Monday, June 10, 2019

Just Trying To Keep Enough Synapses Firing In Sequence

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 12, 2019] ©2019

It’s really easy to put your head in the sand about getting old and decrepit until you start hearing about friends’ parents, and even the friends themselves, requiring 24-hour care.  As in forever. 

So Olof and I decided that maybe we should look into long-term care insurance.  Let me sum up the concept: they hope you pay exorbitant premiums for 20 years then die of a heart attack. 

Olof was out of town when the long-term care people called in response to my application and said they were sending a nurse out for a physical exam, including a cognitive evaluation. 

Uh-oh. I do the New York Times crossword puzzle every day (except Monday; too easy) and read three books a week. But I’m clear that my mind is not as sharp as it once was.  The Light will testify that my proofreading skills have gone to hell.  I mis-use words a lot more.  When I’m writing, I’ll ask myself, “Do I mean ‘propitious’ or “prophetic’?”  I’m not so sure of spelling anymore.  I have to look up grammar rules regularly. 

As we get older, Olof and I are hoping that together, we can maintain one complete brain and one functioning body between us.  Especially one semi-complete long-term memory bank.  We’re always asking each other: What was the name of the actor in… 

What’s scary, however, is that I sometimes temporarily lose a really basic word. 

Inga: “Olof, what’s the word for those things you put on your feet inside your shoes?”

Olof: “Socks?” 

Inga: “Yes! Thanks!”

There was a time when one of us querying the other as to whether they’d remembered to take out the dog or turn down the heat before bed would have suggested a mildly insulting lack of faith in the other’s mental prowess.  But now we’re in total agreement that we have no faith in either our own or the other’s mental prowess.  We’re just trying to keep the dog from peeing on the carpet and the heating bill under control.  We’re grateful for the reminder.

The problem will be when neither of us remembers to either ask or do it.  Or remembers that we even have a dog. Or heat.

Fortunately that day is not here yet. 

But having the long-term health care insurance evaluator come out unnerved me.  I knew I could chug an extra blood pressure pill a few hours before she got there, but what was a “cognitive evaluation” going to actually entail?  If they asked me to count back by 7’s or do a level one (easiest) Sudoku puzzle, I’d be toast. 

I decided to do a little home staging before she came, carelessly strewing around collections of New York Times Saturday crossword puzzles (the really hard ones, NOT the Sunday), a few books in Swedish, an assortment of green teas. I wanted to create a subconscious impression of someone who dwells among the cognitive-scenti, the kind of person for whom an evaluator would say, “Oh, we  obviously don’t need to be testing YOU.”

But she didn’t buy it. The cognitive exam, alas, was even worse than I expected. She told me she was going to tell me ten words and ask me to repeat back as many as I could remember a half hour later.  (Would two be enough?) I explained to the nice lady that I am afflicted with Auditory Processing Disorder (really) and learn better visually. Could I see the words instead? Nope. 

Um, doesn’t this violate the Americans with Disabilities Act?  If people can get more time on their SATs, shouldn’t I be entitled to accommodations on a dementia exam?

After she told me the words, giving me as much time as I needed to try to process them, she chatted it up with me about my current health and level of functioning.  (Inquiring minds want to know: Since when did “toileting” become a verb? Actually, when did it become a word?)

She had been deliberately vague about the costs of the insurance, noting that it would greatly depend on what type of coverage I might choose, and for how long I might want it.  Apparently, long term care can be pretty short term.  When I balked at the cost, she handed me a price sheet showing all the local memory care facilities costing anywhere from $8,000-$12,000 a MONTH.  And no, Medicare doesn’t pay. 

Against all odds, I actually was able to come up with nine of the ten words after the required 30-minute lag. Years ago, I learned that if I can’t write something down, I project it up on a pretend screen in front of me so I can see it. 

By the way, the words were chimney, salt, button, train, harp, meadow, finger, flower, book, and rug.  (The one I couldn’t remember was meadow.) 

Write these down.  You may get the same lady. 

