—It’s miserable, utterly and totally miserable.
—Yeah, really. It’s not clean enough, people leave stuff everywhere, and then someone does something like this.
She waves at the noise from the two furthermost washing machines. Someone had had the temerity to use the machines she had booked, and hadn’t left a note explaining that the two other machines were free to use; the guy had shown up early and switched sets. —Really, how thoughtless and stupid can you be?
One has to sympathise with anyone who gets up early on Saturday to disorder sown by an interloper, who doesn’t even have so much courtesy as to be present for a good telling to. But “misery” is something I’d reserve for suffering dysentery on a bus with overflowing bathrooms, or losing an arm in an industrial accident because you’re worn out by pulling double shifts to afford chemo. Poor scheduling just doesn’t fill out the burlap sack of “misery.”
The woman doing the complaining was my age, perhaps slightly younger, and I was surprised that she chose me to commiserate with. Granted, I was the only person available, and possibly she suspected that I was the culprit and tried to shame me, but still; What did she expect once I’d mumbled sympathetically to the first two stanzas?
When I moved to my own place a while back I had to engage with a lot of stuff that I hadn’t given a thought of before. On Facebook, I asked for advice on which dish rack to get. The post received more comments than any other I’d made, so clearly I had touched a nerve. I took it as an informed debate on the merits of different materials and designs, but I got another perspective on the matter when I spoke to Anna some time later. She was upset exactly because the question had garnered so many replies.
And I can understand the unease and even anger: Is this really something which is worthwhile to think about, let alone discuss? Isn’t this a typical example of the banalities we complicate to give ourselves meaning? There’s an impulse there to say “fuck it, we’re googling ‘dish rack’ and ordering the first hit,” but to give up conscious thought in favour of apparent randomness, seems misguided at best and possibly disingenuous.
Of course, I think that being upset at the smaller preoccupations of everyday life only has a limited use. It’s good because it forces you to set clear goals for yourself, and make manifest your values and those expected of your surroundings. On the other hand, if you sweat the small stuff too much you’ll soon start to think of yourself not as someone who has control and ambitions, but as someone who has to obey certain rules and keep standards, and then you lose track of the bigger picture. In fact, you might end up wondering why your idiot neighbour doesn’t understand the importance of lint in the dryer.