Casey Grisez

November 19, 2022

Sticky Notes Lesson #14 - Dirty Jobs

I signed up for a month-long, email-based writing course from Cole Schafer of Sticky Notes, Honey Copy, and Chasing Hemingway fame.

He sends a lesson and prompt every day. I have 10 minutes to read and consider the prompt, 40 minutes to write, and 10 minutes to edit before posting publicly.

I’m posting here to not drown my Casey's Notes content. On to day 14...


All I wanted was a set of Titleist 990 irons. I started playing golf when I was 9, and growing up in a middle class house with four older brothers meant all my clubs were hand-me-downs. I don't remember why I liked the 990s so much, but I had to have them.

Since the clubs were probably going for $500 or $600, there's no chance my parents would buy them. I can be persuasive but they didn't bite on any argument I tried. Although my Wednesday night paper route was bringing in a few bucks, since I was 15, it was time to get a real job.

Today's writing prompt is to talk about the nastiest gig I've ever had and romanticize the hell out of it. That's easy.

Tim had been one of my best friends since we started at St. Paul's Elementary in first grade. Although we went to different high schools, he lived close enough that we stayed friends. He worked at a catering and party center -- one of those typical places for weddings and retirement parties. Years of smoke embedded in the walls, beat up tables and squeaky chairs, and bar staff and waitresses that all worked there for decades (and were responsible for most of the smoke in the walls).

Tim got me an interview and after interviewing with one of the surly owners, I was hired as a bus boy. The job was 100% "other duties as assigned" and included all the nasty tasks at a party center: collecting tubs of dirty dishes during a party. Emptying the tubs and scraping plates loaded with food, Kleenex, cigarettes, baby wipes, diapers, and god-knows-what-else by hand into a trash can. Loading the dishes into an industrial, molten lava-temperature dishwasher and emptying it on the other end. Hand-washing pots and pans in water, as the old Italian man who founded the place said, hot enough to make them a-really really clean. Scrubbing the grease-covered floors by hand.

And, my favorite as a skinny 15 year old, carrying trays of food to the smaller party room in the basement. I don't need the hair-raising excitement of skydiving -- I've carried 15 (yes, fifteen) plates of food, with metal lids, down a steep flight of stairs while wearing grease-caked shoes, already exhausted from six hours of cleaning and party prep.

Getting out of my home and school bubble, the job also made me a little more... worldly. I always thought there was something off about the guys that owned the place. Turns out they were (allegedly?) dealing white-collar drugs, which explains why the well-appointed, wood-paneled office didn't match the rest of the party center. I had some eye-opening conversations with the older bus boys, managers, and waitresses, most of whom were foodservice lifers who just wanted the beer and cigs after the party was over.

I'll never forget the job and the lessons I learned. I've never forgotten the value of hard work. Or how much I appreciate not having to scrape a used Kleenex out of a half-eaten portion of pasta every day. Or how people can have very different goals and motivators than me. Or hot to get pots and pans a-really really clean.

And I'll never forget the feeling of kneeling on the living room floor, about 10 feet inside the front door, opening the brand new Titleist 990 irons that I paid for. And I earned every damn dollar.