I did a little home staging before the cognitive evaluator
came hoping she would conclude I was not a person in 
need of testing.  (She didn't buy it.) 

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Amazing Secret Life Of Crows

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 5, 2019] ©2019

It’s officially spring if the crows are back. Besides their tail shapes, you can tell they’re crows and not ravens because they travel in groups (as opposed to ravens which travel in pairs) and like to make a lot of noise starting at 5 a.m. I’m tempted to stick my head out the back door and yell, “Excuse me! Do you have any idea what TIME it is?” 

I’m not clear why we have larger crow populations every year now when we used to hardly see them at all.  They enjoy congregating on our power lines. Somehow they’ve figured out the right ones. (The ones who didn’t obviously failed to put their genes forward.) Their fondness for extracting insects from our front lawn suggests that we have inadvertently provided them with an ample food supply.  But it’s not like they’re all that picky.

Crows are reported to eat over 1,000 food items including “carrion, fried chicken, hamburgers, Chinese food, French fries and human vomit.”  I confess I was intrigued by the order on this list. Intentional?  In a study by someone who clearly has too much time (or money) on their hands, crows were found to prefer French fries in a McDonald’s bag over those in a brown paper bag. This is something that McDonalds should work into their advertising. (“More species prefer McDonalds than any other brand!”)

While it sounds like crows are just sitting up in our trees endlessly cawing, crows apparently have a very intricate system of communication, and a wide variety of vocalizations. But what is truly fascinating about them is that they are the only species of bird that is known to make and use tools.  They will select specific types of twigs to burrow into trees to get insects that their beaks can’t reach.

Crows will chase sparrows into buildings to stun them (before making them an avian lunch).  They’ve been known to drop walnuts on the road so that cars will run over them and crack the shells.  I think you’d have to pick your road pretty carefully to find one with enough traffic that you’re not just sitting around on your branch for hours bored out of your beak, but doesn’t have so much traffic that it’ll turn you into road kill when you go to collect it.

Other interesting crow behaviors include moistening hard foods in bird baths or other water sources to soften it. (We see this all the time in our fountain.) Some scientists theorize they’re washing it but as a strictly non-scientist observation, any species that eats carrion and human vomit is probably not all that big on sanitation. 

Crows mate for life but males will cheat. (Is this sounding familiar?) It’s actually pretty amazing considering that male crows have no penis. The male crow’s sperm is transferred from their cloaca (a cavity at the end of the digestive tract) to the female’s cloaca in an act that lasts all of 15 seconds.  Definitely short on the foreplay.

Once crows have mated, they no longer demonstrate courtship displays. Is that sounding familiar too? What’s the point of bringing her a nice piece of cow dung if she’s already committed?

If the male crow is non-fatally injured, his mate won’t leave him, although reproduction apparently drops waaay down. I’m thinking it would be hard to notice the difference if all you ever got was 15 seconds to begin with. Female crows seem to have very low expectations.

Moving right along, the expression “eat crow” – i.e. having to admit to a humiliating mistake – suggests that crows themselves are not good eats. Others say they taste like chicken. (Joke.) Regardless, given that they are scavengers, there is an inherent aversion to essentially eating what the crows themselves have eaten.  One website noted that one crow “will feed two people who don’t know what they’re eating or 12 people who do.” 

Finally, groups of creatures are known by collective nouns, like a gaggle of geese, a pride of lions, an exaltation of larks, a school of fish…and a murder of crows.  Apparently the term came about during an era where groupings of animals had colorful and poetic names.  Scientists, always so unimaginative, apparently just refer to a group of crows as a flock. 

Now that I know more about our seasonal avian friends, I’ve enjoyed observing their behavior. There are a lot of mature trees both on and around our property and it is my observation that these guys are pretty territorial about which branch belongs to whom. Watching this from the safety of my deck chair, groups of crows look like avian F-4s engaged in dog (er, crow) fights. Our cars have been underneath some of these battles, as have our brick walkways. I just try to keep my head from being a target. I’m abundantly clear they’re smart enough to get me if they wanted to.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Fear Of Parking Lots

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 29, 2019] ©2019

OK, let’s settle this parking issue once and for all. 

