Slaves to the dishwasher |

Slaves to the dishwasher

Alex Miller
Alex Miller

The old Kenmore, the needy beast, hums and throbs nearly constantly during the summer. With the kids home all day forever snacking, eating meals and drinking, it’s not unusual for us to run the thing three times a day.And here I thought I’d be saving money on the utilities bill once the warm weather arrived.Since I was a kid, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the dishwasher. As a single adult, I eschewed its charms – such as they are – and washed my meager output by hand. In many places I lived, it wasn’t an option in the first place, since said appliance wasn’t furnished with the rental.This sort of monkish asceticism astounds my children, who would no sooner wash a spoon or plate in the sink than they would wash their own clothes with a scrub board, or chop wood to boil water.Yes, they love the dishwasher, investing it with powers far beyond its actual ability then looking at amazement on the other side when things don’t come out spotless. I’m not sure what they think goes on in there – small organisms, like those “Scrubbing Bubbles” on the TV ads, maybe. Oh, how they wish. I try to explain it’s just high-pressure water squirting around, and that baked-on beans aren’t going to come off no matter how wishful the thinking.Deaf ears, deaf ears. But at least they’re learning things about covalent bonds and the transmogrification of food matter into powerful adhesives through the cycles of a dishwasher.And while they happily load the thing – as willy-nilly and haphazardly as they can in violation of all parentally handed-down exhortations regarding the proper placement of glasses, dishes and silverware – when it comes time to emptying it, you’d think we’d just suggested putting them on trial for war crimes. The hew-and-cry has lessened as the inevitability of the hated task has sunk in over the years, but they’ll still rarely do it without being asked or told. The atmosphere in the room quickly turns chilly, and we’re made to understand – albeit silently – that they resent greatly this intrusion on their time and energy and would much prefer we, the parents, handle this odious task.I know all this is true because it’s the exact same way I felt as a kid. As an adult, I don’t enjoy emptying the dishwasher, but it’s something I can deal with. When I was 12, though, it was hard to imagine a more loathsome chore, made all the more so because of how frequently it needed to be done.I’m not sure why this is. Logically, objectively, it is the simple relocation of a series of items from point A to points B, C, D and sometimes F. The objects in question are clean, more or less, and the task itself takes only a few minutes – less if evil parents have enjoined a sibling to help.Laws of motion probably have more to do with this than anything. With apologies to Newton, children at rest prefer to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force (a parent, phone call from a friend or something that interests them more than emptying a dishwasher, which encompasses 99.999 percent of all known activities).What never fails to amuse me is the trail of shame that accompanies dishwasher-related things. If they encounter something slightly odd that doesn’t go in the normal places – a funnel or garlic press, say – said object can land anywhere from the breadbox to a shelf in the garage. That’s because once the hated task is at hand, it needs to be done with all expediency.Another source of mirth is the stack of dishes that accumulates while the dishwasher is waiting to be unloaded. It never occurs to them to put these in after they’ve emptied, even if some of them are items they left there only moments ago and clearly subject to the rule of leaving no things in the sink. Somehow, they feel “grandfathered-in” by the fact that the dishwasher was unavailable when they had to deal with the plate, and since washing by hand is not an option, it goes in the sink.Whatever. The bottom line is we don’t have a maid, so the kids empty the dishwasher. There is one small solace for them, though: With the 4-year-old able to help by doing the silverware now, they can share the misery. When I hear them cracking the whip to get him on task, it sounds awfully familiar.In fact, they sound like my wife and I. And thus does the dishwasher slavery get handed down, in the natural order of things, to the next generation.Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931, or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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