Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Choose Washing Dishes, Of Course

I have often said,
and only partially in jest,
that when the socialists take over
I’ll choose dishwashing
for my new career
I mean, if we all get paid the same
why not?

It’s so perfect
you can always see
what needs to be done
and easily measure success
clean or not yet clean enough
you can work by yourself
or with a friend
and listen to music,
as loud as you want
others usually leave you alone
for fear of having to get involved
your efforts contribute
to the health and enjoyment of others
and if you break a dish,
it can be easily replaced
they take the money
out of your check

it’s not like messing with
somebody’s head or soul
like teaching or ministry
I’ve done both
what if you set someone up
to believe things,
commit to things,
base their life on things
and it turns out
you were wrong?

I mean, if you really mess up
washing dishes
you might give people
a case of diarrhea
but that’s usually
gone in a few days
and everybody
will soon need more clean dishes
to start eating, again

I firmly believe that manual trumps machine
you are fully there, holding each piece
scrubbing, rinsing, stacking to dry
I know that it’s better to use
the machine, it’s more sanitary
and air drying beats towels
I usually give in to the convenience
yet rejoice when systems are
down or unavailable
like when camping
where we heat the water
fill the tubs
and wash while talking
to others gathered around the fire

one summer at camp
I was a dishwasher
it was the year I met Connie
I was seventeen
and worked with other guys
in the back of a kitchen
that dripped with steam and sweat
we had an old beast of a machine
melmac dishes, at least that’s
what we called them,
passed through
on a conveyer belt
two hundred plus kids
make a lot of mess

some days we’d get assigned pots and pans
didn’t matter
we were young, caught in the moment
away from home
living with the best friends we’d
ever had
even though we’d only known them
a few weeks
a couple of hours after each meal
and we were off to play with campers,
flirt with girl counselors
or wander the woods

back home, senior year
grandpa helps me get a job
at the steak house where he works
he’s day shift and I’m nights
rarely see him
more dishes
cooks come and go
waitresses of twenty-one or twenty-two
seem so old
they toss sexual innuendos focused
on my embarrassment
for their evening’s entertainment
grandpa waits months until he
tells the owner of our family connection
wonder if he was stalling for me
to prove myself

my dad bought a dishwasher
for our family when I was about ten
he’d worked in Alaska for the summer
made a lot of money
was splurging
it was a GE, we were GE people
had to hook the hose to the kitchen sink
if you didn’t get it quite right
water sprayed all over the room
we rolled it under a counter top when
not being used
for a while it was more fun to wash dishes
than to mow the lawn

I remember a fight
with my mom
over dirty dishes
more of an argument
she never could see well
and paid little attention to details
I was tired of dirty dishes
just let me do them
my dad came to her rescue
and that was that

I remember the day a friend’s son died
I went to their house
they lived near
hung around as family gathered
after a while I went into the kitchen
and started washing dishes
there were a lot
I was in there when the grandma arrived
I heard them tell her
she screamed, collapsed
and sobbed on the floor

I do most of the dishes at our house
daily duties or celebrations
there’s a rhythm to it
a sense of accomplishment
no one else seems to like it

on holidays it gets me up from the table
I get restless of sitting on hard chairs
others seem to be able to stay for hours
I need the break

everybody appreciates it
and I’m in my place
it’s a perfect trade-off


  1. manual trumps machine...

    I love that! Also, I love the dishes, too. It's become part of my nightly ritual, doing the dishes. There is something very satisfying about it that I can't explain.

    Things are dirty. Then they are clean. I love it.

  2. Jim,
    I can hear you in these words.
    I can resonate with your feelings.
    I can appreciate your thoughts.

  3. Doing the dishes at college, camp, home or wherever He leads as unto Him and in His presence.