I haven’t posted on this blog in years and now I am going to write about doing dishes.
I like doing dishes. This may be surprising to you. Perhaps you do not like doing dishes. Perhaps the thought of doing dishes fills you with tedious dread, or the dread of tedium, or in any case you don’t very much want to do the dishes if you don’t have to. How can I possibly relate to this article of yours, bachi, you may ask? I would counter by asking, firstly, does that sentence need a question mark, and if so, where does it go?
Also, I would proudly admit to the exact same feelings. I do not want to do the dishes either.
I also do not gain any particular satisfaction from doing the dishes. I do not like to maintain a clean and neat living space, any more than anyone else. I do not have obsessions or compulsions. I don’t fear germs. I do not even own the dishes in my house, and so derive no feelings, positive or otherwise, from thinking about their long term maintenance.
I really only like cleaning the dishes between the time that I start cleaning the dishes, and the time when I finish cleaning the dishes. Nothing else. Even the memory of how much I like cleaning the dishes doesn’t last. I only half believe that I enjoy cleaning them when I am deciding whether or not to do so. Somewhere, the thought which sounds like “I like cleaning dishes” rings around in the vacant echo-chamber of my skull, but it does not move me. Dishes pile up in my room and my sink. But sometimes, something or other moves me to do them, if only the smell. And then I am happy.
When I clean the dishes my mind comes alive in a way that it so rarely ever does. I categorize the dishes into water-soluble and non-water-soluble stains while I run the water and apply detergent to the sponge. I fill the greasiest items, or those with the hardest dried stains, with soapy water, and in the case of the pans, set them on the stove to boil, while I lightly wash and rinse the most easily cleaned bowls and plates. By the time the stains on the pan have melted, I’m just ready to drain the water, rinse the pan until it is cold and clear of soap, and dry off and pack everything away.
Then I go to the supermarket, or make tea and watch television, and forget that anything had ever happened. I think about anything other than what I am doing. When I ride my bike, I worry about getting deported. When I’m at work, I wonder if I should move in with my girlfriend. When I’m with my friends, my mind drifts back to my college days, and unrelatedly wishes I had studied something else.
It’s always like this. Life is a series of random occurrences, most of which I am not really present at. The exception, for whatever reason, is doing dishes. That is why I like doing them.
I was standing in the front of a classroom being ignored by 36 students and their full-time English teacher.
Already there, actually, since there wasn’t much else to do, but…
“Are you paying attention?”
No answer. All things considered it was actually a pretty stupid question, but this was, apparently, no excuse.
“Come on! Come on!”
Yeah kids. Pay attention faster.
“You’re third-year students and you should have learnt how to respond to my ridiculous bullshit by now.”
[Then: the substantially same thing over and over again a lot of times.]
“Now,” screamed a vein in a neck. “Let’s enjoy some culture!”
(The word ‘culture’ was pronounced like the spraying blood of a cleaved head.)
“Stand up! Stand up!”
(Pronounced: “put your backs into it!”) Even to the extent possible I did not understand why this was necessary.
“Sing! Sing! Sing!”
“We need you to do a skype interview. It’s not because we’re selecting candidates for this position on the basis of their appearance. We definitely have other, entirely legitimate reasons, which I can’t actually explain. But even so, I mean, you should have seen the last guy we hired without seeing his face… I mean, I think he had some kind of disease or something, but ahh… whooh. You would understand where we were coming from. I mean, he actuallyscaredthe students,” read the text-message from quite possibly the worst liar in the world.
“Umm,” I said to the attendant at the internet-cafe, looking up from my phone, “you don’t happen to have a computer with a camera, do you? I kinda need to use skype. Like, urgently.”
“Of course not! This is an internet cafe!”
I remained unemployed.
I ran out the building and picked any direction on the street that I emerged in. It didn’t really matter which one it was, since I was in Tokyo, and as a direct consequence totally lost.
That, and I hadn’t actually worked out what I was going to do.
I called one of the about six people living in my room.
“Hey, I need to be able to use a computer with a camera… in about an hour,” I explained/stated/confessed.
“Oh sure you can use mine,” he said.
Well that was easy. Almost too easy Actually…
It started to rain.
I didn’t have any money for the train, so I started walking. The rain got heavier. It took about half an hour to get to my building. I tried to wait it out inside a convenience store. The rain got heavier. I kept walking. The rain got heavier.
I arrived home wearing a suit and the average annual rainfall of Guatemala.
I remained unemployed.