There have been numerous articles recently citing “consultants” from a local parking lot company maintaining that there is plenty of parking “at all times” in the downtown area of La Jolla, a.k.a The Village. First of all, this guy has never visited La Jolla in August. There is no parking anywhere in the Village even if you wanted to use their extortionist lots.

As for the rest of the year, there are allegations that there are plenty of parking structure and off-street spaces if the local denizens weren’t too cheap to pay for them.  Well, OK, we ARE too cheap to pay for them unless absolutely required, but that’s the least of  it.  (Someone will write to me and point out how much more expensive parking is in other cities.  Please save yourself the trouble.)

So here are the issues.  A lot of people – I would be among them - really hate parking structures. It doesn’t matter what time you get there but if it’s a high rise, like, for example, the one at the Ximed building at Scripps Memorial, there will only be parking on the roof by 9:30 a.m.  If it’s subterranean, like most of the ones in La Jolla, the only spots will be at the very bottom.  Level P4 will be reminiscent of descending into the Fourth Circle of Hell, an image eerily reinforced by the fact that was one is indeed circling ever downward.

Subterranean parking structures are dark, sky-challenged, and creepy, and the stalls are really tight, even for persons such as me who own a compact car. They are populated with large pillars, strategically designed to be backed into. Black SUVS will be parked on either side of you in spaces marked “small cars.”  There is rarely (never?) angled parking. The dim light doesn’t help us oldies, whose depth perception isn’t what it used to be, try to inch out of a space keeping track of both sides of the car AND that pillar behind you.  My last foray into a parking structure ended with my bumper having an encounter of the paint-removing kind. 

Another major problem with parking structures is that they involve machines. If you have trouble operating your cell phone, ticket machines are likely going to present a problem for you, and not just because you have to get out of your car to get the ticket which was maliciously placed 1.5 inches from your farthest reach. (Idea for next elementary school Invention Convention: a little robotic arm that senses the car and delivers the ticket to you no matter how far away you are. My kids would have killed for an idea like this.) 

But the really scary part is that on your way out, after you have finally located your car and fought your way back to Planet Earth from the bowels of P4, you have to deal with that machine again. It wants money. And unlike the old days, there is no human in a booth to take it from you and wish you a nice day. There is always one techno-disabled idiot who cannot figure out how to use the machine and holds up the whole line.  I know this for a fact because I am that idiot. I hate lip-reading people disparaging my mother in my rearview mirror.  It makes me sad.

A friend recently mentioned that she would never risk parking in subterranean lots in case of an earthquake.  Just not willing to play Richter Roulette. 

So I ask you:  Is it unreasonable to want to park on terra firma?

But alas, even the street-level paid lots are fraught with obstacles toward the techno-impaired.  It’s one thing to have to stuff money into a too-small slot that corresponds with your stall number.  But those have mostly disappeared and been replaced with requirements that one text a number or download an app.  Seriously?  You lost me at “app”.  And probably at “text” too.  I text but I don’t keep any financial information on my phone so how am I going to pay for anything with it? And now some of the lots confront you with what appears to be a Rorschach blot on steroids presumably in anticipation of inter-galactic visitors. (My husband says they are called “3-D bar codes.”)

The clincher is that on the lot in the photo, after you do all that texting and apping, they’re charging a flat fee of $10!  Hey, I just wanted to pick up some drain cleaner at Meanley’s!

All those intimidating paid lots just take so much time! And stress! And make you feel stupid! And require your bumper to be repainted!  So if you could park in a nice free angled street spot in visible daylight instead 80 feet above ground or somewhere approaching Middle Earth, which would you pick? 

I’m hoping we’re clear now.

This is what I call an "illusion of parking" lot -
and it's a flat fee of $10!

