Sunday, February 07, 2010

Journey to the center of the kitchen

“You know what you’re doing, right?” my wife Kara asked last week.

“Of course. Sort of,” I replied from under the kitchen counter, exploring the cavern where our dishwasher used to be.

We’d begun recovering from The Not-So-Great Flood of 2010, the aquatic event that sloshed from our kitchen down to the basement while we were on vacation, making our return home disappointing not only in that thousands of dollars of damage had been done while we were gone, but also in that we had apparently just missed seeing Mickey Mouse chasing a bunch of anthropomorphic brooms around the house.

After our contractor Sal replaced the kitchen cabinets, we couldn’t bring ourselves to re-install our old dishwasher, which Sal had described as a “builder’s special.” Apparently, the attribute that made it special was not the ability to wash dishes.

I pooh-poohed the idea of paying the $100 installation fee for our new dishwasher.

“Oh, no way, I can do that myself,” I grandstanded to the salesman, not letting my complete lack of relevant knowledge or experience get in the way of a money-saving opportunity.

Besides the obvious cheapness factor, there’s a certain shame involved with paying a contractor to do a job that you should probably know how to do yourself. It’s basically saying, “Well, since there’s not a real man around here, I guess we’ll have to hire one for the day.”

Even so, the array of skills that a person needs to master to stay alive today seems rather unfair. There was a time when all you had to know how to do was pounce on things and eat them. Now, you have to know how to install dishwashers, register vehicles, change diapers, unclog drains, update Facebook profiles, manage retirement plans and refinance mortgages. The paperwork alone would probably have killed most Java people.

So I found myself crawling around under the kitchen counter last week, yanking on various pipes and wires.

“Are you sure you cut the power to the right breaker?” Kara asked.

“Here, I’ll check,” I said, pulling the power cable out of the wall and touching the bare metal end with my finger.

When doing electrical work, once you’re pretty sure you’ve cut the power, it’s best to go ahead and just touch all the wires right away. If you’re going to spend the rest of the day dead, you should at least get out of doing some work.

Just then, Kara’s computer rang from across the room. Ever since my parents gave us a webcam so that they could see their grandchild, and Kara’s parents got hooked up as well, we’ve spent more time in front of the camera than Beyonce . I know this technology has been around for over a decade, but still, when you’re talking to your parents on the computer screen for the first time, it feels like you’re on the space station.

“Yeah, he’s installing the new dishwasher tonight,” I heard Kara telling her parents. There was a pause, and I pictured a look on their faces similar to the one they might have had if Kara had just told them that I’d decided to quit my job to sell Beanie Babies on eBay.

“Should he be doing that?” my mother-in-law asked.

“I’m not sure yet,” Kara replied. They acted as if the flood was caused in the first place by an improperly kinked hose on a piece of the kitchen faucet that I installed. I don’t know where they get these crazy ideas.

In the end, the dishwasher was installed using fewer expletives than I’d anticipated, and the basement, as of this writing, remains unreflooded.

“There, it’s all done, and we saved a hundred bucks,” I said, gleaming.

“Maybe we should get granite counter tops to match,” Kara replied.

You can defibrillate Mike Todd at


  1. A BIG congratulations on the dishwasher installation! However, now that you're swimming in the murky waters of all things plumbed and kilowatted one question begs to be you have the tool belt and big red box o'tools on wheels to go along with your new-found renovating skills?

  2. Wow, you did it without your dad's assistance. Good job man.