I mentioned before that there were about six people living in my room, but we shared our kitchen and common area with somewhere between fifteen and twenty. A lot of them were home.
I asked them for advice.
“Aww,” said Englishman, “I reckon it’ll be quiet enough if you do the interview in the toilet.”
I paused and looked up from the towel I had been trying to make myself presentable with. I stood in awe of the fact that this was probably the best advice I’d received all day.
“Also, I don’t think she* really wants an English teacher, she just wants someone to fuck her at work. So since you’re in the toilet, if the interview starts going badly, just whip out your dick and wave it around for her a bit.”
I paused for that advice too, but for different reasons.
I was drenched, in a toilet, and talking to a rich person on the internet.
“You’re drenched, in a toilet, and talking to a rich person on the internet,” she told me. “Also your CV is shit.”
“But we’re willing to offer you the job, because the contract comes with no job security, visa-sponsorship, health insurance, guaranteed hours, stable-salary, transport-allowance, or reasonable hourly wage.”
“I see,” I answered.
I remained unemployed.
*He’d applied for the same job, so he knew my prospective boss was a woman.
Grammar Topic for Real Communication 377545.B- “I’d always wanted…”
I’d always wanted + [noun/verb.] = I had wanted [noun/verb] since before the main events of the story.
Negation: I’d never wanted.
Example: I’d always wanted a groupie.
groupie: teenage girl, too much impressed by famous person (usually in a rock band). similar to a stalker (see Grammar Topic for Real Communication 369909.V.ア. “If you don’t stop …ing, I’ll …”)
sworn deposition: formal interview with the police
unprovoked: not caused by something outside of a person
fit of rage: period of time in which someone is very angry
at uni: in college (Australian expression)
to drift along: to make decisions in life that require the least effort
to be cool with s.t.: to not mind s.t.
criminal record: a police document listing all the crimes a person has committed
lash out: express negative emotions by destroying people or things
Reading Communication Skills!
Read the following passage from the sworn deposition of Mike T. Jones, and answer the questions bellow. Mike was a cocaine dealer in popular Australian tourist-destination, Surfers’ Paradise, until he massacred 17 innocent people in an unprovoked fit of rage.
I’d always wanted a groupie. I’d always wanted a lot of things actually. I’d wanted to be rich, famous, important… In fact, not even rich. I didn’t care about that. I’d always wanted to do something that mattered to people. Something real. I’d wanted to be in a rock band- not even for the groupies, or the money… I’d felt like if I could make music I’d really be able to do something that meant something for people.
I’d never wanted to sell drugs. That came later- much later.
About the same time that “wanting to make music” turned into “wanting to be rich, famous, and whatever.”
I got into drug dealing when I was at uni. Actually, how I got into drug dealing was a lot like how I got into uni. When I was in high school I didn’t really have any goals or plans in life- at least, any that I thought I could do enough to bother trying. But everyone around me was sort of going on to uni mostly, so I just sort of drifted along with them.
In my second year I started hanging out a lot with this older guy. I met him in one of my philosophy lectures that I had to go to because they failed you in the course if you skipped more than two per term.
I didn’t really like him much, but, I just sort of talked to him, and we both used to leave early and go hang out at this bar he was friends with the manager at.
I didn’t get how he actually survived, until one day somebody walked up to us while we were drinking and asked for cocaine. The old guy just took his money and handed over a little packet of white powder and no one acted like they’d seen a thing.
Because I didn’t say anything and acted like I was cool with it, after a few weeks he asked me to hand a package over to a customer on a night when he was away. In exchange I got to keep some of the money.
Eventually that grew up into what you can see for yourselves on my criminal record.
And I just sort of drifted along like that for a few more years. I dropped out of uni- I’d never really wanted to go anyway- and forgot what year it was- I never really wanted to know anyway, since it would just remind me of how much of my life I’d wasted.
I did the stuff myself. And some other stuff. I guess there’s no harm in me telling you that- you probably already have that on my criminal record too. That probably had something to do with some of it. But I couldn’t stop myself- or I could, but there wasn’t any reason not to, ever…
I don’t- … I already told you I’d forgotten what year it was? I never had any reason to know. I never saw a newspaper, I didn’t watch television- I knew what day of the week it was because I didn’t deal every day or take deliveries every day, but the years were all the same. My flat didn’t even have windows, and I just took drugs and played computer games in my time off.