My bumper had an encounter of the paint-removing kind
in one of the subterranean lots last week

Am assuming this lot is intended for inter-galactic visitors as
I have no idea what that ink blot thing is

Monday, May 13, 2019

We All Have A Diagnosis

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 15, 2019] ©2019

Reading a story in the paper the other day about various psychiatric diagnoses being lobbed at our President, I couldn’t help but concede that the DSM-V, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, hasn’t spared any of us.  We are all diagnoses at this point. In some ways I long for the days when it was okay to be just plain wacko. 

Let me be clear that I am not making fun of mental illness, plenty of which runs in my own family.  I myself come from a long line of chronically overwrought people; there’s definitely an anxiety gene there.  There’s a worrisome smattering of hoarders too, a few of whom would be shoo-ins for that A&E show.  We all seem to be on various spectrums (spectra?) 

Several years ago, I wrote about my concern that every TV program I watch was sponsored by anti-depressants.  Did they know something I don’t?  Is preference for these shows diagnostic?  Is there, for example, a DSM-V classification for people who watch TLC?  Obsessive Fixation on the Excessively Short, Obese, or Progenitive Personality Disorder?

As a parent, I would never suggest that people not have their child evaluated if they are concerned about the child’s behavior.  But be prepared for a diagnosis.  Both Olof and I became concerned some years ago (our kids were already adults) that every male child on our block seemed to have been diagnosed with ADHD – and most were taking medication for it.  Interacting with these kids on a regular basis, Olof had his own diagnosis: boy.  Most of them reminded him a lot of himself.

Even our lawn mowing guy’s 18-year-old assistant introduced himself with, “I’m ADHD and bipolar.” But that’s one case that I would absolutely not argue.  This kid’s style was to turn up his iPod and kind of get into the Zen of gardening.  Unfortunately, whatever garden he was servicing didn’t appear to be in our galaxy.

There was no DSM category system when we were children but Olof didn’t escape a diagnosis even then.  Hardly an academic ball of fire in his early years, he was deemed an “accelerated non-achiever.”  It was a label that puzzled his parents for years. Did this mean he was gifted but not achieving? Or gifted AT non-achieving?  Regardless, he was not achieving. But somewhere along the way, he managed to up his game and ultimately achieved a degree in nuclear physics from Cal Tech. Sighed his mother (age 93), “If only we could have known.”

A friend was telling me recently that her daughter had been diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder.  I’m thinking, yeah, my kids had that too – never listened! But when it was described to me, I realized my life-long difficulty processing material that I hear is what this means. I need to see material visually to learn it.

In an Abnormal Psychology class many years ago, a classmate queried the professor as to what constitutes a “normal” person.  She replied, “Normal people are those we don’t know well enough to know which ways they aren’t.”  We are all in our own ways functionally compromised.

While the DSM-V seems to have no lack of diagnoses, I’d like to suggest some new ones that apply to me that maybe they should add.  I am hoping that this might qualify me for state aid. 

When I think of my total lack of arts and crafts talent (to the dismay of my children when they were in grade school), I definitely suffer from Diorama Deficit Disorder. 

Post-auto accident several years ago, I’m sure I qualify for Freeway Avoidant Syndrome with Mixed High-Speed Surface Street Elements. 

While some people get right back on a horse after falling off, I could definitely be characterized as suffering from Life Aversion Disorder with Equine Metaphoric Phobias. 

My utter inability to embrace technology and my ill-disguised frustration with it would more than justifiably label me as suffering from Severe Techno Disability with Tantrumy Features and Pathological Resistance to Software Upgrades of Any Variety.

At times I wonder if the whole diagnosis thing has gotten out of hand.  If Jesus were to show up for the Second Coming, they’d have him on a 72-hour psych hold before you could say “yeah, and I’m Napoleon.”  There may be a time (is it already here?) when all of our medical and psychiatric diagnosis codes pop up when you input your social security number.

And that I think is a real problem:  if a diagnosis is wrong, or, if you’ve been miraculously cured of say, your Equine Avoidant Personality Disorder, how do you ever get rid of it?  Nope, it will live on in some computer forever.

