An Ode to Bussers and Dishwashers


If you know me or have read this blog over the years, you will no doubt be aware of my fondness for bars. Not only bars but those who tend them. My appreciation of bartenders, true artists, negates my ever trying to have a go at mixology. I’m doing just fine on this side of the bar thank you.

My appreciation of bartenders, true artists, negates my ever trying to have a go at mixology. I’m doing just fine on this side of the bar thank you.

However, recently I have acquired an admiration for another integral role in the proper functioning of a working bar: namely, bussers. Once called busboys due to the fact almost all of them were males, the busser is responsible for a multitude of tasks, from clearing tables and preparing them for the next customers, to schlepping buckets of ice from the ice maker to the bar, and, on occasion, washing dishes.

I think I’ve got the knack

One Sunday afternoon recently I dropped by the long-time Montreal Crescent Street watering-hole Ziggy’s Pub. My buddy Tim is the Sunday afternoon bartender, with a group of regulars. As they say in Ireland, the “craic” is usually good. This Sunday was no different, in fact, it may have been a little busier than usual. As the only staffer, Tim hustled about making and serving drinks, while used glasses were piling up.

Yep, I know, that’s a lot of electricity very close to a lot of water – what could possibly go wrong?

As Ziggy’s has no kitchen, there are no plates, no cutlery to be washed – just various glasses. Ziggy’s has been open for decades with no need for the installation of an automatic glass washer, nor the employment of a busser. The method of glass washing is old school; two rotating brushes in one sink (not four like the deluxe model pictured above – although given that the vast majority of people only have two hands, I can’t understand the advantage of four spinning mops), running clear water in an adjacent sink. (Yep, I know, that’s a lot of electricity very close to a lot of water – what could possibly go wrong?)

Your friendly blogger learning the ropes

In honesty I have always been intrigued by these glass washing contraptions, so Tim didn’t have to ask twice when he suggested, half in jest, that I help out with the glass cleaning process. Before I knew what I was doing, Tim had turned on the machine and explained the procedure – off I went. I have to admit the exercise was cathartic, I felt a little like George Plimpton taking on a new role, The warm soapy water followed by the rinsing all the while trying not to think about that hanging electric wire was great. “Do people really get paid for this?” I asked. Is anyone looking for a 62-year-old Busser?

Off I went, armed with a five-gallon bucket (which I filled about four gallons worth) …

Once the glasses were done, I was entrusted with another support-staff task, fetching ice cubes from the ice cube maker. Off I went, armed with a five-gallon bucket (which I filled about four gallons worth), and returned a new man. Grand stuff this bussing.

Mind you, I did miss out on using a busboy tray for the proper chore, having, over the years, purchased many such trays to use as cat litter boxes!

Published by DCMontreal

DCMontreal - Deegan Charles Stubbs - is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

2 thoughts on “An Ode to Bussers and Dishwashers

  1. Didn’t we have a great uncle Joe Deegan with a pub in Dublin? Obviously, the work is in your genes…the beer in your veins. And did I spot Marie Luisa at the end of the bar laughing while you worked? Lin

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  2. That is indeed my dear wife chuckling at my attempt to do an honest task. As for our great uncle being a publican in Dublin weren’t all our great uncles and aunts born in England? I believe you would have to go back one generation to see what those who stayed in Ireland got up to.

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