My “home office” these days is the kitchen, so I can’t let dirty dishes stand. They hang around the corners of my vision like sunspots, and when I turn my back, an all-encompassing awareness of them continues to bore into my brain and infect my work. I avoid reheating leftovers on the stove even though they’ll taste better that way; I go straight for the microwave to avoid dirtying one more dish. And still, dishes are everywhere, piled in and around the sink, spilling out of the dishwasher, the clean ones that I thought I stacked on the shelf moments ago somehow only moments away from being depleted once again. Ellen McCarthy of the Washington Post understands, and has put words to the frustration that so many of us are feeling with all these damned dishes.
“A sink perpetually brimming with dirty dishes is a proxy for all that is tedious and tiresome about life at the undramatic edges of this crisis,” McCarthy writes in a column aptly titled “The dishes will never be done.” “It is incessant, like the quarantine. Repetitive, like our days at home. Demanding and messy, like the tasks that fill those days. And somehow fraught with shame and judgment: Who can claim to have their act together if they can’t fit their Brita pitcher under the faucet?”
She goes on to cite countless examples from across social media of those whose laments about dishwashing have racked up thousands of views and likes. Of course, the source of all this is logical and understandable: we’re all eating three meals and all our snacks at home; ergo, more dishes to be done. But having an explanation doesn’t make it feel any better.
One thing I cannot imagine doing is adopting the tactic of Gwendolyn Wood, a 27-year-old from Seattle whom McCarthy cites in the Post: “Wood’s dish routine is now upside-down: Wash the plates and utensils you need for the meal, eat, then leave the dirty dishes to sit until it’s time to eat again. The sink is the new cupboard.” No thank you. As long as this room continues to be my office, I need the sink to be an unimpeded water cooler area for all my chitchat with the dog.
The Post doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions to this endlessly mounting dish problem, but it does make me feel slightly better to know just what a pervasive cultural bugbear it has been to virtually everyone under quarantine. How about you? Are the dishes haunting and/or taunting you? Do you feel like you’re spending the best years of your life waiting for the tap water to heat up, and/or waiting for the washed takeout containers to dry (when you know for a fact they never will)?