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Suburban Island

The Eternal Dishwasher Cycle
Tuesday, Sept. 09, 2003, 4:16 p.m.

QUESTION: How many times can you wash the same glass?

WHAT I LEARNED: Cleanliness is a moving target.

whirlpool dishwasher ad

I have been considering the mystery of the dishwasher. I mean, you put something dirty into it and if you scrape any leftovers off the surface pretty well, give it a good soak to loosen any stubborn cooked on food, add a little soap and water, and twist the dial, then voila Ė those same dirty dishes are washed up and ready to go again in no time. If you ever got stuck doing the dishes in a no-dishwasher-on-the-premises house, you know that it really something that should not be taken for granted or tampered with in any way. Dishwashing machines know what they are doing if you just leave them alone to do it and put in that stuff that makes the spots go away once in a while.

This cycle of wonder was disturbed today however by my husband, who obviously didnít think my wifely ears would hear him stopping the dishwasher midstream and clearly placing something on a rack within.

I knew without going upstairs that it was my husband. First, he had just walked in the door. Second, he has been un-teachable, or perhaps just unreachable, in the art of washing clothes in a clothes washer Ė merrily tossing in white socks with black sweaters, new red tee-shirts with good snowy white dress tops, and never ever using a drier sheet. In this moment when I hear the dishwasher open and the clinking of something being deposited mid-cycle into it, I realize the truth. My husband breaks the rules with dishwashers too. Some cup, or dish, or erstwhile spoon was not going to get the full benefit of being washed in our dishwasher. It just seems unfair somehow, doesnít it?

Some people fight over putting the cap of the toothpaste. My husband and I go to battle over badly sorted laundry and dishes put into the dishwasher after the machine is halfway done. Perhaps I am being picky, about the dishwasher but you see, this load of dishes is no ordinary load of dishes. In fact, earlier this morning this load of dishes had already earned for itself the dubious honor of being the topic of my diary entry today. But that was before the mid-cycle incident. This morning, I noticed that the dishwasher door was open. This is because my husband canít bear to see the little red cycle-done light glowing on the dishwasher for any length of time. Okay, major energy drain? An aesthetic consideration? None of us are sure. We do know one thing however, once the door is open, no one with a dirty dish in hand knows whether the stuff in the dishwasher is clean or dirty. This means that Ė at least for me Ė it is tempting to assume that the dishes are dirty and pile a few more in. Pretty soon you are eating off paper plates and wondering why you canít stuff another thing in the dishwasher.

Last night at our house is a case in point. My daughter commented at dinnertime that there were no spoons or plates left in the kitchen. Odd. Today, I noticed that there were some glasses in the dishwasher that seemed to never move from the same exact spot on the top rack. How odd was that? Were they undergoing some sort of ritual suburban cleaning routine of which I had not been informed? Maybe, it was a kind of dishware purgatory - since they are still not on the shelf but being rewashed yet again. Thatís because we really donít know for sure if we are hallucinating about their constant presence or the cups really are in need of some dishwasher time.

That is why I did a special load of dishes in our trusty dishwasher today and this is why the mid-cycle dirty dish really created mental distress and trauma Ė first for me Ė and after that my husband, who got a good talking to about dishwasher protocol and basic kitchen hygiene.

It makes me think that the whole thing doesnít stop there but that I have simply glimpsed the tip of the iceberg. I know that sometimes our dish detergent is so watered down that itís fruitless to even bother pouring it into the special time-release dish detergent dispenser. I have also become aware that some people might occasionally be drinking their favorite beverages straight from the carton when Iím not around. I know recently someone picked the chunks of cookie dough out of the carton of ice cream and then deposited it neatly back into the freezer. No one has fessed up to that one yet although inquiries were made.

Itís probably best I donít know. If I thought I could get away with it, Iíd wish that load of dishes again just to make sure that an entire dishwasher full of dishes was actually clean at the same time.

Todayís Suburban Strategy: Very Clever...

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