Marine Biology and Washing Dishes

Memory Monday

I hope this doesn’t seem like a cop-out, but since I found a stack of writing I did in high school, and since I find it entertaining, and since not only does it bring back memories but it is often about memories, I think I’ll be posting more of them for a while. I wrote the following for an 11th grade journalism class. I got an A+, to the disgust and ill-concealed jealousy of the 12th grade boys in the class, who I’m pretty sure felt they were the de-facto geniuses of the group.


8 May 1989
Where's the suds?

Where’s the suds?

Fishing around in the grey water, you search for a spoon or something to wash. Broccoli particles swim through your fingers, and carrot peels amiably attach themselves to your hand. Suddenly, you yelp–you just stubbed your finger on a fork.

To me, washing dishes is a unique form of marine biology. While most of the things you find in dirty dishwater are not alive in the truest sense of the word, it would make a fascinating study to determine what they would be like if they were.

Of course, dishwater never starts out being polluted. It begins as a sink full of beautiful soapsuds. But the moment you put a dish in it, things begin to happen. The least-populated dishpan is inhabited by a few plankton-like crumbs. The next step up (or down) is the sink of small pieces of vegetables and other food particles. I remember that in Honduras my mother’s dishpan really was like the ocean–there were always shreds of tuna fish floating around in it. I found it repulsive, but it could have been much worse.

As soon as the ordinary eating utensils and a few pots that only had vegetables in them are clean, it’s time to bring on the main course dishes. These include pots smeared with hardened casserole, a dish of spaghetti sauce film, or any other equally messy and disgusting container. Noodles slither through the cloudy depths like eels, and grave grease floats to the top of the water like an oil spill, leaving faint rings around your wrists.

But the all-time worst kind of dish to wash is that which contained pea soup. Because there’s invariably plenty left in it, that didn’t get put away, when it’s time to wash it. Amorphous green globs float off in your fingers, like huge opaque jelly-fish, and swim away–by themselves.

By this time, the water itself looks like pea soup, and it is impossible to get anything clean enough to pass any sort of inspection. Fortunately, this is a sure sign that your dishwashing ordeal (or science field trip, depending on your point of view) is nearly over. When it is, you can drain the sink and content yourself with a job well done.

Meanwhile, the now suds-less water will ooze away with a satisfied gurgle. Most likely, it will leave your town and head toward the coast, where it will be eaten–by fish, and other things.


6 thoughts on “Marine Biology and Washing Dishes

  1. It may be old, but you did deserve the A+ in my opinion. I studied to be a Dutch teacher one blue moon (is that an expression? I feel it can only pass as once; I might be confused with ‘blue Mondays’ , which would be the Dutch expression that I’m trying to get across. I’m leaving this thought process here, because I feel you might answer me) and I dearly wished for stories like this. I got three sentences out of them, with a minimum of sixteen typos and grammar errors per sentence.

    • That would drive me nuts. I may have to revise my idea that I want to teach at some time in the future.

      We have an expression “once in a blue moon,” but we use it to mean “rarely,” which I can’t tell if it’s the way you mean it.

      • I didn’t. Having done something for a blue Monday means you used to do it, but it wasn’t too long or too significant. To be fair, I tought the lower levels of our high school system (ages equivalent to US middle school), so I also wound up with less motivated students and a lot of dyslexia.

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