My Life with Machines

I love the modern convenience of having a dishwasher. It’s not just because I’m lazy, or “too busy”. True, dishwashers are real time savers. But I guess I really love them because nothing can quite give your dishes the machine-clean feeling that you get from a good “mechanical” washing.

I’ve lived in my San Francisco apartment for just over 10 years. Rents were high when I moved in, but since then (thanks in large part to the tech boom), I’ve seen rents nearly double. The running joke between the long-term residents is that we’re all living in our LAST San Francisco apartment. Because without our existing rent-control, we could no longer afford to live here.

Because this is probably my last apartment (and because it’s a good idea in general), I personally think it’s smart to stay on good terms with your landlord. I live in an older building (nearly 40 years old), so if something breaks, I fix it (when I can). A little respect and appreciation is a good thing, especially in exchange for affordable rent.

So, that means my dishwasher has to be about 40 years old too, at this point. Old and cranky. I know the feeling. But in it’s defense, the machine has always worked faithfully. I have no complaints really. True, it’s not an attractive machine. A product of the 70’s, it has kind of a clunky design… bulky, metal and ugly. It’s also a bit noisy. I once joked that the folks at the airport called and asked if I could turn off my dishwasher, they were having trouble hearing the jets come in. But whatever, it cleans my dishes.

Shortly after I first moved in, being young(er) and stupid(er), I was in a hurry to go out one night. I had loaded the dirty dishes, but was out of dishwashing detergent. So in my haste, I substituted a packet of laundry soap instead. I reasoned that it’s basically just soap anyway. I’ll try it… just this once. I can always run the dishwasher again later with the right detergent, if it doesn’t work.

After returning from dinner that night, I was greeted to a kitchen floor completely flooded with a half-inch of sudsy water. In fact, the suds were still oozing out of the dishwasher when I arrived. Not only was the kitchen flooded, but a good 5 feet of the water was currently soaking into the living room carpet as well. So I spent the rest of the evening sopping up the sticky, cold, soapy water. Pointing fans at the floors with the windows open, I desperately tried to dry the wood floors before they warped and everything became smelly and moldy. The next day my landlord, very understandingly, asked me if I had a leak. Unknowingly, the soapy water from my apartment had managed to leak down a floor, spilling into the shared laundry room and garage below. Ooops, my bad. Lesson learned. Use the right soap.

Soon after the “soap event”, I noticed that things began to change. My husband and I have a definite routine in the evening. He usually cooks, we eat dinner and watch some TV, then I clean the kitchen. But I began to notice that the dishwasher was taking longer to finish the dishes than it once had. It seemed like it took a full 40 minutes now for the dishwasher to finish it’s job. I didn’t think much of it.

A couple weeks went by, and I was busy with my day-to-day life. I happened to look at a clock when I started the dishwasher. I know for a fact that the dishwasher now took a full 50 minutes to complete its cycle! I thought, “It is actually getting slower?” So I examined the dishwasher for visible damage. Nothing. It made no unusual sounds. It wasn’t leaking. It’s seemed to be running just fine. And the dishes were still getting cleaned, just more slowly.

My earlier “soap mishap” couldn’t have damaged the machine, somehow. Could it have? I mean, it’s primitive electronics are located on the top portion of the machine. It’s so-called “logic” would have been unaffected by my earlier sudsy mistake. But somehow, the machine has gotten slower.

On a Saturday some weeks later, my brother, his wife and their little boy came over for dinner. I don’t get to see them as often as I like, because we live 3 hours apart. So I spent most of my day running around doing errands, and preparing to cook us all dinner. I was running a bit late when I finally returned home, but I still had about an hour before they would arrive. Absentmindedly, I forgot to start the dishwasher before I left, so I started it as soon as I returned home. I’d still have plenty of time, I thought.

But somehow, the dishwasher was now taking over 60 minutes to finish. That’s over 1 hour! Just to do the dishes. I could have just washed them by hand, but that’s not the point.

Now, I’m not foolish enough to assign blame to an inanimate object. But if this were a human dishwasher, it would definitely be time to sit down and have a serious talk. I mean, what’s the problem? I certainly understand we all have things to do. And if you can’t do your job, I can’t do mine. After all, I need clean pots and pans to cook. Well obviously, I can’t sit down and have a serious talk with my dishwasher. I mean, I’m not crazy.

So, that brings us to today. The dishwasher now takes a full 90-minutes to do the dishes. And I have learned that patience is something that has to be cultivated. But, the problem is… I swear I just heard the dishwasher talking to the microwave.

— oOo —

[This story is based on a short story that I read years ago. I’ve long since forgotten the author/title. But I do remember that it made me smile. So this personalized version is respectfully dedicated to that unknown author. Thank you.]

P.S. I finally got a new dishwasher.

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