Yes. If you can recall a 1950s standard of living, you will sense that thataway does appear to be the way we’re headed: back to what was once the future. Wonders of the Internet aside — the glories of turning on your air-conditioning with your Dick Tracy Two Way Wrist Radio while you’re navigating your way home from the office with your car’s GPS (like you can’t remember how to get home?), the awesome Ring-enabled joys of watching a porch pirate steal your Amazon package off your doorstep — all those marvels notwithstanding, our real standard of living is slipping. We are skateboarding not toward Hell, my friends, but toward the Third World.
Can you, for example, compare Donald Trump with Dwight Eisenhower? Not a chance. God help us, even Ronald Reagan looks First-World by comparison. Neither Eisenhower nor Reagan tried to be anything other than a president; nor would they ever have aspired to the rank of wannabe Balkan dictator.
But we digress. National and international predicaments aside, IMHO our personal standard of living is slipping. None of the shiny baubles can change some fundamental facts:
• You can’t afford health insurance unless you earn about 15 times more than your father earned. Inflation-adjusted.
• Your washing machine doesn’t work. It pretends to work, but it doesn’t get your clothes clean and it delivers them, complete with rips and tears, in a knotted wad.
• Your car is over-gadgeted and underpowered, unless you paid through the schnozzola for a six-banger, and even then…well… Ever seen a plasticized car with the heft of a Styrofoam cup go airborne?
• Your kids’ education is a joke.
• Quite possibly the university-level education that you are still paying for(!) is a joke.
• You can’t buy an appliance, a piece of plumbing, or a set of daily-wear clothing that wasn’t made in China or Bangladesh or some other sub-minimum wage waypoint.
• And consequently you or your semi-delinquent kid whose head hurts when he’s made to sit in a classroom or stare at computer code for hours on end cannot get a factory job that will support even one person, to say nothing of a family.
• Your kids have a rubber-stamp education from a public school staffed by underpaid teachers because both of you have to work to keep a roof over your head, meaning no parent is home to oversee the kids’ learning and recreational activities.
• Drug abuse and untreated mental illness and poverty are so rampant in this country that you can’t go anywhere without being accosted by beggars. Not even Upper Richistan is free of panhandlers on every corner.
• Reactionary forces now working to eliminate Social Security and Medicare will have accomplished their goals by the time your kids have grown up. This will mean that in their old age the kids will have to fend for themselves, likely through dire poverty, just as their great-great grandparents did. They themselves may end up begging on the corner.
• Yea verily, if you’re not balancing on the edge of the grave just now, your adult kids will likely have to help support you in your old age as programs that kept your parents and grandparents out of old-age poverty go away. Well. Assuming the kids can get a job, that is. Could go the other way around: you may have to help them through your old age, and only God can help them if you use up your savings before you can pass it along to them.
Whence this rant?
The dishwasher, that’s whence. Once again we are presented, as we contemplate replacing it, with an array of household appliances that don’t work and that are engineered to crap out in about five to seven years.
When I moved into this house, 14 years ago, I replaced the previous owners’ leaking Kenmore with a Bosch. I could afford it: I had a job. Remember those?
It has been an excellent machine. Despite one minor annoyance — European dishwashers don’t automatically run a “dry” cycle, so anything that’s not placed at an angle on a rack will come out dripping water — it’s every bit as quiet as advertised, it has run reliably with minimal need for repairs, and it cleans the dishes well without requiring you to prewash everything.
Lately it has developed a weird and increasingly LOUD noise. We — i.e., the guys down at B&B Appliance and I — are hoping the problem is “just” (heh) the water pump, in which case it can be repaired and probably will run a few more months or maybe even years. But if it’s the motor’s bearings, then, oh joy, I’ll have to buy a new dishwasher.
During the past few dishwasher-deprived days, I’ve (naturally) been washing dishes by hand. This morning it took something under three minutes to wash the breakfast dishes.
You know…that machine takes something like two hours to wash a load of dishes.
Yeah, it probably gets them cleaner than I do. But it’s easy enough to sanitize a rack-full of handwashed dishes: bring a pot of water to a boil and pour it over them.
That’s what my mother used to do.
I hate washing dishes. When I was a kid in the late 1950s, girls were expected to spend their lives as “home-makers”: taking care of a man, keeping his house clean, raising his kids, and tending to the suburban flower gardens. Indeed, girls were required to take home-making classes: I was made, by law, to take a year of home ec in junior high school and another semester of it in high school. So when I wanted to be studying physics and calculus, I was learning how buy groceries and plan healthy meals and clean carpets and sew a blouse and manage a budget.
That’s the way life was then.
Will we go back to that dichotomy between “men’s work” and “women’s work”? It’s hard to imagine. Yet somebody has to do these chores. If we throw out all the “illegal” immigrants (whose forebears lived in this part of the country long before white folks came along), then someone has to do them. What do you bet it won’t be the guys?
