Friday, December 11, 2009

091210 Everyone Hates Doing The Dishes

Everyone Hates Doing The Dishes

One of my close and dear relatives recently said that she needed to go on anti-depressants. One of her many legitimate reasons for considering taking mind altering medication under competent medical supervision is that she simply cannot face doing the dishes. This is not a secret, she did post the news on facebook. Everyone hates doing the dishes.

Here are some statistics that may support that statement:
Dishwasher sales in the US alone amount to 1.8 Billion dollars per year. The number of cleaning maids, also known as domestic helpers hired from the Philippines to work in Hong Kong is more than 250,000. The population of Brisbane is about 2 million people. The population of Stanthorpe is about 10,000 people. So, if you happen to live in Stanthorpe, think of everyone you see every day and imagine another 25 people helping them do the dishes. Imagine, at the end of each meal; in this imaginary situation in Stanthorpe, 25 people politely and graciously descend on the table like a flock of well mannered seagulls, clear everything, clean the table; take every plate, knife, fork and spoon to the kitchen where it is thoroughly and vigorously washed in hot soapy water, dried, stacked, folded, sanitised and generally cleaned in the time it takes to unfold your linen napkin, elegantly dab the corners of your mouth, burp and say “My goodness that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehova.”

The BBC had an interesting article about why a particular English family has a maid. The charming and well spoken wife said, among other things, that the family has a maid not so much as to do the housework, but to preserve the sanity. This family would rather pay someone to always be the one to do the dishes and therefore stop the endless bickering about whose turn it is. The cost in dollars and the mental cost of employing a maid is far lower than the mental cost of dealing with the nightly arguments over who is going to wash and who is going to dry. These complementary and diverse tasks set an important social standing within the family. The best way to devalue the position, according to the psychologist running the study, is to make the position part of a different social structure.

Doing the dishes is a futile task. No sooner are the dishes done and the kitchen clean when someone walks in and innocently puts one single solitary dirty glass in the nice clean empty sink, smiling sweetly as they do so. With that innocuous action, the incessant cycle of drudgery starts again. The job was complete for nearly, almost but not quite, 7.62 seconds. Endless, futile, thankless, degrading and lonely; so lonely. Even on chip night, when there should only be that lovely big square of white paper with a few delicious deep-fried crumbs, scraps of soggy batter and a lovely lingering lemon fragrance to be rolled up and dropped unceremoniously into the wheely bin, there is always something in the sink. Always. Always. Always.

Most of the drudgery can be taken away if someone just stays and gives some moral support, but as history has shown time and time again, everyone runs off to do something far more interesting like watching a documentary on the lifecycle of bats.

There was a young bloke in the army who was given permission to live off the base. I cannot believe that a soldier had to actually ask permission to enjoy the very freedoms for which he was willing to risk his life; a soldier, a grown man, trained in the deadly arts of hand-to-hand combat, had to get permission to live in his own house. Anyway, this young bloke soon started showing his youthful inexperience and innate inability to run his own life when he showed signs of ill health and poor diet. His sergeant was asked to go to his private property to see what was going on. To the surprise and bewilderment of all, this young soldier was not doing the dishes. The story goes that he did have a basic common-sense system of standing orders with the duty roster posted on the fridge, but it seems it all went awry when he couldn’t muster the mental energy to do the dishes. After a hard day of marching up and down the square and painting white rocks white and shooting at a moving target, he just couldn’t be stuffed. The whole system collapsed. He became uncivilised. And so that day the legend was born of the Lazy Soldier With Mouldy Pots Who Had To Be Ordered To Live In The Barracks. The pots were taken away by men wearing Nuclear-Biological-Chemical suits and thrown in the dump.

Everyone hates doing the dishes. Even with a dishwasher, there is still the Tetris-like preparation of fitting all the round pots into what is essentially a square box. There is always one pot that takes up an unusual and inefficient amount of space. And this is the part that really gets me fired up – you have to wash the pots before they go in the dishwasher. It is no coincidence that the English language does not have the phrase; I had as much fun as doing the dishes.

It is perfectly normal to hate doing the dishes. It is perfectly normal to feel less than enthusiastic about the prospect of yet again, and knowing that, and this is the bit where the psychologist helps, the whole dreary job will have to be done again in three hours.