My wife carefully inspects every dish that comes out of our dishwasher.
I do not know why she does this. She either distrusts the washer or the guy who loads it.
I can see distrusting the machine. It is old and has not aged gracefully. Whenever we start it before going to bed, it keeps us up most of the night with its gargling and clunking about. But worst of all, it just does not do a good job.
I thought the role of a dishwasher was embodied in its name – to wash dishes. Ours does not see it that way. It is only willing to assist in the task while requiring me to thoroughly scrub every pot and platter before feeding it into the machine. It also requires that my wife double-check my work.
Which makes me long for the old days when my buddy Stan and I shared an apartment.
It was a shabby little place on the second floor of a two story brownstone. We got it cheap because the uninsulated tar roof boiled in the summer and dripped icicles in the winter – but we loved the place because the other tenants made us look conservative by comparison.
In short, it was heaven.
We figured housekeeping would be the least of our worries because both Stan and I came from the same tradition. Our parents promoted themselves to management by relegating all household tasks to their children. All the chores rotated on a weekly basis, so everyone knew how to do everything and Stan and I resolved to maintain the tradition by cooking one week and cleaning the next; we would switch tasks on Friday.
It worked great for the first week. Stan launched his duties by cooking spaghetti.
Our kitchen looked like a scene out of The Godfather with ground beef and pork sizzling in the big frying pans and onions and garlic sauteing in the smaller ones. It all got whisked into a massive pot of simmering fresh tomato sauce, along with olive oil, rosemary, oregano and thyme.
Stan and I ate well because we worked long night shifts in a steel foundry and supper had to stay with us until breakfast. So the meals were fabulous but the mess was staggering. It took me longer to clean up than it did for Stan to prepare. But no matter, I took comfort in the fact that by the next week, Stan would clean.
Or so I thought.
A week later, I inaugurated my cooking duties with a pot of fish chili and left the pot in the sink for Stan to clean.
After supper it was covered by dirty dishes and cups.
On the second day, the next day’s dishes joined the party.
On the third day, the accumulating pots, pans and dishes breached the walls of the sink and overflowed onto the counter.
By the fourth day, the clutter flooded onto the floor and swelled in a torrent that threatened to engulf the hall.
I reminded Stan of our agreement.
“You worry too much.,” he said.
“Perhaps,” I said, “but we are out of pots and pan, so don’t expect me to cook.”
“No problem,” he said.
By evening, I had a clean pot and a pan – except I didn’t recognize them.
This continued until Friday morning. By then I was beyond anger. On that evening, I was scheduled for dish washing duty and Stan had done nothing all week.
But he came through. After running errands I returned in time for super and found the floor, counter and sink spotless.
Stan had just finished baking lasagna. “Grab a plate,” he said.
I opened the cupboard.
“Uh Stan,” I said, “these are not our plates.”
“Yes, they are.”
“No, they are not. Where did you get them?”
“I picked them up at the Goodwill store this afternoon,” he said.
“So where are our old ones?”
“In the dumpster,” he said, “I can’t stand doing dishes.”
After the shock wore off, I had a suggestion. “Why don’t we use paper plates?”
“You have no class,” he said.