Let's Be Clear About This

The word ‘transparency’ is now popping up in the news relentlessly. Americans want more truth and less obfuscation in politics, business, and other societal institutions. I strongly support this notion, but my focus is more on the practical details our everyday existence. It’s a personal quest to find and promote maximum transparency in myriad devices that affect my domestic quality of life.

One outstanding example is a little electric coffee grinder I’ve used for at least two decades. The clear plastic cap allows me to see the beans as they’re being reduced to small particles. I know the grinder is doing its job properly because proof of performance is visible to my naked eyes.

I get the same assurance watching a food processor churn avocadoes into guacamole, or a blender spinning smoothies to a savory state of viscosity.

Such abundant transparency also explains my longtime affinity for front-load washing machines. The glass window built into the door resembles a 1950’s era television screen, and watching the clothes as they tumble and splash through the wash, rinse, and spin cycles is like tuning in to my own mini-reality show.

Top-loading machines are a different story. Many of them include a locking mechanism on the lid that prevents anyone without X-ray vision from viewing the soil removal process. For several years I owned a top-loader that included many impressive enhancements such as high-tech sensors to automatically adjust water levels for large or small loads, and a special agitation system that claimed to be gentler on garment fabrics. These features were compellingly illustrated in the owner’s manual but, to my ongoing frustration, the lid was firmly secured for the duration of each operational episode so it was impossible to visually confirm whether or not all the promised benefits were actually being fulfilled.

Before you accuse me of being a whiner, be aware that I understand user safety is a major reason for including the lid-lock feature, and I would never advocate or support unsafe laundry practices. But in the absence of direct observation, I just had to cross my fingers and hope the clothes were getting properly laundered. And because we live in an era of conspiracy theories, an ominous and disturbing question always lingered in the back of my mind—“Is there something they don’t want me to see?”

On a more positive note, I’m happy to report that washer companies are expanding transparency in their products. While strolling the aisles recently at a home improvement store I saw several new top-loading models that include a clear plastic panel in the lid. Voila! This feature allows any user to scrutinize rotational action, suds level and other details of the cleansing process.

Kudos to the machine makers, but more action is needed to maintain transparency momentum. During that store visit I also saw a selection of sleek, brand new dishwashers lined up side-by-side, the entire array notable for its uniformly opaque appearance. It’s definitely an outdated look, but it also offers a major monetary opportunity.

I’m convinced that machines fitted with viewer-friendly doors would be a sales sensation. Anyone who’s ever seen a commercial for dishwashing detergents knows that rotating streams of water cascading in all directions create a continuous flow of vivid visual images. To me it’s like a small undersea eruption combined with those synchronized fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. And speaking of Vegas and bright lights, why not perk up the washing process with interior illumination? The addition of a few pulsating multi-colored lights would turn each load of dirty dinnerware into a dazzling display of aquatic entertainment.

Adding a see-through option also offers a wonderful opportunity for families and friends to resolve a dispute that has raged in kitchens across America for decades; whose way of loading the dishes is most effective?

Count me in favor of every action or policy that nurtures the promulgation of truth while stifling the spread of doubt, suspicion, and paranoia. My commitment to transparency can be summed up in three simple words popularized by President Ronald Reagan. It’s a phrase that’s absolutely crucial in any discussion of international nuclear treaties or the performance of household appliances: Trust, but verify.

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