Dishwasher: A San Francisco Story (UNFINISHED)

Abraham Woodliff
4 min readNov 17, 2019

Sushi King is the name of the Japanese restaurant I work at in San Francisco’s Japantown. It’s a tourism hub for anime enthusiasts masquerading as its own neighborhood. Once upon a time Japanese immigrants did inhabit this neighborhood on their entry into America in hopes of a better life. The real estate costs of Japantown assure that that is no longer a possibility. Japantown is surrounded entirely by The FIllmore District, a once black enclave that now is home to neglected public housing, murals to influential former residents of the neglected public housing and so many millionaires and business catering to millionaires that you almost forget you’re surrounded by neglected public housing.

I’m a dishwasher. I wash dishes. That’s why I’m called a dishwasher. In a world filled with ambiguous titles meant to obscure the fact that you’re not truly essential to a company’s operation, my title offers no such ambiguity. I wash dishes, so they call me a dishwasher. I share the same title as machines that do the same thing as me. There’s no doubt in my employer’s ability to replace me.

My name is Tony Wu. I’m Chinese. I don’t live in Chinatown. I live in Ingleside. It’s a place where real San Franciscans live and tourists never venture into, so naturally, you’ve never heard of it. The rest of the staff at Sushi King are also Chinese, except for the chefs; they’re Japanese, ironically a minority in Japantown. It doesn’t matter to our customers, some of which aggressively try to speak Japanese to our staff, despite many of them being from China. It doesn’t matter. This is America. Nuance is scary. Enjoy the ramen, the anime-themed ambiance and the lie that this is what Japan is like. I’ve never been to Japan, but I assume 6 blocks of ramen, sushi, Attack On Titan and Hello Kitty merchandise doesn’t offer the full experience. Now, if we could incorporate the 100 hour work week, the staggeringly high suicide rates, fingerless gangsters or the enforcement of extreme conformity by way of social exclusion into the tourism experience, maybe I wouldn’t be so jaded at the adoration to a land of a rising sun they’ve never seen.

“Tony, we need you at the register,” Patrick said. Patrick is my boss. His father owns Sushi King. We never really see his dad, the Sushi King, very often. He’s probably too busy counting cash atop his sushi throne in his sushi castle and fucking his sushi wife in her big, fat sushi ass.

Patrick had this annoying habit of assigning people to the register at will. I hated working the register. It’s not that I disliked people, it’s just when people transform into customers, they’re no longer people, they’re customers, and trust me, there’s huge fucking difference between a person and a customer.

“Okay, give me a second. I gotta dry my hands.”

“Quickly,” Patrick replied with an audible impatience.

There was a massive line. Every weekend it seemed there was some kind of event that took place in Japantown. On this particular week, unfortunately, it was the biggest of all of Japantown’s annual events: The Anime Expo. Demographically speaking, it’s a sociological anomaly. You have traditionally beautiful women dressed up as cartoon characters and men who are either pencil-thin or excessively obese with all the grace and social ability of a bull in a china shop. And the bull just so happened to be on the autism spectrum.

Smooth criminals.

The first guy I rung up was the smoothest.

“Your palms must sweat a lot,” He said as he anxiously stared over at the girl beside him with anticipation of some kind of validation. She didn’t give a verbal response. Just a placating headnod, not signifying agreement or disagreement, just an acknowledgement of the noise that was coming from his voice box.

I stared at him for a moment. I wasn’t offended. His alpha male attempt, well, his alpha male attempt within the context of being in line at a sushi restaurant while poorly cosplaying had backfired. I gave him his total.

“That comes to $38.54. Are you paying with cash or credit?” He dug out a crumpled assortment of cash from his pocket: a twenty, three fives, seven ones. Before I could even verify that he had given me enough to cover the bill, he grabbed his tray of food, spilled soup on his sushi, blurted “keep the change,” and quickly walked away. I kept the change.

Smooth criminal.

My fingers were pruney from the dishpit. Which, I admit, despite it being entirely normal, is a peculiar sight when exchanging money with a stranger. I’m 31, my hands are age appropriate. However, after bussing tables and washing dishes for a few hours, my body remains suspended to the standard time continuum, but my hands are taken on an accelerated journey through time to movie theater discounts, xenophobia and erectile dysfunction by way of nature’s greatest resource and hand-specific time machine: H20.



Abraham Woodliff

Bay Area native, Hip Hop nerd, literature and poetry enthusiast, freelance writer, gamer, caffeine addict. Follow me on Twitter.