Dishwashers, as it turns out, aren’t particularly bad for the environment. According to recent studies, in fact, using dishwashers contributes roughly the same quantity of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as the equivalent process of washing plates by hand.
Learning this was a real kick in the dick for me.
“But Chandler,” you say, “that’s counter intuitive. How can learning that a convenient, modern appliance harms the environment less than a decidedly more time-consuming, messy and manual alternative be anything other than a welcome development?”
Because now I have to get my dishwasher fixed. And that means calling on my building maintenance man for help. And that means hating myself a little more than I already do.
My dishwasher is broken. It has been for as long as I’ve lived in my apartment, more than two years. I’d fix it on my own, but, like an unfortunate number of members of my generation, I’m a fucking man-child who has no practical skills but is adept instead at deciding whether this completely, utterly vacuous Tweet I have drafted is or is not snarky enough to merit posting. Fuck me.
Unable to handle my own problem, I confront a choice: Either I can ask for the assistance of my building maintenance man, or I can invent, live into, and publically espouse the completely artificial position that “I don’t use dishwashers for environmental reasons.”
Naturally, I choose the latter option.
I’ve hardly spoken to our building maintenance man before. His name is Goran. Or Zoran. Or maybe Jovan. He speaks in a thick, Yugo-bosno-venian Eastern European accent that collects pools of colliding consonants and expends vowels only when absolutely necessary. It’s hard to decipher anything he says. He is somewhere between 35 and 100 years old. His freakish ability to lift couches by himself points towards the former. Everything else about his physical makeup suggests something closer to the latter.
I wish I could tell you more, but, honestly, Goran is mostly an object of my imagination. While he absolutely exists, and I have a rough sense of what constitutes the day-to-day activities of his job, everything else about him is a narrative I’ve invented for my own purposes. In my mind, he worked tirelessly throughout the 70s and 80s, using his hands and heart to try to rebuild something resembling decent civil society in the ashes of Soviet failure in his home country. In my mind, he was chased away, for fear of prison or death, by some kind of Milosevic-esque criminal dictator. In my mind – his dreams dashed and his family ripped apart – he sought and found asylum in the U.S., settling in Chicago, where he has nobly put in years of grueling, physical labor in the effort to build a new life.
Admittedly, this could be (and probably is) dead wrong. He just as likely had some cushy bureaucratic job on the wrong side of justice in his homeland, beat the protestors to the punch by escaping to the U.S. before the other shoe dropped, and has now drank his way downwards through three wives and a dozen jobs before landing in my building. I admit, this is equally plausible and ultimately unimportant.
The truth is that my feelings towards Goran have almost nothing to do with Goran at all and entirely to do with my feelings about myself. Like most of my generation, likely including those of you reading this, I spend the vast majority of the time that I should be working to contribute something real to society instead trying to figure out the “meaning of being me.”
I am a petty narcissist. What can I say? It’s the curse of my era. (Childhoods filled with achievement badges, gold stars and 5th place Taekwondo trophies ruined us.)
The reason I won’t just ask Goran to come fix my dishwasher (which would probably take him 10 minutes) is because watching Goran work makes me sad about myself. It reminds me that my grandfathers and their generation spent vast amounts of their 20s risking their lives in shit conditions a half a world away to save humanity from bands of genocidal fascists, then came home, took thankless jobs, saved money, bought homes, had kids, and fought tooth and nail to earn an inch of economic progress so that their children might have it easier than they did.
Well, it worked.
Me? I get paid an amount that egregiously exceeds my social utility to do a job where my basic qualifications are 1) attendance of a fancy college that my Dad paid for; and 2) knowing when to employ the word “utilize” instead of simply “use” to make a PowerPoint presentation sound fancy. While Goran spends his days hurling around massive trash bags filled with half-eaten Thai food, empty Papa John’s boxes, and unread Rolling Stone magazines, I put bullet points into Microsoft SmartArt and complain about needing a healthier “work-life balance”. This is an equation I feel not OK about, and I’d rather not confront it directly.
So that’s why I’ve spent the last two years washing my dishes by hand. Now I don’t know what to do. I’m trapped between a Goran and a hard place. Maybe I’ll just start using plastic plates. That’s ok for the environment, right?