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My dishwasher has been broken for a week, which I only figured out a couple days ago after running it four times in a row because…excuse me…the dishes weren’t getting clean. Each time I ran it and opened it, more powdered detergent would be caked on the door, the dishes a little more grungy. I became irritated that the green “clean” button kept blinking at me too, instead of giving me a steady green gaze. My dishwasher had a secret, but she wasn’t telling me.
Today I finally called my brother, a general contractor in Maine. After we exchanged our usual pleasantries and accounts of chronic pain, I said, “Say, my dishwasher is broken.”
He immediately brightened. “Oh! I can help you with that!” After he had me check the float, he said, “It’s probably something electrical. Just run out to the breaker box and flip the switch for the dishwasher.” My breaker box is outside the house; thus commenced several tense trips back and forth from the dishwasher to the box, where I could not find the right switch. My brother remained patient; I did not, as all of my other kitchen and living room appliances went dead, as well as the house phone on which I was speaking. I called him back on my cell.
“I can’t find the right switch,” I mumbled. “The labels aren’t clear.”
“That’s okay!” my brother chirped, munching on his comfort food from McDonald’s. “Just flip the main switch!”
“I don’t want to flip the main switch,” I said, frowning.
“Why not!?” he asked.
“Because I don’t want everything in my house to shut down. I don’t want my computer to blow up.”
I could see him rolling his eyes and shaking his head, feel him thinking, She’s such a baby.
“Well then, Plan B,” he said. “You'll notice that there's a panel on the inside of the dishwasher door; it has screws in it. You can remove that panel and that’s where the guts of your dishwasher are. Something’s probably stuck in there. Go get your screwdriver. You might get electrocuted a tiny bit, but only enough to make you know you’re alive. I’ll walk you through it.”
I stood by my dishwasher, which had now been open with the door down for fifteen minutes, gaping at me like a dead whale with crusty white foam all around its mouth. The inside panel was indeed attached with screws: five million of them.
“I don’t want to take the panel off,” I said. My brother is eight years older than me; I felt like it was 1974 and he was telling me to kiss his big toe again. Memories of his yelling, I’m falling off the couch and I’ll die if you don’t help me! also came to mind. He always did that right in the middle of Sesame Street.
“Why not!?” he asked.
“I’m not desirous of it,” I said. “I’m a teacher, not an electrician. I’ll never get that panel back on. I’m calling a repairman.” Not wanting to sound unappreciative of my brother’s help, I added, “It’ll cost a lot, but that’s the price I pay for being a single woman living alone.”
“I understand,” he said, crumpling his McDonald's bag. I heard his truck door slam and the engine start up. “But I gotta go now. My lunch break is over. We need to talk soon and have a proper conversation.”
We spent the next minute exchanging I love you’s, goodbyes and good lucks, making sure we were hearing each other and being heard ourselves as our cell phones cut in and out. I imagined my brother driving away, and wished he was driving towards me.