Sometimes I think we should just simply the system to the three basic categories that seemed to exist in my childhood:
(1) Rarely Attracts Police Attention
(2) Just Doing the Best They Can (Even If Not Very Good)
(3) Batshit Crazy

For a long time, it worked.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Calendar Shaming

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 8, 2019] ©2019

Techno shaming is nothing new to me.  Fortunately, I am impervious to it.

Every few months, I meet former co-workers for happy hour, usually to celebrate one of our birthdays. At the end of each, we generally try to schedule the next one.  This is when everyone but me takes out their phones and calls up their calendar app. 

Although I have my phone with me, it remains buried in my purse. Instead I pull out a teeny spiral notebook on which I will note the date and location of the next event which I will write in my paper month-at-a-glance calendar at home.

But, they counter, how do you know your schedule?  Easy: I have no life. Olof and I are strict adherents to this way of living. We both lived over-scheduled lives for decades. But no more. Our kids refer to us as “terminally inertial.”  And we couldn’t be prouder.
 I like looking at my month-at-a-glance calendar and seeing everything right there.  Apparently you can do that with your phone calendar app too. But I’d have to turn on my phone and find it. And need a microscope to read it. 

I confess that I did in fact try using the calendar app in a moment of deranged techno bravery.  But then Apple tricked me into upgrading my phone to the next version and it ate all my appointments. Maliciously.  I have never forgiven it. 

I know some people who can’t wait to upgrade their cell phones when a new version comes out. Personally, I’d rather eat my own organs.  Unsolicited updates and undesired upgrades are the curse of the modern world. They guarantee that whatever worked before will never work again.

When the phone ate my calendar, the kids said, well, you should have backed up your phone.  Why?  I don’t need to back up my paper month-at-a-glance calendar.  The only way that data gets lost is if the house burns down. 

My month-at-a-glance calendar sits right next to my land line which all by itself gets a lot of flak. I admit our land line is being used increasingly less.  People try to tell me that I could change that number to be my cell phone number.  Nope.  I don’t want to change my cell phone number either.  In fact, I don’t want to change ANYTHING. No good comes from it.   My landline number is my CVS number and my number of record for pretty much everything, including our financial accounts, credit cards and utilities. When I call, a disembodied voice says, “I see you are calling from a number in your profile.”  Yup, I sure am!  I am NOT messing with it.

We like our land line. There is a lot to be said for a phone that can be used without a manual. You can’t drop it in the toilet.  It automatically recharges. It doesn’t try to trick me into upgrades.  Besides, it's been my number for decades (even if the area code has changed about six times.)  I'm hoping it will be able to be transferred to the Alzheimer's facility with me because it will probably be the only thing I'll still remember.

Our land line phone is attached to an answering machine that blinks.  I know how to listen to messages and to erase them when I’m done and you will have to pry that machine out of my cold dead hands.  This is in contrast to the terror I feel when I’ve missed a call on my cell phone and it has gone to the dreaded Voice Mail which I am then forced to try to access.  Usually I end up inadvertently deleting the message instead. It’s probably for the best.

I recently cut out a cartoon strip where a daughter is trying to teach her elderly father how to use a phone app which he refuses to try.  She concludes, “I guess it’s never too late to stop learning.”  As far as techno stuff goes, I couldn’t agree more.  It just causes me stress.
As for not mastering the calendar app on my cell phone, it probably helps that I have a phenomenal memory for dates.  I still remember all my childhood friends’ birthdays.  It’s like a little pop-up thing in my brain.  From time to time people have said to me, “You must keep phenomenal records to know that date” and I say, “nope, I just remember dates.”  Sure wish I could have figured out a way to monetize it. 

So even though I’m writing down the date of the next happy hour, I don’t really need to.  I’ll remember it.  But what I don’t have a phenomenal memory for is locations.  Hence the little spiral notebook. 

I’m happy to let my co-workers scroll their calendar apps to their little hearts’ content. I’ll just wait patiently.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

More Than You May Want To Know?

