Enlightenment by a Dishwasher Repairman

Writing about cruising and the boating lifestyle is always focused on the many aspects of our nautical interests. It is what bonds us together, keeps many of us young, and stimulates our intellectual curiosity. Every day on the water brings new challenges, new questions, and new opportunities. Cruising is a pretty unique pastime compared to box store shopping, Amazon living from tablet to mouth, and a society that dulls us at every turn. From politics to Internet of Things, we sometimes have trouble coping. Which is why getting out on the water is so good for us.

But before I launch into another nautical subject, I have to admit something I haven't noticed before. In all my years of marine twiddling, engine room and system craft, and passages over the dark blue, I never quite realized the connection between what I see/do/hear out on the water... and my life on land. Never. While they meant different things at different times in my life, today they are two totally different places, one supremely spiritual, the other just a way station between boat trips. My life on land bears no similarity to my life on the water. Or does it!?!

This week, I was a bit shocked into a new realization that left me questioning and even a bit embarrassed. Let me explain...

We recently had some younger family members stay with us for their annual participation in the summer junior sailing program in Annapolis. As this young boy and girl live in New Jersey, this annual trip to the Chesapeake is our way of introducing them to sailing, boating, and being on the water, in a controlled and supervised way. Starting next year, one graduates into sailing Optimist dinghies, the first step of what we hope will become a lifelong passion we can pass on to the next generation.

With more people in our house than we are used to, running the dishwasher seems constant. What is it that requires every drinking glass in the house to be used in one lunar cycle? I don't get that one at all, but no matter. We ran the dishwasher at least once a day, often twice.

And, of course, what happens on a boat when a piece of equipment is important to daily living and used more frequently than normal? You're right, it broke. Not broke, broke, but the door got way heavier, as whatever counterweight mechanism it had let go. And it came at an inopportune time, as we have been teaching these two to load the dishwasher themselves when they are done with their glass and plate and silverware, rather than let them sit around waiting for the wait staff.

But with a broken dishwasher, we had to change our approach. "Just put everything on the counter for now until we get it fixed."

It is a Kenmore Elite appliance that is not too old, so we called the service repair number and arranged for a service call. We set a calendar appointment for next Tuesday.

The shiny Ford Transit truck arrived on schedule, and Dan the repair man was friendly and cheerful and ready to tackle our problem, which he knew all about. Apparently, Whirlpool (the manufacturer of this Kenmore appliance) had done a poor initial job of designing the door mechanism and the parts regularly fail so the parts were redesigned and he had them on his truck.

As Dan produced the parts and his briefcase of tools, all of which I noticed I had (on the boat), I began to get this inkling realization that I was going to see a similarity between the "systems" in the house and those on the boat. This feeling was sitting in my head somewhere between guilt for not realizing this before, and awe that it was so obvious. I pride myself in taking care of the boat, yet obviously also jump at the chance to call a Kenmore Expert Service Technician to deal with a similar issue in our house. For shame!!!

In addition to fixing the faulty door return mechanisim in a couple of minutes, he showed us how to inspect and clean a filter located on the bottom of the dishwasher. Don't worry, it probably isn't highlighted in the manual, but it is no big deal to check monthly.

I have never once even noticed it before.

When he finished he went on to explain the company's blanket maintenance policy to provide year-round total home service that covers every appliance and system in the house. He offered to perform a check out of our Maytag washer and dryer appliances for a nominal sum. As we already knew, both Maytag units were probably manufactured by someone else in today's world. Everything is manufactured by one or two worldwide companies and private labeled accordingly. 

Down in the laundry room, Dan got on his side and used his electric screwdriver (yes, I have one of those) to remove the bottom panels of the washing machine and then the dryer. Within these spaces are dust and lint filters and drains with filters. He removed those designed to be removed and cleaned, and used a small shop vac (yup, got one just like it) to clean out the surrounding spaces that tend to collect dirt, dust, and debris. He explained that if "we" did this on a regular basis (yes, I know he meant me) we would not have many issues resulting from neglect or the typical attitude of "ignorance is bliss" when it comes to home appliances. Funny, isn't that something we write about when it comes to keeping boat's air conditioning and other systems running at their best. Simple, regular inspection that may be no more than a quick look-see and vacuum up accumulated dirt?

When Dan left, our appliances hummed as smoothly as a V-12 Merlin defending the skies over England. With just a quick check every month or two, our home could enjoy the same attention and carefree operation that our boats get and enjoy, but without the flag waving, articles, and extolling the virtues of ABYC certification programs.

Just doing a job that in marine circles is nobly called routine maintenance.

Now I admit I am pretty handy around the house and garage. I regularly change the engine and pump oil in my power washer, and take care of our cars and other machines. I have the obligatory tools of home-ownership, such as a plumber's snake and rolls of duct tape. While I shy away from ever using plain steel fasteners, I admit I keep regular steel nuts and bolts for use around the house where it is never the life-or-death deal it is on the boat. Is this a guy thing!?!? 

In any case, this Kenmore experience with Dan has me thinking that I should spend more time with these same systems that I am so methodical about on the boat, and my tool bag should come off the boat more often. I don't need anything else to take a look at what might need to be done and which is preventative in nature.

I readily admit I never really thought about doing this same stuff on land that I do on the boat. Time will tell, but I still maintain that taking care of business on land does not bring the same rewards. But is that a big deal? Not really. Perhaps instead of writing an article about how I saved the world by cheating death in some far off archipelago, I maybe just earned a trip into town for two scoops of butter pecan ice cream in a waffle cone.

Remember that hokey Kung Fu series back a millions years ago on TV? At the beginning of every episode, that Carradine character has to lift a red-hot hibachi with his forearms, presumably to prove his briquettes were made of steel? Perhaps this visit by Dan was my introduction into the larger world of Zen and the Art of Appliance Maintenance, only now I have become the student.

And who could forget the Kung Fu sage and spiritual teachings passed down each week from master to student:

"Ah, Lint Catcher, you are wise to follow the advice of the master in the shiny Ford Transit."