Wolfgang Wiebach's Light Musings on Heavy Subjects

    What the country really needs

     The saying used to be, "What this country needs is a good 10-cent cigar". Aside from the fact that the past inflation would dictate to attach nowadays a higher price tag to this request, the only good cigar is one that explodes ten seconds after it has been lit. No, there are other things needed at the home front; and it is incomprehensible that nobody makes them, considering how desperate some manufacturing companies are for novel items, judging by some of the useless stuff they do come up with.
     There must be millions of homeowners who, every weekend in the heat of the summer, push a lawnmower around their backyard, sweating and cursing. Even if the thing is self-propelled, they must trot along to coerce it this or that way, around the bushes and the flower bed, reversing when it hits the house or the hedge, and clamp down on a silly safety bar. Now, the Air Force flies remotely controlled airplanes for target practice (and lands them remotely if they survive), NASA drives remotely controlled vehicles over the surface of Mars - why can't Ariens, Lawnboy, Snapper, Toro et al come up with a remotely controlled lawn mower ?

     The idea is, you sit comfortably in the shade of your porch or under an umbrella on your deck, a cool drink at hand, and steer your lawnmower leisurely around the yard. You can even do it from the comfort of your air-conditioned house looking through the appropriate windows. The mower doesn't need a safety bar because your toes are "miles away", figuratively speaking. The flowers may not be quite so safe initially, but after one season, you will be skilled enough to pass them unharmed at razorblade distance. (Before that point in time, remember that they were meant for cutting anyway).


     Even in Mark Train's time, the city of Washington was suspect because it being the seat of Congress. To all the initiated, it is moreover infamous for its terrible summer climate. As the saying correctly goes, it's not just the heat - it's the humidity! Now there is air-conditioning that makes Washington bearable during the summer, bringing down the temperature and humidity at least indoors. But there is another season - Indian summer, the months of September and October, when the temperatures are moderate, but the humidity is at peak level. Still running your regular air-conditioning chills you to the bone. Former President Nixon knew how to help himself by indeed running the A/C, but lighting the fireplace at the same time. There should be a better way. What is needed in Washington for these times is a whole-house dehumidifier. You can buy a room dehumidifier that you carry or push into your living room and from which you periodically remove and empty the water can, and which you then at night carry or push into your bedroom, where it unfortunately prevents you from sleeping because, while it reduces the humidity, it contains a compressor that makes a racket. But you cannot buy a whole-house dehumidifier that would be tucked away somewhere in the basement and incorporated in the air duct system. You cannot buy it 'cause they just won't make it 'cause all the manufacturing companies are in areas or countries that don't have an Indian summer, and the last thing they listen to is a cry for help from one of their esteemed customers.      New houses are getting bigger all the time and so do their kitchens, and these are equipped with all sorts of fancy hardware like double ovens and commercial-size refrigerators with industrial-size freezers and built-in microwaves and built-in intercoms and built-in griddles that, unfortunately, can't be put into the dishwasher. They need islands to make space for all this hardware; and the real estate agents selling these houses with these kitchens call them gourmet kitchens, as if their equipment would magically transform their buyers into connoisseurs of fine food or, even better, automatically enable them to create such food. Said real estate agents will also point out how suitable this big house is for entertaining guests, accommodating fifteen to twenty easily in addition to those four to six inhabitants, and not just for a so-called party where people are forced to stand around, but for a sit-down six-course dinner served in the equally oversized dining room.
     This is all true and gorgeous except that the hostess (formerly called the housewife) will find herself buried under a mountain of dirty dishes, glasses and silverware which completely dwarfs her good ol' dishwasher that the industrial-size upgrade experts somehow forgot to upgrade. It's still the 24-inch wide by 36-in tall model that delighted you when you started out in your first one-bedroom apartment. In the years since then, the manufacturers added a lot of sound isolation to the outside, which unfortunately made the inside a couple inches smaller.

     So the good wife finds herself for the next 48 hours washing load after load, which, however, may be as well, since the builder let that entertainment-sized house go with just a 40-gallon hot water tank, figuring the prospective buyers would be so dazzled by the kitchen that they wouldn't bother to look closely at the implements in the basement. This tank size is, after all, perfectly matched to the bath tubs which, for a change, are not increased but down-sized, yet again according to commercial standards, namely those found in all the best hotels. The builder figured, after shelling out two million for their new abode, the owners would certainly wish to save on hot water and, when taking a bath, be content to sit (not lie!) in just three inches of that extravagant substance.      But to return to the subject at hand, those dishwashers are sometimes even a little too small for our two-people household, despite the husband's superior stacking skill. GE, Kitchenaid, Maytag, - do you hear us?