When I think of a “foaming mouth” I usually think of a rabid animal of some sort, a raccoon maybe, or a dog. What the title refers to in this case, however, is not an animal but a dishwasher. It all started one morning when I was at my friend’s home. She had left for work at 8:30 AM and I was sitting at the kitchen counter sipping the last of my tea and contemplating a pleasant day, free of appointments, with a few precious hours to get some writing done. Wanting to uphold my end of the bargain, I always make sure the lights are turned off and the thermostat turned down before I depart. In this case I also happened to check the dishwasher to discover that it was loaded with dishes, glassware and utensils. Since the soap had not been added, I looked around and found on the counter above the dishwasher a large plastic bottle of ultra-concentrated liquid soap. As i began to pour it into the soap dispenser on the dishwasher door, I stopped myself, realizing suddenly that this was possibly the wrong soap. I then rummaged around under the sink and found another big bottle of Cascade Detergent which was obviously the proper dishwasher soap. Since I had poured only a small amount of the liquid dish soap into the dispenser, I simply added the thicker soap and called it a day. I obviously had some doubts about the wisdom of my decision – was I too hasty? – and decided I’d better stick around to make certain the dishwasher functioned as it should. As I sat at the kitchen counter working at my computer, I could hear the dishwasher humming through its initial cycle. So far, so good. When it shifted into the wash cycle, however, things changed abruptly. Soap suds began oozing from the bottom of dishwasher door. I quickly grabbed a handful of paper towels and mopped up the two small puddles of suds. Good, I thought, that wasn’t too bad. Just two puddles, one at each of the two lower corners of the dishwasher door. At that moment, the dishwasher went into its third cycle and then the fun really began! Suddenly the two mounds of soap suds were piling up faster than my paper towels could absorb them. Obviously, paper towels were not going to do it. I needed to capture the suds in bowls of some kind and then dump them in the sink. Since the space between the the bottom of the dishwasher and the floor was narrow, I couldn’t use bowls and so opted to use four dinner dishes that were stacked in a cupboard nearby. By constantly shifting the four plates – placing and dumping – in rapid-fire order, I was able to keep the kitchen floor relatively dry for the length of the cycle. The problem was, it was a long cycle, maybe twenty minutes, so when it was over and the dishwasher went into the rinse cycle, I was perspiring heavily. The continuous bending and pouring had done me in and washed me out. The next morning I could hardly move. I had to conclude that anything foaming from the mouth, including dishwashers, could be detrimental to our health. Of course, the best way to prevent foaming mouths in animals is to give them a shot of the rabies vaccine, In the case of dishwashers, it’s even simpler. Just feed them the right soap.
I created a monster by the simple act of adding the wrong soap to the dishwasher. But we create monsters all the time by feeding them the wrong stuff. Addiction can be a monster, can’t it? I remember feeding my addiction to nicotine and caffeine until I knew if I didn’t quit smoking and drinking too much coffee I’d soon be dead.. In my case, I was lucky. I saw it coming and looked myself in the eye and was able to admit that I was an addict. Since I had an addictive personality and had to be addicted to something, I decided on running, a positive, healthy, addiction, steering me toward life instead of death. This decision did, in fact, saved my life. I read a poem the other day from Jock Cochran, a poet friend of mine. He lives in Vermont and he knows something about driving in snow. He knows that when your car starts into a skid, you turn your steering wheel into it. I’m inclined to think that most of us create our own monsters. They get bigger and start frothing at the mouth until we turn our steering wheel into them and in that turning, find a replacement or response that serves us well. Here’s my friend’s thoughtful poem in full:
It takes courage to steer In the direction of the skid./It’s an admission that things/Aren’t going as planned./And really,/The only chance of gaining some control,/ Or at least the illusion of control/ Is to steer in the direction of the skid.
This isn’t just about getting old./Accidents, injuries, illnesses;/Any of the challenges that bring fear or sadness/ Might benefit from accepting how hard life can be,/And steering in the direction of the skid.