Adventures in Husbandry
When we got married last summer, Mrs. Pecadillo and I received many generous and useful gifts from our friends and relatives. One handy gift, bestowed on us by another Officer of the Law and his Mrs. Officer-of-the-Law proved an essential home appliance the very day after we opened it from its gift wrap.
It was a warm Tuesday afternoon. Having just returned home from a Cruise in the Caribbean, our Honeymoon had come to an end. Mrs. Pecadillo was at work, her first day back since the wedding, and I was at home, still on my vacation from work and with little to entertain my feeble, child-like mind. Most of the day had gone by; a wonderful day filled with far too many naps to count. To the untrained eye, it would appear as though I had accomplished little to nothing—and there may have been some truth in that. I knew I needed to do something, but what? My wife keeps the house immaculate, and after all, it's an apartment. There was no lawn to mow and there wasn't anything to fix. All my guns were already clean, the garage was organized, and there were no more pictures to hang. I had to find something to do. After all, I didn't want to let on that my wife had married a bum—at least not this early in the game. Still fresh out of premarital classes, I decided to test my well-documented ineptness of all things domestic and attempt to be productive around the house in my wife's absence; I decided to do the dishes.
A chore of this caliber is a rare feat for me to accomplish. Most kitchenly duties are beyond my meager capabilities and the kitchen in our new apartment proved to be a very strange and unfamiliar place. We hadn't been back in town long, but there were just enough dirty dishes to justify a single load in the machine. Whilst loading the dishwasher, I looked under the sink in search of dishwashing detergent. There was none. However, at the time I felt my options were still wide open. Under the sink I found multiple bottles and containers that appeared to be a large soap collection of varying types and uses. To me, soap was soap, to a certain extent. I'm a guy—but I'm not a Neanderthal; I know the difference between dish-cleaning soap and people-cleaning soap. Obviously a bar of Irish Spring thrown hastily into the dishwasher would not get the job done. I even knew that the girly, liquid body-wash soap that had just recently made its way into my bathroom was also not an option for the dishwasher. However, while surveying the vast collection of dish-cleaning soap found under my sink, a thought occurred to me: how different can all these soaps be? Sure, none of these soaps say that they are meant for the dishwasher, but they're basically all the same thing, right?
I would soon learn just how different they really are.
As I rummaged through the cleaning products under my sink, I eventually settled on a bottle of Dawn PlusTM, Odor Eraser Dishwashing Liquid Detergent. This particular bottle boasted a "splash of lime" scent that I was thoroughly and eagerly awaiting. I had it all planned out, the lovely Mrs. Pecadillo would return home from a long day's work in about an hour. At the door, she would be greeted with a strong and pleasing scent of pure, old fashioned cleanliness with just a hint of lime. The kitchen would be clean, the sink would be empty, and perhaps our stacks and stacks of wedding gifts would be organized. And who knows, the carpet might even get vacuumed while I was at it. I was apparently too busy thinking of more things around the house to clean that I failed to read a few other words written on the bottle of soap. These words, printed in a much smaller font than the rest, were "Ultra" and "Concentrated." These two, tiny little words proved to be the most significant and important words on the whole bottle. Why they were printed in such tiny letters and hidden behind a sunbeam graphic, I'll never understand. As I later discovered, these words indicated that this particular bottle of soap contains 30% more cleaning ingredients per drop than the leading, non-concentrated brand, and thus, much less of this soap is required to get the job done. This is something they should teach men in premarital classes.
Not noticing the important information hidden on the bottle's label, I quickly administered what later proved to be approximately 7 times the required amount of soap typically needed for a single load of dishes. At the time, the only soap I had ever put in a dishwasher was soap that was meant exclusively for dishwashers. Every dishwasher I had ever used has had a small soap container built into the door of the washer that the operator is supposed to fill with dishwashing soap. Not realizing the vast intricacies in soaps that I was dealing with, I filled the container to the brim with the ultra concentrated, super-soap. I even poured a little extra over the dishes themselves just for good measure. I then closed the door with confidence, started the cycle of the dishwasher, and retreated to the living room couch for a little sit-down.
