By Glen Donaldson
Even while in the act of asking, long-suffering Gwendolyn O’Malley felt the tiredness that comes with uttering pointless words.
“How hard would it be to put your dirty glass in the dishwasher instead of leaving it on the counter?” Her self-aware-grump husband Art, reclined in the floral-patterned lounge chair not ten feet away and busy entertaining himself with a fifty-year-old episode of ‘Green Acres’, returned fire in the same milky-adult tone he adopted when talking to their grandchildren and animals – “Don’t know. I’ve never tried.”
The 76 year-old retired milkman considered himself just another techno-phobe trying to make their way in a digital-age, info-saturated world. In contrast, wife Gwendolyn regarded herself as no less than a modern gadget deity, confident and proud of her ability to run a house, and especially the kitchen of that house, generously equipped with all manner of labor-saving appliances.
Over the years, one appliance in particular, the dishwasher – which, amusingly, Art often referred to as the ‘aquatech’ – had been the source of a number of petty squabbles. Art had learnt the hard way some time back that for beloved Gwendolyn, something as seemingly non-grievous as placing items on the upper rack when they were supposed to go on the lower rack – or vice versa – was a lock-uppable offence.
That hadn’t stopped him from boldly inserting a many and varied odd assortment of everyday objects – everything from finger nail clippers, dentures, dirty shed tools and the plastic cactus plant that stood next to their front door welcome mat to assorted hair razors, hubcaps from their prized Ford Pinto and even Art’s own flip flops into the dishwasher so that they might be cleaned. Hi innovation also extended to using the steam from the machine to force-ripen avocados.
Knowing full well such unorthodox use of their automated ‘dish pit’ would never meet with the approval of the woman he had once referred to in the heat of battle as the ‘house crocodile’ (all mouth, no ears and bloody sharp teeth), naturally the dishwasher ‘experiments’ had been planned well in advance to coincide with Gwendolyn’s visits to the shops or coffee catch-ups with friends.
On one memorable occasion however, Art’s maverick, man-moment dishwasher ways had been welcomed. Ingeniously, he’d thought to include one of his wife’s favorite dresses through not one but three successive suds-packed cycles in order to remove a Pinot Noir red wine stain. It was an option Gwendolyn herself would never have considered. Apparently the mix of different chemicals swirling inside the dishwasher compared to those inside the washing machine had made all the difference
An unprophesied happy ending like that had earned Art an elated kiss on the cheek. A verbal orchid followed a few days later. While enjoying the salty, oceanic air of a beach vacation and with warm grains of sands grinding between both their toes, Gwendolyn turned to her husband of fifty-three years and remarked, “You hear waves crashing Arty. Now thanks to you dearest, I hear our dishwasher.”