So I don’t know when I started thinking about it- or if you’d call it thinking. I don’t think of it as fantasising, because that makes it sound like dreaming about something I’d wanted. I didn’t want to kill people, I didn’t want to get out- I fantasise about playing rock concerts. I dream and I dreamed about being the guys with guitars doing what I’d always wanted to do. Not killing people. I felt forced to dream about that by the bullshit world I’d drifted into. From outside of me. What word would you use for that? For a dream you’re forced to have?
And then I had this groupie. Did I tell you I’d always wanted a groupie?
She didn’t do drugs, and I was glad because I didn’t want to sell her any. She showed me an ID, and it was either real or so well faked I wouldn’t have gotten thrown in gaol for- no, wait, I was selling cocaine. Scratch that- I’d still have gotten thrown in gaol, but the point is I’m pretty sure she was basically over 18.
She was beautiful, wore a lot of make up, and not a lot of clothes, and was really nice to me. I was really surprised when the bar-tender told me she definitely wasn’t a hooker (I wasn’t sure myself, so I’d thought I should check with him, since he knew everybody in the room who was working under the table so to speak.)
How do I know she was a groupie? Well… I mean I don’t sort of, but then I don’t know what she was. She just sort of would sit next to me at the bar even when it was dead there, and she would listen to my boring stories and smile and act like she was listening to something other than my boring stories, even when I forgot when I’d told them before and repeated myself over and over.
I have kind of a habit of that actually, sorry. I don’t know how long. I’d forgotten what year it was by the time it became a problem. Sorry.
So, I mean, yeah… I guess she was my groupie.
I had sex with her. A couple of times. Not often. I normally didn’t really want to have sex with her. Pretty much never actually. But sometimes you just want to do it, you know. And, I mean, she was around… she was my groupie, after all.
I’d always wanted a groupie. But it was about then that I started being forced to have that dream.
But again, it wasn’t really a dream. I didn’t actually “dream” about it as I slept. I didn’t even daydream about it. I never had an image of it in my head. Words like “kill” “hate” “death” “execute” “hollow” “empty” “waste” never flashed through my head. I never “thought” about it. But sometimes when I was sitting in the bar waiting for customers this feeling would well up in my chest and sometimes my arm would twitch like I was about to hit a guy.
I had the feeling when the groupie was around and when she wasn’t. But it was strange with her around. I had this weird feeling- well, all of these feelings are pretty weird actually, you don’t normally go around killing people you don’t know, do you?… I mean wars aside- but with her I still had the feeling like I wanted to lash out at her. But at the same time I felt like it was everything around her that I wanted to lash out at. All the world revolved around her sometimes, and I wanted to kill everything in it, and when I could see her and I could feel all the killing I felt like I was being forced along into- it made me want to cry until I drowned.
But that makes it sound like I was thinking or dreaming, and I wasn’t. It was just a feeling I had in, like, a split-second. There weren’t any words, or any scenes in my head, I guess I must have added most of that stuff later. Most of the time I wasn’t even aware of it at all.
I guess that’s all I have to say. I’m sorry that it doesn’t help you. It can’t really can it. You know what I did and what happened after. It’s all on my record.
I’d never wanted to kill anyone.
Now answer the following true or false questions.
1. Mike sold drugs to pay for university. T/F
2. Mike became a drug dealer through connections he made at university. T/F
3. Mike felt alienated from a society that afforded him no opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the lives of those around him, but rewarded him with survival in exchange for his facilitating their total and pointless self-destruction. T/F
Grammar Practice for Real Communication!
A. Form sentences using the structure “I’d always wanted…” and the following vocabulary.
1. [play football in the park with my children] I’d always wanted to play football in the park with my children.
2. [live in a place I could invite friends over to]
3. [a place to call home]
4. [a dog called Scrambles]
5. [live near the beach]
B. Re-write the sentences from A in the negative. Then add “I don’t know what I want, I’ve never known what I wanted, why don’t I know, why don’t I know?” after each one.
1. I don’t want to play football in the park with my children. I don’t know what I want, I’ve never known what I wanted, why don’t I know, why don’t I know?”
C. You have killed 17 innocent people in a fit of rage. Why? (400-500 words).
“I watched group after group of pre-pubescent girls wander by, most of them fifteen at the oldest, always the same skin-tight skirts over flat stomachs and undeveloped breasts, high-heels, perfect make-up and shiny blonde brushed-for-hours hair. I imagined they’d been out trying to get into clubs, trying to put themselves on the market. Was that what passed for adventure in their world? There was an undeniable, nearly visible line dividing us, made out of money, out of social power, out of beauty; I was as displaced from their side as they were from mine.”
-from Off the Map