The simple joy of doing the dishes
OUT FOR A WALK
Dipping my hands into the warm, sudsy water, I felt strangely at ease. I had just gotten home from another long day at work, but somehow the process of “doing the dishes” brought me comfort.
Yes, I’m one of those weirdos who likes certain household chores, and one of them is washing dishes.
Last night, as usual, my wife cooked another hearty dinner for me to gobble down after work, leaving a small jumble of pots, pans, utensils and bowls in the kitchen. Many people, I’m sure, would just let it sit there until at least the next day, maybe allowing for some more items to accumulate.
Not me. I like to go to bed with a clean kitchen if I can. It makes me feel like the day is truly done, and I can wake up the next morning and see nothing but clean cooking implements ready to make another meal.
This penchant for washing dishes goes back to my childhood, when it was one of those assigned tasks after every family meal. No one got away from work after the eating was done. You either cleared the table, washed the counter tops, or did the dishes, which was usually a two-person job with someone washing and another drying. The kitchen was never left dirty.
It made sense, then, that my first job — outside of babysitting and mowing lawns — was washing dishes in the kitchen at the local nursing home. This presented me with a major leap in technology at my disposal. Instead of a skimpy rag and a bottle of Dawn, I now had a pressurized rinse sprayer and a high-temperature sanitizer with a pull-down hood.
I spent five years at that job, even coming back after my first year of college to do it as a summer gig. Twenty years later, I still remember plowing through stacks of dishes, racks of drinking glasses and mounds of silverware, which would come out of the sanitizer like blazinghot irons fresh off a fire. And, I’ll never forget that one Werther’s Original candy that got stuck to a plate and would not come off no matter how much I sprayed it with scalding water.
Toward the end of my tenure at the nursing home, they trusted me with more than just doing dishes. I started serving meals to the wait staff and even did some low-level food prep, but I always felt most comfortable next to that industrial dishwasher, cleaning up after another big meal.
I have to admit, though, I wanted to quit right away after my very first shift, especially after having to mop the kitchen floor. That job helped me grow up and realize the value in gritty, thankless work. A clean kitchen is its own reward, as corny as that may sound. That’s why I still don’t mind get my hands a little wet and soapy at the end of the day.