But again we digress.
The point here is that not only were the schools geared to train you up to be a good wife and mother, but your mother was expected to home-school you in these skills. And since mine also hated to wash dishes and clean house, as soon as I was old enough to pick up a dishrag she impressed me into duty has her de facto cleaning lady.
This was a good thing: I do know how to run a household. And interestingly, I know how to wash dishes. Very efficiently.
More efficiently than a dishwasher can do the job, come to think of it.
So…what I’m figuring is that if the B&B guy can get the Bosch working this morning, I will do the same thing I’ve done with the wall ovens: turn it off. Retire it, so that if and when I go to sell this house, it will appear to be operable to a home inspector.
Then I will not have to go out and buy another dishwasher.
How can I count the ways that I do not want to pony up $500 to $2,000 for yet another appliance that doesn’t work?
The dudes down at B&B, who are given to a certain alarming honesty, will tell you flat out that the new politically correct, environmentally correct rules have had the same effect on new dishwashers as they’ve had on the ludicrous “efficient” clothes washers: the damn things don’t work.
They recommend only one washer — a GE — as still competent to wash whatever you put in the top rack. And it lacks sound insulation, so of course you can’t turn it on when you want to watch TV or go to bed. Lovely.
Their repairman still likes Bosch. But those start at around $1,000. And we’ve seen with the hateful Samsung washer that money does not buy a working household appliance these days.
Even if it did, without a job I no longer can afford to pay that kind of money to replace an appliance. Or much of anything else.
With the oven likely to burn out any time you run the broiler or even turn it to 400 degrees, I have turned it off and left it off. And y’know what? I don’t miss it. The covered propane grill and a modestly priced countertop oven do every “oven” task I need to do, with no problem. I can even bake bread in these devices…without bringing on a repairman’s bill.
The last time I paid to have the oven fixed, I flipped its breaker switch to “off” and converted the thing to storage cabinets. Those two ovens (expensively combined in one unit) now hold cutting boards, large pots and pans, and the pizza pans that came with the new countertop oven.
Now, if you look at that dishwasher just right, what you see is the biggest dish-drying rack this side of the Park Sheraton. (Ah yes…another icon of the 1950s. We used to stay there when we came back to the US for my father’s long leaves…)
I don’t cook that much anymore. Most of the cooking I do takes place on the backyard grill — meaning I rarely gum up a pan, except to cook the dogs’ food every two or three weeks. So the truth is, washing the dishes is absurdly easy. And if you fill a sink or plastic bucket with some soapy water and drop the dishes into it as you go, you’re not exactly having to “wash” them, in the sense of “scrub.” Basically once you soak them clean all you have to do is wipe, rinse, and drain. Seriously: it’s not an exaggeration to say this morning’s breakfast dishes were done in under three minutes.
So. I’m thinking that if this machine needs to be replaced but can be fixed so as to limp along for a few more months, then I won’t replace it. Instead, same as the oven: repurpose it. The oven becomes new kitchen cabinetry; the dishwasher becomes a handy-dandy dish-drying rack.
And I revive my 1950s Happy Homemaker skills…
* * *
Exeunt the appliance repair dude… Welp, the repair guy arrived bright and early. I must have been his first call this morning. That’s nice: now I can do some running around before it gets crushingly hot today.
Mercifully, the only thing wrong with the thing seems to have been clogged squirters on the top and bottom arms. He cleaned them out, using an amazing piece of high-tech gear: a short length of copper wire with the insulation scraped off one end. (Note to self: buy copper wire at HD.)
And away he went. The cost of a service call saved me from having to buy a new machine, or junk the one I’ve got and forget it.
Before this came up, I’d bought a bottle of one of those dishwasher cleaners that you put in the dinnerware rack, where the heat of the running washer melts a wax plug and then dispenses whatever gawdawful poisonous stuff they’ve sold you. These products do seem to clean the washer well. So…it’s running that stuff through a cycle right now, which will be the last cycle it’ll be asked to run for awhile.
My plan now is to wash the dishes by hand most of the time, but run the washer on the shortest cycle I can contrive (Bosch instructions are nigh unto inscrutable…) about once a week. Normally I only use it about once every two or three days. That’s why it’s lasted 14 years, virtually trouble-free. If I reduce its usage by about 50%, that presumably also will extend its life.
As long as its functional, I guess it should be run now and again. We’re told (elsewhere…and no, I’m not lookin’ it up right this minute 🙂 ) that the rubber gaskets in the bottom of a dishwasher shouldn’t be allowed to dry out.
That notwithstanding, SDXB uses his dishwasher as little as possible, and he doesn’t seem to have any gasket problem. He has a moral objection to dishwashers and refuses to use them, except after a large dinner party. He used to refuse to let me use mine, when he lived with me. That’s why he doesn’t anymore. Live with me, that is.