washed dishes like nobody's business.

Micky said he'd take Josh over any of his cooks. He was dependable and unwaveringly consistent. He took pride in his job. Micky could trust him. There was something special about Josh, anyone could see it.

A few months ago, Micky could tell Josh was unhappy.

"Do you want to look at this hose and this sink for the rest of your life?" Micky wanted to give him a kick in the pants, a kick to reach for something more. "Do you want to find yourself at 35, still washing dishes?"

Exit Strategy

A few days later, Josh came with news of an interview with an army recruiter. "I think I'm going to do it."

"Is this really what you want?" Micky asked, "Or just your way to get out quick?"

Josh looked up to Micky; Micky loved Josh. Micky's heart swelled with a bit of pride when Josh returned to work with new news. The army was out for now; he landed a job as an intern in a record studio. There was a new spark in his step. There was an eye twinkle. He talked about music all the time.

When the very part-time internship turned into a full-time job offer, Josh consulted with Micky. Micky was his boss but also his confidant, friend, and mentor. "Go!" Micky urged, "The time is now. Take the leap. Follow your dream. This is what you love." But for some reason Josh was nervous, reluctant. "Can I work here part-time, still?"

"You will always have an open door here," Micky told him, "But go for it all the way, 100%." For Micky, probably one of the hardest workers in the history of the universe, there is no part time. It was all or nothing, and he hoped Josh would take the plunge. We would be really sad to see him go, but we would find someone else.

Breaking Up

Even sadder: the way things ended with Josh. Josh gave his notice. He didn't give a date. A week later Micky said, "I'm starting to look for new dishwashers, when will you finish here?"

"Friday," Josh said. It was "Wednesday.

"I need two weeks," Micky told Josh.

"I have to be selfish for my own life."

Two hours later, Micky saw Josh taking off with his stuff. "What's going on?"

"I have to be selfish for my own life," he repeated.

Micky pleaded with him to come back, finish the week, end a difficult, wonderful, crazy year on a good note. Josh flashed Micky the finger and was outta there.

Micky came home really sad that night. He lost someone important in his life. I hope they make up. I hope Josh finds success and joy and lives happily ever after.

Until then, we've had a series of clueless dishwashers who wash wine glasses in the silverware rack. Everyone is missing Josh bad.

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