Lessons From My Dishwasher.

What the world should become (hopefully).

Image for post
Image for post
Courtesy of Dreamstime

“There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.” Frank Zappa

It isn’t often I look to the dishwasher for answers. Half the time I don’t even look to it to do my dishes. I ignored mine for the better part of two years. Then Wendy came along, filled it up, put in some soap and rinser, and the next thing I know, they’re best friends.

Every day she lovingly fills it up, telling me how to position the plates, where glasses go, even how knifes should be upside down. We fill that dishwasher like it’s a gaping mouth. Instead of a few plates, there’s eight, instead of a couple of glasses, there’s ten. The silverware, the pots and pans — everything goes in there. It’s like a Grateful Dead concert.

So here’s the first lesson: My dishwasher isn’t a dishwasher anymore. It’s an entry, a porthole to a world of consumer extremes. It’s our world, in other words, the one we’re all realizing is broken. Do we know why it’s broken? My dishwasher does. This isn’t a world of modernism or liberalism or conservativism. It’s a world of dishwasher-ism.

Like our washers and dryers, we don’t think about what we throw in these appliances of convenience. We know the capacity, we fill them to capacity. Then we congratulate ourselves on getting the job done.

It never occurs to us that these conveniences rule us. As long as they work, we don’t care. If a Maytag upright wants to run for president, what’s wrong with that? It’s got a better record than Donald Trump. He’s a bankrupt narcissist with an overgrown pompadour. Maytags are reliable, dependable appliances. Dependability and a smooth appearance count for a lot these days.

When people talk about the “new normal,” my dishwasher thinks that’s a hoot. Sure, we can change, we can learn what’s important and what’s not. We can appreciate our family more, work less, recognize the state of our environment. That doesn’t mean we won’t shove everything in every appliance, expecting a fresh, healthy gleaming result?

And, sure, we’ve seen what just two months of industrialized inactivity has done. The hole in the Arctic ozone filled, fish and porpoises are returning to the Venitian canals, mountains can be seen for the first time in years around Katmandu. Satellite photos show China looking like a clean plate.

All of this should open our eyes — but it won’t. My dishwasher sees this better than most. It understands that we’re on a collision course between convenience and evolution. Dinosaurs died because a meteor came before they starved to death from overgrazing. Unless a meteor comes along again, we’ll probably starve, too— not just from lack food, but from overall consumerist greed.

During the anti-lockdown movement in Michigan, we heard protestors talk about the infringement of their constitutional rights. Except one placard told the story better than most: “We need haircuts.” One woman described it as “inhuman” that she couldn’t get her roots done.

What kind of democracy exits where everyday freedoms aren’t respected? Doesn’t the Constitution say, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” Who the hell’s happy with unfrosted hair, or toenails that could open a can of tuna?

Again, my dishwasher has to chuckle. As much as we think we control our lives, there’ll be armed riots in the streets, and governors will be dragged from their houses like rabid dogs, before our nation’s dishwashers are left empty.

A preacher in Texas talked about tyranny. “We’ve seen this in other countries,” he said. “It’s called dictatorship, and we must rise up, making every state and local government aware that we won’t submit to rules of law that have no basis in our Constitution.”

Well, as even my dishwasher knows, churches support capitalism because capitalism supports them. No denominational congregation would survive without government funding. To suggest anarchy — even in the interest of personal freedoms — is a bit like saying, “I’ll take your money, but I’ll be damned if I let you — or anyone — tells me what I can do with it.”

Our rights and freedoms exist in a framework of duality. What we do affects others, what they do affects us. It works its way down. A restaurant in Castle Rock opened for business on Mother’s Day. It was packed, despite coronavirus numbers increasing daily. The convenience of food supersedes the inconvenience of viruses.

In other words, these people exercised their freedoms at the expense of others. No doubt they went home afterwards, washed their hands, put on the dishwasher, and felt liberated in the process. Okay, maybe — just maybe — they risked someone’s life. Then again, the dishes are clean.

