Monday, March 6, 2017

Lessons in gratitude; or, my dishwasher is broken

Our dishwasher died recently, a whole six months after the warranty expired. Of course, right before the warranty expired the dishwasher started leaking, and we had to call for a repair, but the repair was paid for. I felt like I'd cheated the system, but I should have known better.

This means it's the second time in six months the dishwasher has broken, so the writing is on the wall. It would likely cost more to fix it than it is worth. The unit isn't even five years old yet, but I've come to learn that appliances come in three categories these days: cheap crap, mid-priced crap, and hideously expensive crap. Any of them can wow you by lasting more than five whole years (why, yes, darling, that was sarcasm; however did you guess?), and any of them can disappoint you by being lemons from the get-go. You can buy a product that was manufactured overseas cheaply by aspiring college students and it can be a workhorse of a machine; you can buy a product made in the USA by people who know more about tools and machinery than you ever will, and it can suffer catastrophic failure the third time you use it, or the first time you have company after the purchase, whichever happens first. On the other hand the cheaply-made foreign one can break easily, and the USA-made one can work well, which will lead you down a strange path of unfounded trust the next time you have to buy an appliance. You will eventually be tempted to stop buying appliances altogether instead of risking another round of disappointment--but this is not a great idea either.

Don't get me wrong: I know perfectly well that a dishwasher is a luxury item. I am aware that this is what gets called a "first world problem" in lots of circles. I know that otherwise normal people don't own dishwashers or own them and use them for storage (I'm not sure what they store there--dishes would make sense, but I think a strong case could be made for jewelry or fly-fishing equipment too.) I have even met women who insist that they LOVE washing dishes by hand and they can't imagine NOT washing dishes by hand and our ancestors ALWAYS washed dishes by hand and the pioneers washed all their dishes in the RIVER and there's no better way in the world to spend your evenings than WASHING DISHES BY HAND. When they break out their special "Ma Ingalls' Favorite Dishwashing Dress and Bonnet Costume" it is time to leave.

Still, I have made peace with the fact that I like owning a dishwasher, even though they are frustrating little monsters with inconvenient leaks and occasional glitches and inexplicable lapses that lead to mysterious substances on the dishes that you sort of hope are just dishwasher soap residue. My love of dishwashers is especially strong because these days, with my husband at work and my daughters attending college locally, if the dishwasher is broken I become the dish washer, and I don't much like it. It's amazing how many dishes four people who aren't even here during the day can manage to leave behind in the morning and generate again in the evening, and this in spite of paper plates and whatnot being available. And then there's the cooking dishes I dirty by lavishly and luxuriously making dinner for my family, instead of calling for pizza and/or scouring websites that promise one-dish meals (note: they never are one-dish meals. I used a recipe for muffins that promised you'd only dirty up one bowl and spoon, and besides the obvious omission (the muffin pan!) they just sneakily slipped in the mention of a beaten egg to be added to the dry ingredients, as if you could somehow beat the egg inside its shell or something). And there are the cups, which I swear are being beamed into my kitchen by mischievous aliens bent on discovering how many cups can be spontaneously generated into the sink in the home of an average redheaded female human whose dishwasher is broken before she cracks. Some would say this blog post is a sign that their experiment is about to come to an end.

I have to admit, though, that this situation has been a good lesson in gratitude. It wasn't that long ago that my biggest complaint in the morning was that people were leaving dishes in the sink for me to load into the dishwasher after they rushed out the door instead of taking the approximately three seconds it takes to put the dish in the dishwasher instead of the sink. Now I will happily load and unload the dishwasher by myself, just as soon as I decide which of the cheaper models will be the one to take a chance on (hey, if they're going to be frustrating and prone to glitchiness and breaking regardless of how much you spend, you might as well spend as little as possible, which is fortunate because we don't have extra money to spend anyway). It doesn't take very much shift in our perspectives to realize how silly many of our complaints are, and how little we appreciate what we have. Hot running water is itself something of a miracle--after all, I could be lugging a wooden tub full of dishes to the RIVER in a different era, and I doubt it would have seemed like anything to celebrate.

Hopefully as Lent progresses I will be able to see the opportunities for gratitude and remember not to take my blessings for granted. Hopefully this lesson will not require the breaking of any more appliances. Because the fridge is getting older by the minute, and the stove has been threatening to leave us for at least a year.