MODERN BOATS come complete with many of the household appliances landlubbers take for granted these days, including microwave ovens, but only the very biggest and most luxurious boats have dishwashers. That leaves the rest of us to wash the dishes by hand, often in cold salt water.
It’s not a pleasant task, especially when it follows a satisfying meal and a mellowing beer or two, so it’s little wonder that people try all sorts of tricks to avoid taking their turn at washing up.
John Steinbeck knew all about it. In 1940 the famous author sailed in a sardine boat with a small crew to collect marine invertebrates down south of San Diego in the Gulf of California. In his book, The Log from The Sea of Cortez, he tells this delightful little tale:
“We carried no cook and dishwasher; it had been understood that we would all help. But for some time Tex had been secretly mutinous about washing dishes. At the proper times he had things to do in the engine-room. He might have succeeded in this crime if he had ever varied his routine, but gradually a suspicion grew on us that Tex did not like to wash dishes.
“He denied this vigorously. He said he liked very much to wash dishes. He appealed to our reason. How would we like it, he argued, if we were forever in the engine-room, getting our hands dirty? There was danger down there too, he said. Men had been killed by engines. He was not willing to see us take the risk.
“We met his arguments with a silence that made him nervous. He protested then that he had once washed dishes from west Texas to San Diego without stopping, and that he had learned to love it so much that he didn’t want to be selfish about it now.
“A circle of cold eyes surrounded him. He began to sweat. He said that later (he didn’t say how much later) he was going to ask us for the privilege of washing all the dishes, but right now he had a little job to do in the engine room. It was for the safety of the ship, he said. No one answered him. Then he cried, ‘My God, are you going to hang me?’
“At last Sparky spoke up, not unkindly but inexorably. ‘Tex,’ he said, ‘you’re going to wash ’em or you’re going to sleep with ’em.’
“Tex said, ‘Now just as soon as I do one little job there’s nothing I’d rather do than wash four or five thousand dishes.’
“Each of us picked up a load of dishes, carried them in, and laid them gently on Tex’s bunk. He got up resignedly then and carried them back and washed them. He didn’t grumble, but he was broken. Some joyous light had gone out of him, and he never did get the catsup out of his blankets.”
Let us be grateful to Adam, our benefactor. He cut us out of the “blessing” of idleness and won for us the “curse” of labor.
— Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar
A woman who heard a 5-year-old girl swearing like a trooper in a city park reported her to the park keeper. He went up to the little girl and said: “I hear there’s someone in the park who’s using very naughty language.”
“Who told you that?” demanded the girl sharply.
“A bird whispered it in my ear,” said the park keeper.
“I’ll be damned,” said the girl. “And to think I’ve been feeding the ungrateful little bastards.”(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)