The day governments tell us to turn off our dishwashers, we’ll realize one immutable truth. Having the right to an opinion is no longer the ultimate freedom. Real freedom is our right to clean dishes and laundry.

The other week, Dr. Fauci, the top U.S. health leader, said the coronavirus didn’t begin in a Wuhan lab. He further explained that the origin of the disease isn’t nearly as critical as how it travels.

Up until last March, airlines were having a banner year. They took millions of people to destinations for Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s, March Break and the Lunar New Year. Travellers became the carriers, celebrations became the proverbial Petri dish. If there’s a lesson here, it might be that tradition and sentimentality kill. Then again, why aren’t we looking at travel itself?

Are we travelling too much? Could the re-circulation of air on modern jets be telling us something about airborne diseases? Before we demand China clean up their wet markets, shouldn’t we be cleaning up international flights? Does that matter to us as much as clean dishes?

We want to know how governments can hold the economy hostage, putting millions out of work. We call it tyranny, yet we’ve been tyrannized all along.

Think of the big corporations asking for bailouts. The only reason they don’t have financial reserves is because they spent them buying back stock. The top 50 billionaires have made huge profits from this pandemic. Why? Because the very technology we consider essential, like Netflix, Facebook — even my dishwasher — are only essential because of our dependence.

We see tyranny as a threat to our freedoms—not our lifestyles. It’s one thing to restrict our right to assembly, another to realize we’ve got payments on our cars and trucks. God knows what we’re going to do if the price of gas goes up because, frankly, we drive gas-guzzlers.

Senior’s residences aren’t the epicentres of the coronavirus. The epicentres are the people who brought the disease into these facilities. Nobody is to blame because nobody knew. This is an accidental virus carried by well-meaning individuals who didn’t realize these senior’s homes weren’t prepared to handle even a common cold.

One historian, Margaret McMillan, brought up an interesting point in her Globe and Mail article. Our early lacklustre response to the coronavirus reflected a belief that we are masters at curing diseases. We cured leprosy, whooping cough, scarlet fever, typhoid and, to a certain extent, polio (starting to emerge again).

If the thought of a pandemic seemed impossible, it’s because we put faith where we shouldn’t have. The Republicans figured they could economize by gutting agencies like the CDC, creating ignorance through a simple lack of communication. When death rates soared, Trump turned the problem over to Mike Pence, figuring Pence couldn’t screw it up any worse than it already is.

So what we call tyranny today is really just a bad clean-up effort. Protests follow because pandemics are just too inconvenient. “Nobody asked that ‘rona here in the first place,” one protestor said. And what about this “new normal”? Nobody voted for it, did they? And what does it really mean? Are we going to be inconvenienced or liberated?

Well, folks, it might be a bit of both, considering this pandemic only reflects the weaknesses in our present system. We need to do a lot more than we’re doing now—particularly in our daily lives. Consumerism has to change, travel has to change, consumption has to change. We can’t keep looking at end product, forgetting who suffers in the process.

We want low oil and gas prices, forgetting what it’s doing to our climate. We want freedom, but we can’t ignore what freedom is in the first place. Without proper medical care, without health, what have we got? I think Kris Kirstofferson said it best in his song Me and Bobby McGee: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Put another way, we worry about spots on glasses, but not our prejudices. We never forget to empty the dishwasher, yet we forget family and friends. We work long hours to buy a new dishwasher, then renovate the kitchen to match.

All these things have to change, starting with the dishwasher itself. I’m not going to use mine as much as I have. Maybe I’ll go back to washing dishes by hand. I don’t know yet. But I know I’ll have to make changes.

We all will. That’s according to my dishwasher. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t the talking variety. Actually, according to the manual, it’s not.

I really have been inside too long.

Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Skyhorse Press or Simon and Schuster for more details.

Image for post
Image for post

Written by

I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store