Lake Norman & Mooresville

Swallowing pride and washing dishes

Today, I am a sinner.

Yesterday, I also sinned.

Tomorrow, I certainly will sin again.

Pride, one of the seven sins, is proving to be a heavy, heavy burden during the on-going economic meltdown, the worst since The Great Depression.

Pride will not allow myself, a well-educated, award-winning sportswriter before entering a second career as a Huntersville-based Stay At-Home Dad, to openly admit it took nearly two years to find consistent employment. A Cornelius restaurant and bar came through with an offer - as weekend dishwasher, just north of minimum wage.

That's a career fate I did not envision in 1993 as an over-confident rookie in Hickory, or, over the next 13 years in the Florida Panhandle, Upstate New York and Chicago suburbs, where I covered the NHL's Blackhawks and was honored with the nation's No. 1 columnist award for newspapers under 40,000 circulation.

Now, 42 years old and entering what should be my golden era of prime income potential, I have become a "Face of the Great Recession."

"Hey, where are the rubber gloves?"

Thanks, Ma, for the college degree.

Those English classes are extremely useful reading dishwasher instructions: On ... Off.

Geometry really comes in handy after I rinse off the food-stained plates and figure out which angles will max out the load.

Physical education credits are paying dividends as I lift and store all the clean kitchenware.

Street smarts come into play when, following a rush, the sink must be cleared of soaked food scraps: "Hey, where are the rubber gloves?"

I was a teenager in the 1980s when excess and over-indulgence were advertised rights of passage. I reached "maturity" in the 1990s when credit cards were handed out like candy. Can you say sucker?

Since '09, I have not, to call my own, possessed a cell phone, cable television or car.

Who cares?

My beautiful bride and I share a car and cell, plus TV rabbit ears (sans tin foil) suffice and our 28-month-old son is thriving with curly locks that would make Robert Plant blush.

Cry foul

There are many faces of the recession. In each Lake Norman subdivision, neighborhood, block. Government spin surgeons technically declared an end to the self-inflicted economic mess in June 2009.

I cry foul.

Unemployment rates may be starting to decline, but it is fool's gold. You have to examine who is being hired to do what. How many former up-and-coming, mid-level managers are walking the floor at major retail stores? How many are in fast food? How many more are washing dishes?

Since the spring of '09, when low volume at a startup Huntersville oyster and sports bar ended my first dish stint, I searched for opportunities, any opportunity, to - in essence - pay for a full tank of gas.

As my beautiful banker solidified her role as family armor, protecting our flanks on mortgage and health care, I pounded the uptown pavement, detoured by surprised receptionists not trained to receive a paper resume.

Here was the general reaction: "Um ... um ... like ... did you apply on-line?"

During open interviews, someone barely out of their teens inevitably will ask: "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

Are you kidding me?

In five years, I just may develop into a quality dishwasher.

There are some advantages to the occupation, you know: No public issues and the 160-degree steam helps clear my sinuses during the heavy pollen season.

Sprayer in hand, I fondly recall my late grandfather speaking of the work he did during the Depression, and I appreciate his sacrifice better. Years from now, I hope my son understands that being humbled is only a clever disguise for a grand learning experience.

Pride, pride, pride

An old college buddy tried calling three times a few weekends ago. On his final message, he wondered if I was out of town.

Nope, just washing dishes.

How am I supposed to call him back?

I just sinned again.