Sunday, March 19, 2006

Maybe “Nazi” wasn’t the best nickname to give myself…

Of all the people in the lab, I used the most glassware. As a result, I was the most inconvenienced when other people didn’t wash their glassware. This caused me problems both because of the lack of clean glassware and because it was difficult for me to wash my own glassware when the sink was crammed full of dirty beakers and flasks. At first, I used to just wash all the glassware, even the ones that weren’t mine. But eventually, I began to resent this. “Why should I have to be the one to wash other people’s dishes?” I grumbled to myself, bitterly.

I decided to try to get people to clean up after themselves by leaving a message on the whiteboard next to the sink. I figured I would make it cute and funny in the hopes of amusing people while appealing to their sense of decency. So I paraphrased The Princess Bride and wrote, “To whom it may concern: Those of you who leave their dirty dishes in the sink will be challenged to a duel to the pain. Signed, The Dish Nazi.” I think I was subconsciously copying my mother’s old system of leaving notes around the house for me and my siblings that said things like, “Those who do not put their laundry in the hamper will be forced to wash their own clothes. – The Management.”

Yeah, it didn’t work for my mother either. Although my message did manage to amuse a few people, it did not so much succeed in inspiring my labmates to wash their dishes.

My frustration with the dirty dish problem unabated, I tried a new tack. I asked people individually to please wash their dishes when they were done with their experiments, as I was unable to use the sink thanks to the pile up. This actually worked for a few days on everyone but Smelly Lunch Guy who left his 15 test tubes in the sink for about a week after my plea. In a fit of anger, I confronted him, and he said, defensively, “Someone will wash them!”

“Yeah, ME!” I said. “I do them! What, do you think we have magical dish fairies* who come around and wash all our glassware? It’s me!”

I became more and more fixated on the dirty dishes. Looking back, I think this period must have coincided with a peak on my bitterness curve. And you know what I found out? I found out that no matter how bad cute and funny notes may be at inspiring people to do their dishes, becoming a nagging, shrieking harpy is even worse.

Eventually, I had to resort to apathy and when simply moved the dirty dishes out of my way, used the sink, and put the dirty dishes right back in. I stopped with the nagging, and people were my friends again.

*Not to be confused with the microscope gremlins who misaligned the lamps every night. They were real.


Banalities said...

Mo, you said 'tack' instead of 'tact'. Yea!

Mo said...

Banalities, that's because the expression is "try a new tack." As though you were sailing, and had to tack a different way. Do not attempt to take me on when it comes to obscure, dated expressions. I am the master.

Banalities said...

No, no -- I was expressing delight that you'd used it correctly. And as the master, you'll no doubt love this:

Anonymous said...

High School Tennis Partner--still reading--writes: followed the link to the bitterness/apathy chart. Grad School for writers is different. Bitterness set in almost instantly, and remains to this day, in spite of not small amounts of happiness and success. Of course, I only had two years to work with--not enough time to get apathetic.