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How to Load a Dishwasher

You've had to get very acquainted with yours since March, haven't you?

As we all know, the world can be divided into two types of people: those who know how to load a dishwasher properly and those who, I swear to God, are just itching for a divorce. And this has nothing to do with the fact that we’ve been using our dishwasher seven times a day, waiting out Clay Jenkins’ ever-extending shelter-in-place order. This goes to the core of how someone approaches life as a human being.

Dishwashers were designed by practical, common-sense people who looked deep into the future and divined that when we could no longer go to restaurants and had to schlep home takeout, we would have to actually clean our own dishes. And now that we’re doing more than just walking by our dishwashers on the way to throw our empty Starbucks cup in the trash, we should approach them with the proper level of gratitude and reverence. That’s the reason they’re installed at knee level, so you genuflect when using them.

And yet someone in my house—I won’t say who—loads the dishwasher like she’s on a boat being tossed around in a storm while in the grips of a grand mal seizure, in the dark. She crams clothes into the washing machine with more care. Except we’re barely doing any laundry these days. But our dishwasher is getting force-fed dishes like a French goose being abused to make foie gras.

Look, loading a dishwasher is not brain surgery. I would like to point out that the top tray is for cups and glasses. Not bowls. And, for chrissakes, not plates laid flat! And the cups should be facing down, because, you see, if they’re thrown in on their side, they won’t have their inside sprayed clean by the spinning armature. That thing there. And if you place them on the rack facing up, then when you open the dishwasher, they’re looking up at you full of brown, soapy water. And now we’re back to washing them in the sink, which is what we were trying to avoid when we bought the dishwasher in the first place.

The bottom tray is the one for plates and bowls. The spindles. Spindles? Posts? Pegs? Those tall skinny things coated in vinyl. Yes, tines, whatever. They’re arranged in rows for a reason. It’s so the plates can stand up straight, evenly spaced. And in the same direction, obviously, not all wonky and mixed in with bowls. OR CUPS! And, look, if you stack a smaller bowl first, you can then back it up with a larger bowl, Russian doll-like, which gives you more efficient stacking and room for the water to clean the food out of the bowls. Because the whole point is getting the plates and bowls clean. And not broken. So why would you ever lay an expensive wine glass with its thin edge against a thick ceramic soup bowl? Of course it’s going to crack! That’s why all our glassware is chipped and cracked. Did you think someone has been sneaking into our kitchen at night and secretly chipping our glassware?

I would never say this out loud, of course. I’m not crazy.

I was at an outdoor social-distancing happy hour recently in someone’s Preston Hollow backyard, and I was talking to a business colleague’s wife. The topic of loading a dishwasher came up. Maybe I brought it up. I don’t know. I’ve lost a bit of my game since being married. We commiserated how oblivious, how benighted, some people were at loading dishwashers, who loaded them as if it were the first time in their lives they had eaten off plates. How she had to pull all the dishes out of the dishwasher after her husband loaded them and rearrange them properly. “Me, too!” I crowed. A kindred!

She looked around to see if anyone was listening and then leaned in conspiratorially, totally breaching the 6-foot zone: “We were spending the night at X’s beach house, and I was helping clean up in the kitchen after dinner. And these are high-end people, mind you. Kids at St. Mark’s and Hockaday. Their beach house is spectacular. And [the hostess] was just putting the silverware in the silverware slots all mishmash, forks and knives and spoons all together. Can you believe it? She didn’t put the spoons with the spoons and the forks separately with the forks. It was a total mess!”

“Forks with …” I gaped at her, my mouth working like a fish’s gulping for air on a dock while my mind flipped through a thousand images of dishwashers I’ve loaded, the plates, bowls, and cups all perfectly arranged—and the silverware a dense thicket of knife blades, fork tines, and spoon faces. My vision darkened at the periphery, and I felt myself getting lightheaded.

“Barbaric,” I was able to croak before my world went black.   

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