I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but this week a bargain brand dish washing liquid made me have one of those stop-me-in-my-tracks, whoa-wait-a-minute, mind-blowing experiences this week.  Yes, folks, Ajax, the so-called conquerors of all things grease, gave me an epiphany. 

How, you ask?  How could a dish washing liquid perform such a feat?

Let me explain.  Once upon a time, two and half months ago, we had a family barbecue.  This barbecue also featured games and a 25 foot slip-n-slide.  Well, we all know that gravity and wet plastic make a fine slide, but add a little dish soap, and you’ve got a mega-fun, slippery, good time. 

So, when the sole purpose is to lubricate a slip-n-slide, and when one is at the grocery store, standing in front of all the dish soap choices,
one does not invest in premium liquids like Dawn or Palmolive (No thanks, Madge). And you get an internet high-five from me if you know who Madge is!  No, one buys from the cheapo bottom shelf.  And nothing was cheaper than Ajax.

Let’s be fair to Ajax.  It did its job with the slip-n-slide.  The children flew down the plastic at a higher rate of speed and everyone lived happily ever after that day.  Thank you, Ajax.

Fast forward about a month, and it is now the beginning of October.  It is dish washing time, and the last sapphire blue drop has been squeezed from the Dawn dish soap bottle.  The only soap in the house is the left over bottle of Ajax.  So Ajax takes its place on the sink, to the right of the dish sprayer.   And the Reign of Terror has begun.

Every time we did the dishes, we thought we were getting the dishes clean.  Until it was time to put them away.  Then we noticed the pans still had a white film of grease.  The forks still had bits of food stuck on them.  And plastic containers.  The bane of any dish soap?  It’s like they had only gone through the rinse cycle.  With cold water.

But what did we do?  What was our response to this nonsense? We noticed.  We rewashed.  We wiped out the grease.  We lamented with our hands resting across our foreheads in full damsel-in-distress style, “Why, oh why, Ajax?  Why cannot you not be like Dawn?  Whatever are we to do about our dishes?”

This lasted six weeks.  Six full weeks.  That’s 42 days, people.  42 days we washed dishes with sub-par liquid. It was like the Lent of the dish washing year. 

But Easter came yesterday.  Easter came when I finally used the remaining remnants of the bottle of Ajax.  I squeezed every drop out and declared independence. “Finally order will be restored!  Finally we are free from this wretched Ajax!  Finally we can now get some Dawn in this house!”

Actual photo of the real life, used up, thank-God-it’s gone, bottle of Ajax.

And then I heard a little voice whisper, in full Glenda the Good Witch style, “You know you could have all along.” 

Shut.the.front.door.  Wait one-Dawn-deprived minute.  All along, I could have just simply bought a new bottle of Dawn.  All along I could have decided that if the Ajax wasn’t working, I didn’t have to keep using it?  All along, because I am a grown up woman, and the boss of my dish washing decisions, I could have decided that it was okay to forfeit the $1.19 that I invested in the Ajax, and spend $2.44 and get the dish soap that I coveted and I DIDN’T HAVE TO WAIT TO USE ALL OF THE AJAX FIRST?????


But here’s the thing.  My dear, sweet, washes-dishes-even-more-than-I-do husband, didn’t think about cutting bait on the Ajax either.  It’s like we both signed in our own blood a legal document that we would sacrifice our souls if we didn’t finish that bottle of Ajax before we bought another.  It’s like there was a sign above our door, “Welcome to our home.  Even if it’s lame shit, we’ll use it because we bought it, and damn it, we’re not wasting our money.”

Which leads me to the other thing.  That’s the generation my husband and I are from.  We use what we buy.  If we don’t use it, we feel guilty.  Let me tell you, it’s painful when it’s garbage day and it’s time to check the fridge for food  that’s crossed over the Expiration Bridge.  And when we do finish a loaf of bread, or gallon of milk or A BAG OF POTATOES BEFORE THEY’VE SPROUTED WHITISH GREEN DIGITS, it’s like a party up in here.  “Honey!  We finished the potatoes!  Before they went bad!”  That’s some real grown-up adulting going on.

So when we do make a monetary commitment to something that won’t “go bad” or expire or grow fuzz, it feels like a Must-Do to finish it.  Even if it sucks beyond measure. There is no alternative.  There is no escape.

I have to admit it though.  It was so liberating when I realized that all along we could have cut bait on the Ajax, but we didn’t.  Realizing that there was a power there, but that power wasn’t used, wasn’t even considered, is surreal.  We could have easily added Dawn to our weekly grocery list and let it take its rightful place next to the sprayer.  We could have even spared Ajax from the trash and just demoted it to cabinet under the sink, to be used in dish washing emergencies.  But we didn’t.  Yes, we needed better, we deserved better, but we used what we had.  It’s a little thing, but it’s not.  For it is in the little things that we learn big lessons.

So, to Ajax, I thank you.  You might be the crappiest, most ineffective, poor excuse for dish washing liquid on the planet, but you were the tool to teach me a lesson.  I guess you’re kind of powerful after all.