I still had almost an hour before Mrs. Pecadillo would come home from work. That was more than enough time to vacuum the floor, take out the trash, and finish organizing the wedding gift piles. According to my calculations, I had the better part of a half an hour of "me time" before I would need to actually get back up and finish the chores I had assigned myself. Break time was here and I felt like I had earned it. After all, visualizing yourself cleaning a home can really take a lot out of you. Besides, I work hardest and fastest when I'm under a little pressure.
I woke from my nap approximately 25 minutes after starting the dishwasher. As I slowly rose from my favorite spot on my favorite couch, I surveyed the living room and wondered aloud if the load of dishes alone would be enough to account for my day.
Finding it hard to regain the motivation I had briefly experienced moments before my most recent nap, I sauntered into the kitchen to get a better view of the living room. Upon entering the kitchen, my bare feet encountered a terrain they did not immediately recognize. A delayed reaction, possibly related to the day's over-napping, allowed me to walk into the center of the kitchen before noticing the eerie ground on which I tread. I looked down and observed that my feet had totally disappeared. The floor was gone, my feet were gone, everything below the middle of my calves. . . gone. Again, the sleep-educed delayed reaction was playing a significant factor in my psyche. Staring down, I was suddenly jolted wide awake with the discovery that I was standing shin-deep in a blanket of little white bubbles covering the entire kitchen floor like a mound of freshly fallen snow. This unwelcome mass of cleaning product seemed to be flooding out of the dishwasher door. I quickly theorized that there was indeed a big difference between the soaps I had found under my sink. The apparent over-dispensing of soap proved too much for the little dishwasher to handle. The growing buildup of soap suds on the other side of the dishwasher door must have been so powerful and relentless that it literally forced itself to seep out of the water-tight seal between the dishwasher's door and frame. Smaller wads of the soapy lather poured out of the ventilation panel located on the lower portion of the dishwasher door. These less intimidating, mini-masses of suds quickly joined forces with the mighty foaming beast, increasing it's size while taunting me as it consumed my lower half. This dubious monster of white bubbles where the floor used to be was growing before my very eyes, multiplying in size and frothing around my bare ankles like a boa constrictor or a villainous blob from a bad SciFi movie. I was literally sinking into an abyss of my own foolishness and I did not know what to do.
When just then, the very idiocy that had caused this predicament took over completely. I actually thought to myself:
If I throw a couple flashlights in there, this is gonna look just like the pool scene in Gremlins.
Brilliant. Thankfully, I came to my senses and realized my first order of action must be to stop the problem at its source. With that, I stretched out my hand to the dishwasher's control panel. Turning the large round knob counter-clock wise, the cycle was halted. For a moment, froth continued to pour out of the ventilation panel of the dishwasher however as the sound of water draining out of the machine crescendoed like a sigh, the froth ceased to pour. For now, I was safe.
As the proverbial smoke cleared, I discovered that the growing soap beast on the kitchen floor that had once shown no sign of slowing its steady proliferation was now a stagnate body of bubbles, cut off from its life source.
I had won.
A wave of pride swept through me. I had conquered the beast. In a mano a soap battle, I had shown myself the victor. But I wasn't in the clear just yet. Mrs. Pecadillo would be home in literally minutes, and I still had a massive mound of soap to get rid of. But how?
A mop might have worked, but probably not as fast as I would need it to. I'd seen my wife use one of those Swiffer Sweepers® but I feared something like that would only spread the soap around and would not soak it up. I estimated that there were approximately 10 to 15 gallons of soap suds on my kitchen floor. There was literally no portion of the floor left uncovered. A mop was out of the question. Towels wouldn't work either; it would take hours to soak up that mess and it would require using every towel we had. How could I explain that a day where my only accomplishments were napping and a single load of dishes caused me to soil every towel we owned? What I needed was. . . a wet/dry shop vacuum. Yes, of course! We had just been given one for our wedding! Like a foam-covered cheetah, I pounced on our neatly stacked piles of wedding gifts. Rifling through the hoards of decorative bowls and George Foreman grills, I searched for the red-and-black vacuum that I knew was my only hope. "I got it" I yelled to no one in particular. The machine, still in its white-and gray-cardboard box, read "TWO GALLONS." If the shop-vac held only 2 gallons, I would need to get started soon. I looked at the clock and estimated that I had no more than 12 or 13 minutes, tops. With that, I tore open the shop-vac box with more energy and enthusiasm than a 7-year-old on Christmas morning. Shreds of cardboard and paper flew all over the dining room. I had no time for instructions or warranties, It was go time.
