Thursday, March 15, 2012


I’ve been married for over 40 years now and I finally have two modern conveniences I’ve always wanted – a clothes dryer and an automatic dishwasher.

It’s funny how I never missed what I never had. But now that I have them, I can’t imagine how I ever lived without them. Still, I think I have a lot to learn about using both.

For years, my only clothes dryer was a “solar” one, which consisted of a line strung between two trees. The problem with hanging clothes near trees, however, was we usually ended up with pine pitch, bird droppings or assorted crawly things in our clothes. And in the winter, the laundry turned into clothes-sicles. I can remember, on more than one occasion, bringing my husband’s frozen jeans in from the clothesline and standing them in the corner.

Later, I graduated to one of those aluminum umbrella-style clotheslines. For some reason, every time a large branch or dead tree wanted to commit suicide, it hurled itself at the clothesline and flattened it. The third time it happened, I didn’t even bother to buy a new one. I just left the old one lying in a heap in the yard.

That’s when my husband installed a retractable clothesline in our shower stall. I’d hang stuff on that, and also fling underwear over the shower rod. The system worked pretty well until guests popped in unexpectedly and one of them inevitably would ask to use the bathroom. I had to sprint down the hall, yank all of my underwear off the shower rod and hide it.

One time, I forgot all about the still-damp underwear I’d hidden. When I found it over a week later, it was so green with mold, it looked as if someone had tie-dyed it.

So now I have a clothes dryer, and I must admit I’m a little intimidated by it. The more I use it, the more I learn about it...and the more confused I get.

For example, there is the lint trap. Never in my life have I seen anything collect so much lint. I can put only a few pairs of nylon panties in there with nothing else, and the lint trap will gather so much lint, you’d think I’d been drying an alpaca.

And then there is the static. The first time I yanked a pile of laundry out of the dryer, my hair stood up straight on end. And two weeks later I still was finding socks stuck to the backs of towels or inside pajama legs.

But the biggest lesson I’ve had to learn involves shrinkage. Tossing something that’s 100-percent cotton into the dryer and setting it on “hot” isn’t, I discovered, such a good idea – not unless you’re trying to create a wardrobe for Barbie.

Polyester fleece blankets don’t do well in hot dryers, either. One of mine melted into something that ended up looking as if it had plastic spikes sticking out of it.

Still, I love my dryer...and the peace of knowing I’ll never have to worry about finding wasps in my bras again.

The dishwasher also is taking a bit of getting used to. For one thing, I’m still not certain exactly where to put which dishes. I mean, I’ve been putting the cups on the top shelf and the pots and pans on the bottom, but with everything else, I just stuff it wherever it will fit.

My husband still can’t understand why I rinse off the dishes before I put them into the dishwasher. He thinks it’s counterproductive.

“Just stick them in there the way they are,” he always says. “The reason for a dishwasher is to keep you from getting dishpan hands. Haven’t you ever seen that commercial where the woman shoves a plate with an entire cake on it into her dishwasher and everything comes out spotless?”

“Yeah, but her dishwasher probably didn’t cost only $299 at a discount store,” I have to remind him.

One night, however, I was in a rush, so I shoved the dishes into the dishwasher without scraping or rinsing them. When I checked the dishes later, I was pleased to see that they were sparkling clean. But I wasn’t pleased to see a pile of food scraps lying on the bottom of the machine. I half expected to find a family of mice in there, enjoying the buffet.

I also never realized just how long a dishwashing cycle is. I don’t know if all dishwashers are like mine, but the cycle seems to go on forever. By the time it runs through all of its stages – heat, pre-soak, soak, wash, turbo-wash, rinse, re-rinse, dry, etc. – if I put the dishes in there right after dinner, I’m lucky if they’re done in time for breakfast. Even the “light wash” setting takes over two hours. I’m surprised the patterns on my dishes haven’t worn off.

But I wouldn’t give up my new, modern conveniences for anything.

In fact, I might even splurge and buy an electric mixer next.

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