By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
As the very model of the modern mixed-up man, I have long been baffled by one of the great mysteries of domestic life: If a dishwasher washes dishes, why do you have to wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher?
That is the question I have been asking my wife, Sue, for the past 37 years.
Her thoroughly convincing answer: “Because.”
It does no good to point out that in television commercials for dishwashers, or even for dishwashing detergent, dishes that are encrusted with food chunks the consistency of concrete always come out shiny and spotless.
That wasn’t the case in our house recently. In a spiteful act that would never be shown on TV, the dishwasher conked out. So I had to wash the dishes by hand.
Sometimes Sue washed them and I dried. Or I left them in the dish drainer to dry, which prompted Sue to ask, “Why aren’t you drying the dishes?”
My thoroughly unconvincing answer: “Because.”
One thing was clear (and it wasn’t the wine glass I streaked with a damp dish towel): You don’t appreciate something until you don’t have it anymore.
That’s the way Sue and I felt about the dishwasher, which had served us well for about a dozen years before dying of what I can only assume was food poisoning.
This forced us to wash dishes the old-fashioned way. When doing so, you have to place a basin in the kitchen sink and fill it with water hot enough to scald the hide off a crocodile. First, however, you should squirt in a stream of dishwashing liquid, which will make enough bubbles to obscure the utensils and cause you to slice your thumb on a steak knife.
To prevent me from bleeding to death, which would have stained the counters, Sue bought — and forgive me for being too technical here — a dishwashing thingie. It has a long handle with a screw top on one end, so you can put in detergent, and a brush on the other, so you can scrub the dishes.
That way you don’t have to fill a basin. Instead, you can let the water run for such a long time that it would overflow Lake Superior, which isn’t a good place to wash dishes anyway.
But you have to get them clean because you need something to eat on. After a while, however, taking nourishment intravenously seems like an appealing alternative.
The situation, like the water, reached a boiling point. This happened after dinner one night when I seriously considered killing one of the actors in a dishwasher commercial and going to prison so I wouldn’t have to wash the dishes anymore. But then, I figured, I’d be assigned kitchen duty for the rest of my life.
Before I could say to Sue, “We really ought to buy a new dishwasher,” Sue said to me, “We really ought to buy a new dishwasher.”
So she went to an appliance store and bought one. But when it was delivered, it didn’t fit because the measurements were wrong. (The dishwasher’s, not Sue’s.)
Back to the store went Sue. And back to our house went another dishwasher.
The delivery guys, Tom and Anthony, sympathized with our plight.
“You don’t want to be without a dishwasher for too long,” Tom said.
“It’s bad when you have to wash the dishes yourself,” Anthony chimed in.
After much measuring, and maneuvering, and manpower, Tom and Anthony got the dishwasher to fit.
Then came the moment of truth: “I’m going to give it a test run,” Tom said.
Sue and I held our breath, collectively thinking, “Please, God, make it work. And don’t flood the kitchen.”
Tom pressed some buttons.
“It’s so quiet,” Sue noted.
“Unlike me,” I added.
The dishwasher ran, and the water drained, and, lo, there was no flood in the kitchen.
That evening, with spotless wine glasses, Sue and I toasted our new dishwasher.
“I’ll load it,” I said after dinner.
“Thanks,” Sue said. “And don’t forget to wash the dishes before you put them in.”
Copyright 2015 by Jerry Zezima