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 1, 2019] ©2019

I didn’t jump on the ancestry band wagon right away since both my mother’s and father’s families kept good genealogical records back many generations – even centuries.  But I was definitely curious about the carrier status, health predispositions, wellness predictions, and traits data that was now available. 

My sister, a year younger, decided against it. “I don’t want any bad news,” she maintained.

“Not to put too fine a point on it,” I replied, “but we’re SEVENTY. How much bad news could there be? We’ve already aged out of Early Onset Dementia!”  But she is unmoved. 

23andme is careful to inform you that with each of the afflictions they test your genes for, they are only testing for specific variants and just because you don’t test positive for those variants doesn’t mean you’re home free on this disease. 

They emphasize that there are all manner of life style and “other factors” that could contribute to your succumbing to these maladies besides your DNA.  Still, I confess it’s comforting to know that if I crump from one of these, it’s my own fault and not my genes’. 

I was especially happy to discover that the variants they tested for me did not detect the variants for BRCA1/BCRA2 (breast cancer), Late-Onset Alzheimers and Parkinsons. 

I did, however, test positive for one of the two variants they tested for Age-related Macular Degeneration.  Apparently, it’s pretty common in people of European descent. 

I was genuinely pleased that “variant not detected” came up on all 44 Carrier traits they tested, even though I had no idea what most of them are.  I am not, for example, a carrier of the gene for Hereditary Fructose Intolerance, MCAD Deficiency, Rhizomelic Chondrodysplasia Punctata Type 1, Usher Syndrome Type 1F, or Dihydrolipoamide Dehydrogenase Deficiency.  None of them sound like a good time.

The actually fun parts of 23andme were in the Traits sections which predicted whether you were or less likely to have certain qualities related to appearance, weight, food preferences, sleep patterns, and general wellness. 

23andme correctly predicted that I was “likely to have blue or green eyes” (blue; I’m Northern European); “more likely than average to be afraid of heights” (utterly deathly afraid of heights over three feet); “likely lighter skin” (Northern European thing again); “less likely to be able to match a musical pitch” (and then some: I’m totally tone deaf), “likely lactose tolerant” (yup); “likely no unibrow” (correct, but seriously??); “less likely to get dandruff” (true, but see “seriously??” above); “likely no cleft chin or dimples; and “likely to experience hair photobleaching” (i.e. hair lightens after long exposure to the sun).  My hair always lightened multiple shades if I sat out in the sun which I don’t any more after having malignant melanoma, an affliction, by the way, that is not tested.  Personally, I think it had everything to do with all those youth baseball and soccer tournaments in the blazing sun rather than genetics anyway.

 But 23andme totally struck out on other traits: “likely a lot of freckles” (nary a one); “less likely to have lots of baby hair at birth” (born with a full head of hair); “less likely to have thick hair” (I STILL get my hair thinned every three weeks or it’s like a mattress on my head); “slightly higher odds of disliking cilantro” (I adore cilantro and consider it one of the basic four food groups); “likely to have a muscle composition common in elite power athletes” (I’m still laughing); and “likely to consume more caffeine” (definitely not so since I inherited my mother’s severe sensitivity to caffeine). 

23andme predicted I preferred “sweet over salty” which may technically be true but I’ve never met a potato chip I didn’t like. 

Where they really struck out was in the “Sleep and Wakeup Time” category.  According to them “based on your genetics, you’re likely to move about an average amount during sleep” which they note would be about 12 times an hour.  As a sufferer of Restless Leg Syndrome (which sounds so innocuous but is utterly brutal), I move about 12 times a minute.  Interestingly, this can be a hereditary ailment which I’m sincerely hoping for my younger son’s sake is not.  (My older son, noting the afflictions that have plagued his aging parents, is increasingly grateful he’s adopted.) 

Where 23andme struck out the most, however (besides the elite athletes thing) is the prediction that I am “likely to wake up around 6:42 a.m.”  As far as I’m concerned, anything before 10 a.m. is still the night before. It predicted that I am a morning person which I have never ever ever been in my whole life.

