One of the nice things about having lunch out is that someone else is washing the pots and pans and dishes. If you thought about the dishwasher at all, you might imagine him in the bowels of the kitchen, grumbling about his lot in life and the mess you left behind. But you’d be dead wrong if it was dishwasher Milton “Santiago” Quezada, age 37, who is grateful for his job and thinks it’s a breeze.

“I’ve been a dishwasher for five years. This is a union job, so I get benefits, and I have security. If you had this job in a place that wasn't union, if the boss decided to fire you one day, he could just do that. But with a union job, you're protected. If you did something really bad, like you hit somebody, the union couldn't help you. But if they fired you for no reason, you could get somebody from the union to back you up and get your job back. Also, you get the health benefits for your family, for only the price of your union dues, which is $42 a month.

“I like the people I work with; sometimes we joke around and have a good time, especially when it's not too busy. And we get lunch, and dinner! We don't have to buy our meals, they put up family food for us. And in other places, maybe I couldn't just go get a cup of coffee, but here, I can just go upstairs and get a cup if I want.

“My job doesn't pay that much, so one thing I hope, when the next contract comes up, that I'll get a little raise.

"I come from Cuenca, Ecuador, and there are a lot of guys here who come from Ecuador. I came here to North America to make money. It wasn’t hard for me to get a green card, because my wife’s father is a citizen. We’ve been married 17 years, and her father sent for her, and after five years she became a citizen. We have two children, a boy,15, and a girl,12.

“I like washing dishes just fine. It’s easy to do. But I don’t want to stay working as a dishwasher for a very long time; I‘d like to do something better, for my children. What I’d really like to do is drive a truck...that’s what I used to do in Ecuador. I used to drive a big truck back home, delivering beer. I would only drive, like, 17 miles, each way, to make the deliveries.

“I’d like to start, first, by working for a company driving a truck, and then work for myself. I haven’t gone looking for such a job yet, because first I’ve got to save up the money so I can go to school and get my truck driving license.

“My wife works taking care of old people, in their houses. She does personal care. But she doesn’t come home very tired, so it’s OK. It’s a good job.

“What I like to do on my off days is to play soccer. I play good, I play forward, up in Van Cortland Park. There’s a bunch of us that play, from all different countries. I’m off on Mondays and Tuesdays, and I play four or five or six hours each day.

“My son doesn’t like soccer, he likes basketball and baseball. And my daughter is only interested in fashion models! She’s very beautiful.

“Back home, my father works on the facades of houses, and he has his own business. And my mother is a business lady, she sells makeup, like Avon.

“I like it here in America. Because it’s free.

“I’ve worked different kids of jobs, whatever kind of work I can get: in a factory, in construction, making deliveries, in restaurants. And it’s very, very easy, being a dishwasher, compared to doing construction! In construction, you need big muscles, but here, all you have to do is wash off a pot!”

©Zina Saunders 2006-2014

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