Trying to Do Maintenance in a Culture that Encourages Treating Everything as Disposable

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“When you get a chance, could you add another bottle of this to your next order?” you ask me.

It’s a bottle of white vinegar. You have the humidifier apart. It’s hanging out in the kitchen sink.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“I’m cleaning the humidifier,” you reply. You use distilled water in it, so it never occurred to me that you would have to. (Since distilled water doesn’t have the standard hard water deposits that tap water does, half the reason you make it in your distiller).

I’ve upped my chore game considerably since we’ve gotten together, no small undertaking. I have a routine, things I hit on a regular basis. Laundry, dishes, countertops, toilets, trash, cat box, recycling, etc. We take turns rescuing the Roomba whenever he gets stuck somewhere (bless his robot vacuum heart, he tries). We sweep up or vacuum other messes when they’re extraordinary or something Roomba won’t be able to handle. I mop. I scrubbed the tub eight times when I first moved in here — because the apartment turnover staff hadn’t done a thorough enough job.

I’ve upped my game because of you. And yet… and yet…

Every time I turn around, I’m learning that there is yet another thing that needs to be cleaned. If not every day, at least every once in a while.

Today it’s the humidifier. Last year I learned about the dishwasher. (You put a special detergent into the empty box once a month in order to sterilize it. We take turns taking out the trap in the bottom as needed and making sure there’s nothing stuck in it.)

You take the translucent fingerprints off the front of the fridge with polish, marks you can only see if you’re at a specific angle, like a hologram.

The Shock of Being With Someone Else Who Actually DOES Maintenance

I add the white vinegar to our online grocery order. I tell you what I’m thinking. About everything needing to be cleaned.

“It’s true,” you say, and then explain, “If you clean things, they last longer. They’re less likely to break. It’s the maintenance you need to do.”

And I think about all the times you’ve done something similar — not only with me but with other people (and animals) in your life. You’re the guy who nurses stray animals back to health. And you’re loyal, not in a blind unquestioning way, but in a way that is fond of commitment. Of accountability. Of doing the proper maintenance to keep things running smoothly.

Not just as far as appliances. But in your interpersonal relationships with others.

Well, sometimes. Because it’s not unquestioning loyalty. Other people have to do the work, too. And if someone is taking you for granted, treating you like something disposable, like something easily replaced, you have your breaking point.

I respect this, too.

Anyway, it’s been a shock being with someone else who actually does maintenance. Before I met you, I was good at doing it with people — and now I’m learning how to do it with things, something else that seems very rare — a lot of manufacturing these days revolves around the idea that people will run their possessions into the ground and simply throw them away when they predictably break.

I have learned a lot already — and I’m sure I have a lot to learn still — but I am an eager student. And you are a very good teacher.

Featured Image: CC 0 – Pixabay