02 January 2012

Tidy Front Porch Notions

Tomorrow concludes an 8-day house-sitting assignment in Santa Cruz.

Half-way through the gig, a very old acquaintance of the woman who owns this house (let's call her Paula) arrived with his wife. He's a retired college professor Paula hasn't seen since she studied under him in the early 80s.  She invited them to hang out here while she's on island holiday and have a happy reunion when she returns. 

Somethings I Notice (acronym SIN):  Based almost entirely on my esteemed interpretation of "retired college professor," I put in some time making things extra nice in the house the day of their arrival.  I thought it would reflect badly on Paula if the house was messy when they arrived.  In my head, it was 1972 again and I was a 17-year-old small town colored girl entering a private all-white university on scholarship, trying to make a good impression. I won't go into all the fantasies I had about how the three of us would pass the time until Paula returned.

As I buzzed and hummed around the house that afternoon, I flashed on the vexation I felt several months ago when someone described me as "tidy."  Well, look at me now, doing a very good imitation of "tidy."

Santa Cruz is a town where I perform on stage and both teach and study improvisational theater.  It's a place where I drink Cosmopolitans and skinny dip.  My kinkiest-ever former lover lives here and unexpected sparkly, juicy things happen regularly when I hit the street. In a sense, "tidy" is not what I embody generally in Santa Cruz.  But, there I was. Just goes to show you....

After three days together, I can say The Professor and His Wife are nothing at all like what I expected or feared or hoped they would be.  He pontificates and she waits on him hand and foot. They consume energy ravenously - most notably, turning on lots of lights in the house and leaving them on and cranking the thermostat to 70 degrees while leaving patio door and windows open. The toilet was flushed more often in their first 24 hours here than I've flushed anywhere on the planet in the last month!

I find myself turning into Sally Sanctimonious.  I realize "tidy" is probably a very apt description for me.

Goody Two Shoes

I've shared living space in a variety of settings over the last 10 years. My internal rule of thumb -- especially when it comes to bathrooms and kitchens -- has been to clean up after myself such that the next person in doesn't have to deal with my stuff at all.  No stepping over my laundry on the floor or working around my dirty dishes on the counter. I leave bathroom floors and sink counter tops dry, bed linens laundered and beds made. I wipe up spills in the refrigerator and replace anything I use up....

Anyway, this is NOT the universal rule of thumb. I know that now. And what I've observed in these small settings suggests an explanation for the ecological crises and sociopolitical frictions that exist globally.

I think people, all of us, do the best we can based on our world view. If cleaning up after yourself is not a part of your world view, it's unlikely the idea will figure in your contribution to discussions when attending a world summit on climate change. If having more stuff is a measure of success for you, then you'll likely vote "no" on suggestions involving a reduction of consumption or acquisition. If you're tidy and sanctimonious about it, compromise will be a challenge.

If people live in the world the way they live in their closer-in relationships, it's no wonder some of the Earth Village's problems are so hard to solve.

I have decied that today I will NOT pick up after The Professor and His Wife because its just been my passive way of chastising them.  I will not turn off lights behind them or turn down the thermostat when they're not looking. That's been my way of saying "Bad professor!  Bad wife!"

What I'm thinking about now is that this isn't a good solution for the world -- if corporations aren't taken to task when they dump toxic sludge into the water supply it's more than an annoyance to the larger community. It won't work for the world if guilty parties don't wipe up their spills. So how to make cleaning up after yourself and sharing and compromise a part of everybody's world view.

That, apparently, is still the question.

Happy 2012.