Doing Dishes
© 14 May 2013 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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Thoughts on attitude and flat mates.


I have shared apartments with several dozen different flat mates, sometimes just a single one and other times as many as five at once. They’ve all been single male Mormons and on the whole they’ve been delightful. But there is one persistent problem that has plagued approximately 70% of the apartment resident groups I have experienced.


It is uncommon (though not unheard-of) for people to simply declare themselves dish-messy and think no more about it. Instead, what usually happens is that someone likes to “‍let things soak‍” and someone else sees that as “‍not doing dishes‍”. This creates tension: the self-righteous want to force the lazy into pulling their share. Then there appears the dish that no one remembers dirtying and the sink becomes its permanent home. Once one dish lives there it invites its friends and soon the sink fills to the brim with soiled dishes. This heaping causes them to become rather grotesque as each dishes breed of dirtiness mixes with the dishes below until the entire mess is covered with a thin film of slippery, sticky, rank goo.

There are, in my experience, only two solutions to this problem. One is that every flat mate determines that soaking is prohibited and that there is no place for a dirty dish except in the hands of a dish washer (human or mechanical). The other is that some subset of the flat mates take it upon themselves to do more than just their dishes. In those few apartments where the first option is taken the dishes issue never appears. But most of the time I find myself one of the excess dish washers.

If you ever find yourself routinely cleaning other people’s dishes, allow me to share the Great Secret to happiness in so doing. It is this: do it as a service, not as a chore. Actively think to yourself, “‍here’s a chance to help out my flat mates and make their day more pleasant.‍” If you ever find yourself sighing at the messiness of others or feeling frustrated, give yourself a mental slap on the cheek and fix those thoughts right away.

There are two points to make about this attitude adjustment. The first is it always surprises me how easy it is to achieve; when I’m murmuring to myself it seems impossible that I’d ever feel otherwise but place a smile on the lips, a hum in the throat, and a kind phrase in the brain and the world changes in seconds. The second is that it is far from restricted to dishes; when cut off in traffic, for example, try thinking to yourself “‍My, they’re in a hurry; I do hope they reach their destination in time‍” or even “‍I’m glad I was here to hold a spot open for them.‍”

In closing it seems fitting to include a extract from a lyric by Ira Gershwin:

At the risk of sounding rather platitudinous
Here’s what I believe should be the attitude in us:
A sunny disposish will always see you through
when up above the skies are black, ’stead of being blue;
Mr Trouble makes our faces grow long,
but a smile will have him saying “‍So long!‍”
It really doesn’t pay to be a gloomy pill;
it’s absolutely most ridic, positively sill!
The rain may pitter patter, it really doesn’t matter…
for life can be delish with a sunny disposish!

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