One of the key personal philosophies that guided me as an engineer can be worded as follows: “The first one to the river builds the bridge.” Whether it was creating a reusable block of code or establishing testbeds and running miles of cable in the lab, I found myself standing on the bank of many rivers as roiling waters rushed by. The bridge had to be completed before anyone could go forward. Bridge building brings a sense of warm-fuzzy satisfaction though the team’s recognition of the effort is often in short supply. I struggled (sometimes) with my attitude as others came behind and enjoyed the fruit of my labors without expending any effort or tossing out a thank you.
Now I work with one teammate, and she is a sweetie. Shawn rocks my world in so many ways, and her prowess in the kitchen is astounding. I like to eat the food she cooks, and hope to contribute to her effort in some way other than asking every two minutes, “When will supper be ready?”
I note here, with no judgmental attitude whatsoever, that Shawn makes a mess in the kitchen. Sometimes the mess covers the counter and splatters the floor. I see similar conditions in the shop with wood chips covering the bench and sawdust wafting through the air. Out there I can use the shop vac and the leaf blower to tidy up fairly quickly.
Not so much in the kitchen, though. Shawn had a bad experience, and I am no longer allowed to use the leaf blower in the house.
Kitchen stuff has to be washed by hand or rinsed and placed in the dishwasher. Floors need mopping. Counters need wiping. And these steps repeat before, during, and after the preparation, the serving, and the cleanup. Well, guess what? In terms one might find on my yearly appraisal, “John shows a high degree of competence in cleanup.”
I don’t have to cleanup, I get to cleanup. And I get to eat good food so the arrangement is a win-win.
In my kitchen exploration I’ve found a bridge that needs to be constructed usually once a day although sometimes twice on a busy day—emptying the dishwasher and putting the contents in their appropriate places.
I arrive in the kitchen before the sun rise most mornings and check the little blue light. If that puppy is aglow I have an opportunity. I race to try and empty the dishwasher before Shawn comes downstairs. One never knows. She may see the tidy kitchen, walk across the little bridge, start the oven, open the cabinets, and pull out the measuring utensils. And a feast of bacon, biscuits, gravy, and eggs might become the start of a beautiful day. Once in a while homemade donuts might appear, or steaming sticky made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls. There’s no telling what the cook might create.
I opened the dishwasher one morning and began the sort. Plates, bowls, glasses and silverware were removed in a flash. Cooking utensils that require special handling made up over half the load, and that stuff takes more effort. A fleeting moment of gripe crossed my thoughts.
And then it hit me. All those utensils mean my wife invested hours in the kitchen the day before. I personally savored homemade biscuits and bacon for breakfast followed by chicken and dumplings for supper.
My frown turned into a smile, and I resumed my bridge building.
Have you built any bridges lately?