The Public Eye

Like all real Americans, I like to buy appliances that I can’t really afford.

It isn’t enough to buy a machine that will just do the job. No, I want one with that something extra that will give me an excuse for spending more than I should.

“Yes, it did cost quite a bit more,” I tell the household Minister of Finance, “But look, it has 14 ultra-cool-looking LED gauges, two clocks, one for regular time and one that’s synched with neutron star 4756B and tells pulsar time, and it can say, ‘How may I serve you?’ in seven languages.”

“But will it do the dishes as well as our old one?”

“Yeah, sure, I guess.”

And that’s the thing — it used to be so much easier to buy an overpriced appliance. All you had to do was count the number of buttons — more is always better — make sure the dials were cool-looking — again, more is better — and get it in either black or white, but never, ever in avocado or almond, two colors whose only other use was for 1968 bathroom tiles, and maybe on the walls where you went to have blood drawn.

Now, though, dial-and-button admiration is out, and knowing the actual tech specs of appliance is in. Besides, buying something because “it has nice knobs” might sound awkward in these enlightened times.

No, these days, if you’re buying a range, for instance, you have to ask about convection ratios, cooking functions, surface configurations and BTUs, which means absolutely nothing to me except that, in scientific applications, it’s the equivalent of 1055 joules.

That also means nothing to me, unless you’re putting your range in your will, and then get to say, “Congratulations, you’re inheriting the family joules.”

All this is, however, is the preamble to explaining how I bought an expensive new dishwasher that I’d just as soon have the Tactical Bulk Pickup Squad use for training purposes.

Oh, it does and has all sorts of things: omni-directional, water-saving, precisely engineered spray nozzles, quick wash, long wash, auto wash, normal wash, low-temp, high-temp and a steam-sanitizing cycle that will, if no one’s looking, open a dozen oysters in under five minutes.

As specifications go, this model has everything, the experts said, and it doesn’t come in avocado or almond.

But what it doesn’t have is a rack that fits my dishes and cookware. My assumption is this machine was produced by people who eat everything off saucers after ordering out, although the manufacturer does say the rack is specially designed so washed items can dry with no puddling.

On the other hand, if you spent what I spent on a dishwasher that doesn’t work, you’d be doing your own puddling.

Some people will ask, “Didn’t you read the consumer reviews?”

I did, but found that they have changed too. No longer do you get a straight up or down vote, but a mix of unbelievable enthusiasm, equally suspicious squawks of complaint, and, according to one consumer magazine, reviews that were split along party lines.

Now that I think about it, maybe I should have bought the next model up.

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