Like a flash I forced the electrical cord into the wall socket. Having not read the instructions, I began vigorously pressing the many buttons on the vacuum at random, hoping one of them would activate the machine. After a few moments of looking like Helen Keller with a Bopit®, the vacuum turned on. I grabbed hold of the long black hose attachment and thrust it deep into the mouth of the soon-to-be-dead soap monster that was covering my kitchen tile. Within seconds the shop-vac sputtered like a burping baby, indicating that it needed to be emptied. I quickly poured the contents of the small vacuum into the kitchen sink and put it back to work on the tile. Moments later, I repeated the process a second time. Then a third, and a forth. I eventually lost count after 7, indicating that there had been more than 14 gallons of soap foam on the floor. After continuing the process of sucking up the soap from the tile a few more times, the kitchen floor began to look close to normal. While drying off a few problem areas, I glanced at the clock and realized that Mrs. Pecadillo could literally walk in the door at any moment.
I took a step back and assessed the situation; I was actually looking pretty good. The kitchen tile, aside from a few remaining wet spots was shimmering in the natural light of our apartment. The massive amount of soap that had previously filled the entire length of the kitchen floor had actually cleaned every spec of dirt off the tile. I couldn't remember the floor ever looking so good. It literally looked as though I had spent the entire day on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, and then another few hours polishing it. I stood there for a moment admiring the fantastic cleaning job I felt I should have been proud of when I heard it:
I knew exactly what that unmistakable sound meant; Mrs. Pecadillo was home. She had just parked and locked my Dodge Charger which she had inherited through marriage. I knew I had about 30 seconds before she would walk up the single flight of stairs, round the corner, and ultimately enter into the front door of our apartment. Those last 30 seconds allowed me just enough time to empty the remaining contents of the shop-vac into the sink, soak up some last residual wet spots, and hide the lingering evidence i.e. shop-vac, dish rags, and flashlight (I had tried the Gremlins thing. . . it worked). I retreated to the rear closet on the back patio with the aforementioned evidence. As I returned to the living room/kitchen area, the front door opened. In walked the lovely Mrs. Pecadillo, somehow managing to look more beautiful than when she had left that morning. The exchange went like this:
Mrs. Pec: "Hi, sweetheart. How was your—why does it smell like lime?"
Pec: "Ummm. . ."
During this brief greeting, she walked directly into the kitchen and approached the dish washer. Did she know? Could she tell what had happened just from the lime smell? I broke out into a cold sweet.
Mrs. Pec: "You did the dishes?!? Oh baby, thank you so much! I was gonna ask. . ."
The shine off the kitchen tile had caught her eye and she was now in a full trance.
Mrs. Pec: "Oh my word! Baby, you cleaned the kitchen floor! You're amazing, how did you get it so clean and shiny? I could never get it that clean."
Pec: "It actually wasn't that hard. I kinda learned a new way. Call it an ancient Chinese secret."
Mrs. Pec: "Well I think you're amazing. Man, I am so thirsty, it was so hot today. Are there any glasses in the wash?"
Pec: "Uhhhh. . ."
How I could have forgotten to empty the soap from the interior of the dishwasher, I'll never know. I hadn't even touched the dishwasher since stopping its cycle and halting the growth of the soap blob some twenty minutes prior. Logically, if the machine had been so full of the soapy monstrosity that it was literally seeping the froth through its watertight seal, there would still be an unnatural amount of soap in the dishwasher. If opened, the machine's door would surely release multiple gallons of soapy suds back onto the floor in a steady river of foam. There was no stopping Mrs. Pecadillo; her hand was already on the handle of the dishwasher door. As she lowered the door towards the ground, a large cloud of steam shot out of the opening like a mushroom cloud and dissipated into the ceiling. When the air cleared, Mrs. Pecadillo found herself standing directly in front of a monsoon of foaming soap, reeking of lime, and pouring out onto the floor. Mrs. Pec quickly slammed the door shut to stop the massive flooding while simultaneously shouting an unintelligible noise I doubt could ever be fully explained or interpreted.
The jig was up; I was caught. I knew the time had come to face the music and explain what I had done. That's when I said it; the only thing I could say:
Pec: "What'd you do?"