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My Roommate's Dishwashing Scam - A Short Story

I have authored a novel for Amazon's self-publishing program. It's called The Suit in the Backpack.


Dishwashing Drama in Rooming Houses

I've lived in plenty of rooming houses over the years and they've had plenty of rules. If you've never lived in one, then you might be surprised how many quarrels there are over dirty dishes. Everyone feels like they are washing somebody else's and sometimes it's true. At other times, people that wash other people's dishes and complain about the matter don't seem to count the times when someone washed theirs.

There is rarely a balanced situation. In fact, more commonly, someone washes far more than their share and someone washes far less.

I handwash my own dishes but I haven't always done so. It was ten years ago when I abandoned using a dishwashing machine in favor of handwashing because I really thought that ten minutes of scrubbing and then air-drying my dishes was better than using a machine. I found that the latter missed the tough stuff, ruined the peace of the house as it rumbled, and ran up the electricity bill.

It's amazing that simple dishwashing should give birth to a scam because there doesn't seem to be direct profit involved. However, in my current living situation, I think I've nonetheless sniffed one out.

The Scam

My current roommate has a different dishwashing pattern than me: he rinses his dirty dishes and then he uses the dishwashing machine to clean and sanitize them. When the load is almost full and therefore almost ready to go, it's usually made up of nearly 100% his own dishes because I typically wash my own as I go along. However, sometimes I clean my dishes an hour or so after eating and this space of time is one that my roommate has taken advantage of.

What I've noticed now and then is that when a load is almost ready to go, he will top up the last spot in the dishwasher with any dish in the kitchen that's dirty from my cooking. Then, when I go to wash my dishes after I finish eating, he comments "I put a couple of your dishes in the machine for you."

It sounds like a nice thing to say but this is actually the planted seed in his scam.

A dishwashing scam might seem frivolous. If you find it hard to believe that someone would do such a thing, then please just take my word for it that he, my roommate, is one of the laziest people I've ever known. He orders all of his food at least half-prepared, he moans over the labor of cooking, he rarely is doing anything except sitting or sleeping, and there's a palpable moodiness to him when he has to perform any kind of physical activity. When the topic of his idleness comes up, he complains he can't do physical work because of muscle atrophy -- which is basically like complaining that he is too out of shape to exercise. He's not too lazy to dream up schemes, however.

Whenever a single dish of mine is in the dishwasher there are dozens in there that he made dirty. Despite the ratio, he puts a note on the machine saying that since he loaded it, I have to unload it. For the 'favor' of loading one dish, he trades to me the labor of unloading dozens. I calculate a 45% overlay in his favor on the trade: he creates 95% of the mess to my 5% but we each do about 50% of the work.

Another thing that is palpable is his grumpiness when I disregard his note. As I write, he's sitting in the next room. Every couple of minutes he clears his throat in discomfort and I know that it's because I walked out of the kitchen without paying attention to his note. If I stay 'on strike' then what will follow is a tirade where he puts the dishes away while maximizing the noise that the process makes. After all, the wall of the kitchen shares a wall with my room.

The Result

"Don't sweat the small stuff," people often say.

In my life, I've found that they often say it to me instead of people like my roommate. I have a retort, one which would be a plagiarism of Karl Marx's criticism of capitalism rewritten in the smaller picture of household chores.

Exploiters sweat the small stuff, in fact, they sweat it big time because they know that it adds up. Perhaps that will lead to a rebellion, yet, the pragmatics suggest that I should just be nice to keep the peace. In regard to the olive branch of diplomacy, I have already decided it is likely to fail. This pessimism results in my passivity.

Is it all a microcosm of human history? I could wonder about that but not for very long because as a member of the underclasses I have other problems that divert my attention.

My roommate just isn't stable in some ways and the clanging tantrums he has are a testament to that. Very much, people in the rooming house are hostage to his emotional outbursts. I don't trust him, I don't know what effects talking things over will have, and so I've decided to go with what I think is a better idea.

After I write this, I'll put the dishes away without a fight: he can have his 45% rake. Then, on the 1st of the next month, I will move out in a passive-aggressive act that I will simply frame to him as a desire to live alone. If it seems petty to move out because of dishes, note that it's not just dishes: it's his characteristic that I want to avoid because I think those things, characteristics, are pervasive. There is a whole matching personality that goes with this scam. He dreams of ways of exploiting people he lives with in many different ways. He is a nickel-and-dimer of everyone that walks in the door to live here -- and he has the power because his name is on the lease.

Of course, he will be unhappy about my impending departure but my current room will be rented out next month in no time. Probably, it will go to a man whose wife doesn't want to live with him anymore.

I say that because I find that type of man, the kind that wives don't like living with, is pretty common in rooming houses. I feel like I have some insight into their somewhat-generally-shared circumstance. In fact, I think I should be about 70th-in-line for an honorary degree in Sociology for the following paragraph.

I used to wonder why my male roommates that were married didn't live with their wives but that logic puzzle wasn't too difficult to solve after living with several of these men for a short time. My thesis on the matter would be that men who are married but live in rooming houses without their wives are more likely to be men that piss on the toilet seat relative to men who actually live with their wives. In addition, the former may do this with the bathroom door wide open as they stand urinating and snorting, they certainly don't clean their dishes, their food rots in cupboards so bad that it causes bug infestations, and they are prepared for fistfights if you politely ask them to quiet down at 2 AM. Take it from me: if a man is both married and moving into a rooming house alone, then you should double his rent in self-defense.

I won't hold my breath when it comes to buying the frame.

My current roommate loves that I do 50% of the work at 5% of the mess. He doesn't feel exploited and seems to think I'm the best roommate in the world. The feeling isn't mutual.

He probably thought he was clever when he originally started his dishwashing scam. That's because he can't see the big picture which suggests that he's not that smart at all. People who are being exploited usually know it and there are invariably side effects.

If the man that's coming to take my room is like the previous men whose wives won't live with them, then my thoughts on the matter are simple. I think my soon-to-be ex-roommate and this man deserve each other, I really do. Whether that's a happy ending or a sad one to this story is a matter worth thinking about and, for my part, I'd lean to the latter. Hopefully, the problems in their household aren't so loud as to reach mine.

© 2022 Shane Lambert

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