Columns

2009.12.02 We looked on the bright side

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

I haven’t washed this many dishes since I was the official dishwasher at the Terrace Inn hotel up north in Bay View.

Back then—the summers of 1969 and 1970—I loaded the dirties into my Hobart dishwasher and pushed the button. Quick and easy, other than minor burns.

But the last few days, it was a matter of loading the small dishpan over and over until the counter became visible once again.

What this means is that Thanksgiving was at our house. Three children and one spouse. Parents. A sister, her three children and a friend. Lots of eating. 

And before that came lots of cleaning, including my trip to the bottom cabinet drawer where the volleyball kneepads are located. I put them on and got busy washing the kitchen floor.

Cleaning the kitchen floor reminds me of an incident a few years ago when there was a salad oil spill in the kitchen. It was a day we were able to look on the bright side of a tragedy.

 

Nov. 22, 1989

The best thing that’s happened to our family in a long time occurred Monday noon when a bottle of salad dressing spilled on the kitchen floor. It gave us the will and desire to face another day of diapers and drudgery.

I was sitting at the kitchen table eating some recent left-overs, a little distraught at having no By The Way column started, knowing there were a lot of other stories to write, and dreading the intrusion of a Monday night meeting that I had to attend.

Suddenly there’s a crash and a scream and salad dressing is flying across the room. I could see blobs of oil out of the corner of my eye and jerked quickly out of the path.

Colleen, the spiller, wasn’t exactly overjoyed with this accident. Her day was going bad enough before the oil spill. In fact, she believes the whole year is going badly. She can hardly wait for 1989 to end.

After the mess was cleaned, I pointed out how nice and shiny the floor looked with oil residue. I noticed how interesting it made the room smell. That broke through the suffering and Colleen suddenly realized how fortunate it was that she still had a load of white clothing to wash and she could add her salad pants to the pile.

“We’ve got a clean floor,” said Rosanna, and it gave the baby something to play with before it was wiped up.

“That’s a good lesson in putting lids on tightly,” added Colleen. It was also going to give her a chance to try out a different mixture of spices when she mixed more dressing for her waiting salad.

I noticed how the incident helped clean off the always busy kitchen table. A few paper items were ruined by the oil and had to be thrown away. That oil really flew.

By then Colleen was in the bathroom eagerly rubbing her pants with a bar of naptha soap. “Now we’ll see if it really takes out oil.” (I think they used it on some walruses in Alaska.)

It was oil and vinegar dressing. You know how the two don’t mix well. Unless you’ve added an emulsifier, you have to shake the stuff like crazy and then pour it on the lettuce really quickly. It still separates in your salad bowl. Anyway, Colleen was sure the vinegar helped repel the oil from soaking into her pants in some areas.

She was rubbing her pants and remembered my white pants that had a paint stain from parent visitation day last week at the elementary school. Some little twit decided to paint me brown. Colleen was still a little miffed about the dressing and started rubbing pretty hard on my paint stain.

Naptha took the paint out through her hard work, but it also discolored the pants where she was rubbing. But there was a bright side there, also, at least for the clothing store owner who would soon sell me a new pair. I had no insurance against an oil spill.

But in the end, the best thing about the whole maddening episode was this—I had a By The Way just waiting to be written.

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