I love living in Yosemite. It was a place I could have lived forever. If I could have been happy with less.
The first night there I stayed in a dorm by the Ahwahnee hotel. A grand building with a long history. My mother spent the night in a nearby room. In the morning we had breakfast. New places are always fresh. But also uncertain. This one reminded me of my first days at college. But I was ready. The land around me was amazing and I wanted to explore. My job was the worst. Well, not at first.
The first day at my job I don’t recall. But I was the pot washer. And sometimes I also washed the dishes. There was a long dish machine. You put the dishes in and they came out clean. Only a few dishes needed more attention.
There was an older black man who was also a dish washer. We became friends. At the end of the night we had to spray the floor with water. And the use a squeegee to dry. I’m not sure why, but we all bought our own valve for the hose. Sometimes I would borrow his.
I hated the job. It was all the things I hate. It was too much. Piles and piles of pots and pans every night. They wanted them clean and fast. It was wet. I worked with two or three sinks and a sprayer to get the pots and pans clean. It was dirty. The food and grease never came off for days at a time. And it was worst of all maybe, loud. The pot room had its own machine and it made a lot of noise. It was worse because of the size of the room.
It was always a scramble for me. Maybe because I was not good at the job. Scrub, wash and rinse. Then put the pots and pans in the machine. Run the machine. Scrub, wash and rinse. Then take the pots and pans out and place them on the shelf. It took a lot out of me and I hated almost every day. The days I got to work the dish machine were the best.
Over time like other jobs I learned other positions. First was the dish machine. Then serving hot food to the customers. It was cafeteria style dining. And eventually I became a cashier as well, and worked in the coffee corner. This was all in my first job in the park.
Another person I became friends there was a manager. His name was Joe. At one point he gave me a phone number. Told me he had a boat in L.A. and I could stay on it anytime I needed. I took the number and lost it. It was funny because I knew I would lose the number. And I thought even if I didn’t what are the chances it would work out.
It was while working in the pot room still I spotted Lisa. She was one of the managers there, but she was cute. It was my secret for a long time.
When not at work I spent my time in my room. After the first night I moved to a small cabin. And I had the coolest roommate, Jordan. The room was 11′ by 11′ if I remember right. And we each had our side of the room. There was one door and a window on each side. My side was crowded with my things. There was much less than now, but still a lot of stuff. His side at first was meager. Over time he brought more into the room.
The computer and the TV were mine. This was the first time in my life I had consistent access to the internet. For a short time living with my mother I had access, but it was poor quality. A free dial-up service. But this was high-speed internet. And I got DISH TV. Though the climate in the valley caused untold number of problems with the service.
I don’t think I ever did anything outside the room with Jordan. But we would watch cartoons together. He used my computer and TV with my permission. Like all roommates we didn’t get along all the time. But more often than not. Like me, he is a very creative person. An individual who doesn’t fit into any one box.
I also started hiking in my time off. When I lived in Silver Lake I got into the habit of hiking in sandals. In Yosemite this became even worse. Image you leave to for food. But on the way you change your mind and think of taking a short hike. Starting down the trail you never plan to go far, but then you keep going and going. It happened to me a couple times. I hiked all the major trails in the valley. And a few which weren’t on the map.
This is what I loved the most about Yosemite. Being able to step out the door and take a hike. There was a free bus service in the valley. Most people did not have cars, or did not drive. I walked to work on most days to be out in the air. The bus only ran during the day, but a van would do pick-ups and drop-offs after hours. Yosemite is the perfect place for some people to live.
You get paid a decent wage. It is a union job, which some like and some do not like. You can buy the meal plan, they take a small amount out of your check every week and you eat at the cafeteria. The food is cafeteria food. Rent is taken out of your check, a small amount. Mine was $16 every two weeks. And then the rest is yours. You can choose to buy phone service and TV like me. But if you didn’t you would have no bills. You could spend all your money, and not worry about anything except showing up to work to keep your job. A lot of young people and temporary workers from other countries worked in the park.
