“Why can’t you just keep quiet? If you see something wrong, just keep quiet. It’s not your job to fix the world.”
Someone said this to me recently, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. On an intellectual level I can probably understand why pointing out flaws would be unpopular, but intuitively, not really. It bothers me that it’s not intuitive.
For example, despite knowing these are likely the preferred responses, why can’t I just say, “Honey, you’re way more important to me than anything. It’s totally fine that you don’t turn the water off completely after washing your hands”? Or “I really want you to like me, so I’m going to sacrifice wasted water and money to spare your feelings and hopefuly advance my popularity”?
And yes, though water savings is a noteworthy cause in this example, I can, in my mind, understand why people would prefer to be around someone more wild and carefree, who would laugh away the drips rather than hook a hose from the faucet to a watering can while mumbling about “why you couldn’t just listen in the first place,” and “maybe I shouldn’t be friends with you if you can’t see why this is an issue.” I have ample proof from life experiences that people generally prefer the person in the first scenario, and I can maybe understand why it would be important to put people ahead of “little” things. Though deep down, despite all the evidence, I’m still stuck being the person with the hose and the watering can, and it doesn’t look likely to change in the forseeable future. After deep introspection, I think it is likely because I lived the first two decades of my life with my parents’ tumble dryer.
If someone were to make a laundry list of my family’s faults, commitment issues to household appliances would not be among them. Their stand mixer is 34 years old. Their washer and dryer are both thirty. The television made it to the ripe old age of 26 before my father, tired of being unable to discern the color of the jersies during sporting events as the picture had faded to a sort of red-green wash, decided it was time. They gave it a funeral and bought a flat screen.
In other words, in my parents’ house, where movies like The Brave Little Toaster and Beauty and the Beast were played via some wiring voodoo to a boxy, now-deceased television, things do not end up in the landfill when they still can be of service. And being of service does not necessarily or often mean working at out-of-the-box efficiency.
Take the tumble dryer, for example.
The thirty-year-old tumble dryer, dries clothes with perfectly acceptable results, much better results, I can confirm, than any of the pay-to-use dryers I encountered during various living arrangements after leaving the nest. It also has a mechanical start button that makes such a big “click” when pushed, I can’t help but feel I’ve accomplished something just by lending it my shirts. For thirty years it has continuously delivered toasty warm clothes and positive reinforcement multiple times a week, provided (and this is a rule that developed somewhere around year 18) you use perma-press.
Let me repeat that: Perma-press. If you go rogue and decide to do delicate, there’s a fifty-fifty chance the thing is going to start walking away from the wall. Such was the discovery of one family member who found it, thought it was a fluke, tried it again, found it again, maybe discussed it with one or more members of the family before trying it one more time and then laying it down as a sincere and generally accepted observation that “the dryer only works if you use perma-press.” And it is at this point, this one right here, that marks exactly why and where I lose people.
In my mind, this is not a particularly note-worthy event. The machine has a fault. The fault has been reported. Reporting the fault saves me a considerable amount of time and damp sweaters. I log the fault, adjust behavior and move on, because in the end, I like dry sweaters. It’s all perfectly logical, in my opinion, but people it seems, like to make things difficult.
Take the “damn you, I’m still doing delicate!” people, which okay, fine. If you really need to go on a journey of self discovery with a personal pile of damp boxer shorts, then by all means, go for it. I’m pretty sure the fault is still going to be there. If you think you’re a washer-dryer whisperer that’s magically going to coax a better performance from the appliance doing exactly what everyone else has tried, be my guest. Personally, I really don’t care. They’re not my shorts. But don’t come crying to me when the box runs away with your undies. You were warned.
Then come the ambitious, “I’m going to fix this” people. I really have no problem with them at all. If they want to impress people by showing how they can produce exceptional results with the cotton-sturdy setting, there’s a high chance I will, in fact, be impressed (it’s always nice to have options). But just to note, I didn’t specifically ask for it to be fixed so don’t feel obligated; if I was judging you badly because of this specific incident, I’d be a lot more obvious about it, so if you do decide not having working delicates is completely unacceptable, just know that sock-shaking samba-saga is all you.
Then there are the, “I don’t use tumble dryers. All my clothes dry clean only” people. I’m skipping over you. I really don’t need that kind of pretention in my life.
And the “I’m going to tell the world about my passive-aggressive issues with your perma-press-only option, either via gossip to friends or social media updates” people. Okay. If you think organizing a personal call center/support group of every facebook user in Taiwan is going to help you do laundry at my parents’ house, maybe you actually should leave it to someone else? I mean, don’t hurt yourself.
And finally, the “Well, it’s broken. Let’s buy a new washer and dryer, and hey, while we’re at it, how about a new iron that gets used almost never as well” people. Goodness me, did you not hear what I said about the satisfactory button and the disappointing, pay-to-use dryers? Were you even listening?
Like I said, over-complicating the issue. Maybe it’s not the greatest analogy; people are not faulty appliances and I don’t consider them such, and yes, maybe pointing out issues with a person’s delicate cycle could be handled more delicately (ha, I know what I did there… don’t care). But in all seriousness I do tend to assume that we all, in one way or another, have work to do that could indeed make the world a better place, and therefore could benefit from dry clothes in which to do said work.
Maybe one day I’ll learn to laugh at people’s wet laundry, to overlook the fact that it’s probably going to make them uncomfortable and unpleasantly unhuggable. After all, it really isn’t any of my business, and annoying already-uncomfortable people may not be the best plan of action, despite me still, deep down, thinking otherwise.
Maybe, as mentioned, I’ll learn to do it more delicately or more appropriately. Or maybe I just have to accept that being overly-observant, overly-opinionated is my version of walking away from the wall.
I wonder if it will get fixed before or after the delivery of a new tumble dryer.
This events in this post have been mildly exaggerated for entertainment purposes. Names of faulty drying settings have been changed so I can practice laughing at your wet laundry.