My wife insists upon carefully inspecting every dish that comes out of our dishwasher. Why she does this, I do not know. Either she distrusts the washer or she distrusts me.
I can see distrusting the machine. It is old and has not aged gracefully. When we start it before going to bed it keeps us up all night with its gargling, gagging and clunking about.
Frankly, it is a slacker.
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 which requires 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. We both came from large families whose 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 the next week, Stan would clean.
Or so I thought.
A week later, I inaugurated my cooking duties with a pot of fish chili. The dish was well received by a few friends who dropped by and when no one lingered around to help clean – the dishes remained in the sink.
On the second day, the dishes were still there.
On the third day, they 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 (the day we switched duties) and by that time I was beyond anger. “I know what you are up to,” I accused, “you plan to dump the dishes on me when our chores roll-over.”
“You have trust issues, don’t you?” he said.
“Only with you,” I told him.
But Stan came through.
On Friday, after from 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 aren’t our plates.”
“Yes, they are.”
“No, they are not. Where did you get them?”
“I picked them up at the Goodwill this afternoon,” he said.
“So where are our old dishes?”
“Where do you think?” he asked.
“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.
Two weeks later, we had new dishes again and so it went.