I had had the same dishwasher for years. It would hum gently while whisking away even the toughest lavender-scented duck fat grease, or crusty, Dijon panko-crusted salmon. It was my most reliable appliance, ready with a clean and non-judgmental martini glass every morning and a fresh Champagne flute after lunch.
But one day, I went to the kitchen and found a horrible sight. The dishes were still dirty, remnants of our quail egg soufflé from the night before still clinging to the china, Riedel wine glasses spotting with fermentation.
I did remember that the dishwasher had been making a kind of hacking sound the day before. But what appliance isn’t temperamental sometimes? Besides, the sound stopped when I gave it a loving little whack.
There had been other signs that something wasn’t right. Operating instructions laying out how many hours the dishwasher could work at a time and warnings not to overload it, or touch its rack. But those were all in Spanish. And no one in my home speaks Spanish, unfortunately.
I was about to call the repairman when my son explained, “The dishwasher isn’t broken. She’s just sick.”
It took me a moment to process. I had thought Maria was a top-of-the-line South American brand. But in fact, it was her name. She was a real person and I had no idea.
I called an emergency meeting at the club with my closest girlfriends. Over Cobb salads brought to us by a walking white coat, they shared their suspicions about their own household appliances. Miranda had suspected the smoothie maker at the gym for quite some time. And Melinda confessed she often felt her lawnmower was watching her when she sunbathed topless by her pool. I was relieved to learn I was not alone.
I finally started to see the world in a whole new way: Cashiers at Whole Foods were wearing name tags. The dry cleaner showing me a photograph of a baby and said words that resembled, “Grandson.” The manicurist talked to me about her “husband.” Could it be that they were human beings, too?
The world that revolved around me started to cave in. I thought I had been raised to face any challenge, but boarding school and vacations in the Bali had not prepared me for this.
I began to feel like a veil had been lifted from my eyes. I felt like these people were everywhere now, serving me my cappuccino at the local café, or picking up a bucket of balls after a tough game of tennis. I had to ask myself, “What do I usually do when I encounter another person?” I smile, I say hello; sometimes I ask how they are doing. Maybe I should be doing this for these people as well?
There are a few good, caring hearts who understand the difficult journey I have had to endure since this realization. Maria has offered to assist me through the back-breaking work of coming to terms with this. Which is great, as long as it doesn’t interfere with her cleaning the dishes.