Still, it’s been a fun exercise and there are always new reports coming out. So far no really bad news and if some comes out, how hard is it to hit “Delete”?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Dishwasher Wars Revisited

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 17, 2019] ©2019

A while back, I wrote about how Olof and I were engaged in dishwasher wars now that he had taken over this chore in retirement.  Three-plus years later, after considerable discussion and negotiation, I would like to report that…nothing has changed. 

As I noted when I first wrote about this issue, it goes against my feminist sensibilities to stand in the way of a man loading a dishwasher.  But it makes me crazy that he runs it half full. I could easily get three more days’ dishes in there.  As you might guess, our definitions of “half full” vary considerably.

I think we’d all agree that if a family member – particularly a husband family member – takes over a household chore that one has to step back and let them do it their way.  Even if their way is TOTALLY WRONG.  It annoys me to waste so much water, so much energy, and so much wear and tear on the dishwasher.  As much as women want household help from their husbands, it is very hard for a wife to ignore what her husband might unwarrantedly call her “inner control freak.”

Now, it might be easy to wonder about Olof and me: “Do these people need a hobby?” 

Another issue is that for reasons known best to Olof, the dishes are so clean by the time they’re loaded they probably don’t need to be run at all. Since I’m still the dishwasher unloader, I couldn’t help but comment that if you can’t tell whether the dishes are clean or dirty, some of us could give them the benefit of the doubt. The only way I know the dishwasher has been run is that Olof puts a Swedish moose magnet on the front when he pushes “Start.” 

Olof has always maintained that he picked after-dinner clean-up as his retirement chore partly because he read that, in recorded history, no man has ever been shot by his wife while doing the dishes.  He never said so out loud but he was also apparently never all that happy with the job I did with them either. (We can put someone on the moon but we can’t invent a machine that cleans the counters, stove top, and sink too?)

As I frequently noted to him in our dating years, life is all about priorities. The kids seemed to be turning out well. So if the dishes got a little furry sometimes during warmer weather, so be it. That’s what the fur, er, superwash cycle on the dishwasher is for. Astonishingly, Olof married me anyway since Olof is not a furry dishes kind of guy.

Now, you’d think that four years into the dishes gig, he’d have this down to a pretty quick routine.  But he spends at least a half hour doing the dishes just for the two of us. A champion power-loader during my 12 years as a divorced working mom, I always had that sucker loaded up in four minutes flat.

I truly feel that spending a half hour on kitchen cleanup is time that could be used far more wisely. Like reading War and Peace with a snifter of Laphroaig. Or in my case, People with a glass of chardonnay.

When Olof is done, the stove top is spotless, the granite counter tops positively sparkle, and you could be blinded by the shine in our stainless-steel sink. And then – listen to this - he sweeps the kitchen floor. Whether it needs it or not. As you might guess, our definitions of  “needing” vary as much as our definitions of “full.”  Olof will sweep whether you can see a single crumb on the floor.  “Part of the job,” he says. 

In my defense, it’s not like I never sweep.  Just recently I dropped a box of breakfast cereal on the floor which was more than I thought the dog could – or should – eat.  As I was sweeping it up, Olof happened to wander into the kitchen.  “Whoa!” he said, in mock astonishment.  “I didn’t know you knew how to use that thing!”  (He doesn’t know that he’s getting a brand-new broom for his birthday.)

Recently our 18-year-old Bosch dishwasher finally went to the Big Appliance Warehouse in the Sky.  Now we can probably thank the Bosch company at least somewhat for the longevity of this machine, but I contend there is another good reason why it lasted so long.  I only ran it when it was full.  Very very full.  Full being defined as you couldn’t see the bottom of the dishwasher anywhere (or even the racks.) 

Ultimately, we went with another Bosch which Olof is still waaay underloading and which I am still biting my tongue as I unload.  But after four years, I might have to concede that this might not be a winning battle. Might.

Olof pre-washes the dishes so thoroughly that unless he puts the 
Swedish moose magnet on the front of the dishwasher, I have no idea 
whether he ran the machine or not. 
One might ask: does it matter?