Blood Barons, Dishwashing, and The New York Times…

I wrote a story about selling plasma. Not because that experience is unique, but because it isn’t – or not unique enough. There are so many things I could say about the commercial Plasma industry, but the gist of it is here and I want to thank the New York Times for giving me space to write about it.


The Exceptionally American Experience of Selling MyPlasma

Like for profit nursing homes built on private equity real estate deals, like drug companies leveraging insulin, like plasma companies – all blood barons.

More on jobs.

I am in a transition back to writing more, but that also means I am in a transition back to figuring out what my second job will be. It’s a known fact that artists, writers, clowns, dancers, massage therapists, interpreters for the deaf, amp builders, community mental health workers, comedians, and vet techs will likely work two (or more) jobs in perpetuity, but what kind of second job?

When thinking about which bridge to burn next, I review past work experiences.

I weigh each one on a scale of misery v. money, meaning v. mindlessness, and requirements of performative extroversion. Some jobs have more status, some jobs earn martyr points, some pay well but are erratic and feel gross, some make you feel fortunate, and some just make you feel triumphantly human. 

When writing, there is always the appeal of a job you can burn, that you don’t take home, physical enough to get your mind in the zone where you can think or not think, usually with music in the background that you are not in control of….and this time because the labor market has forced wages upward, that came up dishwasher.

The Wikipedia definition of dishwasher says, “Typically, dishwashers scrape food residue from dishes, pots and kitchen utensils; sort and load racks of dirty dishes into a commercial dishwashing machine.”

Having worked in restaurants for years, this is not unknown to me. Yet I have found in searching job postings, new requirements. Along with scrubbing pots and pans, hosing down mats, and pulling garbage, I am now expected to…

  • Confront and resolve difficult situations 
  • Embrace change by being open to new ideas.
  • Presents a positive image by having good body language

One posting explain that they have a “Steward Leadership” as a core value. and then goes on.

Job Summary

The Steward’s main responsibilities include the washing and putting away of dishes, glassware, flatware, pots, and pans. The Steward also assists in maintaining the kitchen, front of house, and back work areas and equipment clean and in orderly condition. Stewards will assist the Line Cooks in the cleaning of the kitchen from open to close. In addition, Stewards shall assist Chefs and Bartenders with prep projects as time and training allow. Stewards will aid in debris, compost, and recycling removal from the restaurant.

A Steward hard at work in the wild – I particularly like the sign about oyster shells

The point about jobs is that most of us – and 99% of artists – will have a work life that is more of a set of collages than a trajectory. I am grateful that I get to write for money, even if it is not enough. I am grateful that the rise in worker power in this moment allows me to take jobs that demand less for more money than I could have gotten 5 years ago.

In the very recent past, I wrote another NYT piece about caregivers at The Rawlin who were striking to get $14-$16 an hour so they could hire enough staff – and the employer spent $4500 a day for over a month to stop 38 of them from doing just that. That is still happening. I’ll make more as a dishwasher in my neighborhood than as an LPN or a CNA in most of the country. All over the country with for-profit care built on real estate equity trusts is a crime. The life that gets sucked out of poor people is a crime.