After a couple months working in the dish room I knew I had enough. After almost getting fired for taking some bread it was time for a change. The next job I worked was at the tour desk. There was a tram which did a tour of the valley floor. It was our basic tour. Then a couple other tours were available by bus.
My job was simple. Make reservations and sell tickets. Then when the tram came go out and collect the tickets. It was on one of these tours I met Leonard Cohen. I had spied his name on a co-worker’s screen. Then I saw him, I thought it was him. At the time I just didn’t know for sure. And my mind couldn’t come up with the right words. He was there with other people. I took his ticket and he left on the tour. But I wish I had said, “thanks for inspiring me.”
This job only lasted for the summer. Due to the fact the tour desk closed for most of the year. People are keen to tour in the rain and snow. After this job I went back to the cafeteria. I’m not sure what my job title was going back. I know I cashiered and worked in the coffee corner and served food. But I wasn’t a pot washer, or dish washer. I may have helped out from time to time.
Eventually I got the job hosting at the fine restaurant in the lodge. It was an easy job. Take reservations and seat people as they came to eat. The wait staff had areas and our job was to seat people evenly throughout those areas. But they would never be happy enough. Once doing this job a guy gave me $20 to bump him to the top of the line. But there really wasn’t a long wait. For kids we had crayons and a coloring picture. Part of my job was to wrap those crayons, when itw as slow. But it got busy at times and then the manager would come and help.
It was a good job, and I liked the hours. But when the cashier job at the restaurant opened I changed jobs again. Working as the cashier I was right next to the service bar. And I learned a little about keeping bar and serving drinks. One night when they were short I did both jobs. But probably not very well. But being a cashier is stressful for me because I always want to be perfect. And I was most of the time. The other stress was time. It was a six hour shift, but if I went over I would get in trouble. Because the law said I couldn’t work more than six hours without a lunch. I never wanted the lunch because I would then have to be at work six and a half hours.
When a manager job came open I applied. But I didn’t get the job. Feeling a little stuck and ready for change I requested a new job. The next job I worked was with housekeeping. No, I didn’t have to clean rooms. But a quick story about the restaurant. After switching to cashier I had continued to wrap crayons when I was not doing anything else. Also since they got busy before I did, I would help them seat people. A short time before I was moved from the job the manager asked me to stop wrapping the crayons. She explained the host staff wasn’t doing it anymore and needed to start. Then a couple days later they asked me to stop helping with seating. This was the managers job (not the position I applied for) and he wasn’t doing it anymore. It was kind of funny.
In housekeeping I had the second worst job in the park. My job was two-fold. First was to stock all the closets for the housekeepers. And second was to go around and pick up the dirty linen. It sounds harmless enough but I never was able to catch up. And a big part of the problem was the main person doing the job was a slacker. When I came back I always had to make up for work he did not do. This job drove me crazy because it was so hard for me. I tried as hard as I could and had a complete breakdown.
In the end I broke a window and got fired. I went home and bought some alcohol and sleeping pills. It was one of the lowest points in my life. But things work out for the best even in the darkest of moments. I didn’t take the sleeping pills, even though it was a thought in my mind for days.
I packed up my things. I moved to Stockton. I started college again. And I found a place to live and two jobs over the weekend. My life was going in a new direction. While living in Yosemite I had saved a fair amount of money and was able to afford some nice things.
Over the years I have thought many times about going back to Yosemite. And there are a few more chapters coming about my time in the park. But in the end I don’t want to share a box with a roommate. The bathroom and the kitchen were both separate at the time. Though there are new dorms now. If I went back I would have to be a manager because I don’t want to work for the union. And I would want more money than I was making at the time. It just didn’t and doesn’t feel like a place to live. There is a limited potential for growth. While I was there I loved it more than anything. And I saved money. But like when I lived on the streets: a time came for change.