Friday, April 09, 2010

The first step towards oblivion, silverware-wise. (Taking Stock: My kitchen counter, 7:55 a.m. on a Friday morning.

At 7:55 a.m. this morning, I was supposed to have left for work 15 minutes ago -- I'm always supposed to have left for work 15 minutes ago, and by now I only in theory show up for work at 8 a.m. Most days it's more like 8:20. Or 8:30.

I was trying to figure out where I'd left my travel mug when I snapped this picture. The objects numbered and shown are:

1. A stack consisting of the latest Sports Illustrated, and two CDs: the Locksley album Don't Make Me Wait, and the original cast recording of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

Those CDs and magazines were sitting there even though my rule is that the kitchen counter is not a storage space for... stuff. And I tried to comply with that. But the SI magazine is The Boy's; we subscribe to it for him, so as a rule I try to wait 24 hours before I take it away from him in case he actually wants to read it.

As for the CDs, here's what happened this morning. I picked them up to take upstairs and put on my dresser when I went to wake up Mr F and Mr Bunches and get them dressed. But then I went into the Babies!' room first, so I put the CDs on their dresser while I got them dressed. After getting both boys dressed, I had to take Mr F to the bathroom (we're potty-training him) but The Boy was in the upstairs bathroom, so I had to take Mr F downstairs. I can't leave the CDs in their room, so I took them with me back downstairs with Mr F. Then, being downstairs, I decided to just eat breakfast, so I put the CDs back on the counter while I ate breakfast. After cereal-and-toast, I went to shower up and then headed up to get dressed for work. On my way back through the kitchen (I shower on the lower level), I was carrying too much stuff to get the CDs, so there they sat.

2. The phone we shouldn't have but do. That's the cordless phone I picked up at Wal-Mart about 2 months ago to replace the one Mr F broke by playing with it. Every time the subject of the phone comes up, Sweetie and I discuss how it would make a ton of sense to not have a house phone, since we both have cell phones and we never really use our house phone anyway. Then we discuss how we might want to have a phone at home for The Boy, even though The Boy has his own cell phone. Then we discuss getting one of those pay-as-you-go phones for a home phone.

By then, typically, one of the Babies! has taken off his pants, and we get distracted and go deal with more immediate concerns. So we still have a phone.

3. The replacement for the replacement coffee maker. Mr F broke my old coffee pot -- he likes to play with kitchen stuff, and tried to play with the coffee pot but threw it on the floor instead, breaking it. So we had to go get a replacement for that, all as detailed here.

4. My Deep Fryer. True story: About two years ago, my Dad gave me a Christmas present, and when I unwrapped it, it was a deep fryer box. "A deep fryer!" I said. "Great!" Then I opened the box and found... a crystal bowl, suitable for dinner parties.

We don't have dinner parties. When we do have people over for dinner, our table usually features something like take-out pizza. We have zero use for a crystal bowl. I tried to hide my disappointment, but was extremely unsuccessful in doing so.

Then, I later got a deep fryer -- not from my dad, who continues to be a pretty terrible gift-giver (he gives presents he would like) but from the kids. And while I have zero use for a crystal serving bowl, I have tons of use for a deep fryer. I've made cheese curds, deep-fried giant meatballs, homemade deep-fried macaroni. I will deep-fry anything.

4a. Sweetie's can of Diet Mountain Dew. I just wanted you to know it wasn't mine.

5. The smoothie blender. Sweetie, when she retired to be a stay-at-home mom, got a variety of cooking apparatus from me because she wanted to spend more time cooking. One of those things was a Rachael Ray (TM) Food Processor, which I accidentally broke when I used it to try to process food -- I was trying to chop up meat and vegetables, and I didn't know that the food processor was a delicate soul and couldn't do that.

The blender was a part of those gifts; I got her that and a book of Smoothie recipes that featured Smoothies which could be made without yogurt, since yogurt is what keeps Sweetie from loving smoothies.

We also use the blender to make shakes.

6. The pathetic display of kitchen utensils that themselves are pathetic. In addition to the kitchen gadgets, I think it looks neat to display around the kitchen the utensils that are used, the highlight of that being something I don't have, the overhead-rack-of-pans-and-stuff.

Instead, we have a pizza board hanging on one wall, and the remnants of other such decorations: by the sink (not pictured) there were scrub brushes that Mr F has taken to play with. And on this counter was a black container of spoons and tongs and things like that, alongside a wooden block of sharp knives.

Neither the utensils nor the knives were very good; the knives have small handles and are awkward to use, while the utensils are sort of weak-plastic and make you think they're going to break if you use them. Because they were used so little, they were good decorations. But then the Babies! got tall enough to grab the knives, so now all sharp implements are kept in a way-high cupboard above the sink where, when you want a knife, you have to fumble around blindly above your head, hoping to grab the knife you need without hurting yourself and without causing all the other sharp stuff to fall down on your head.

And the remaining utensils -- a couple of spoons and spatulas -- are scattered throughout our house because Mr F plays with them.

7. My briefcase. I don't keep it there. I'd just put it there while I snapped the picture.

8. The cupboard where we keep the toaster. Here's a point that occurred to me as I reviewed the things on the counter: I display, on our kitchen counter, a deep fryer and a blender that we use sporadically at best. But every day, I put away the toaster, which gets used at least once a day, if not more. When I realized that, I thought to myself: I should put the deep fryer and blender away, and leave the toaster out. Because I like the idea of having the kitchen implements also serve a decorative purpose -- jazzing up an otherwise-empty counter -- but it makes no sense to keep doing all the work of putting away and taking out the one I really use, and leaving out the ones that aren't as popular.

Then, as soon as I thought that, I immediately thought: No way. I'm not going to leave the toaster out on the counter. It seems wrong to do that.

I think it has to do with how functional the thing is. The more I use the gadget, the more it seems like a tool and less like a decoration. There's a relationship there, between how decorative and how useful something is... an inverse relationship. So it's okay to put up (as we do above the cupboards) a plate that Sweetie decorated when she was seven or so; that plate is functional, but we never use it, so it's highly decorative.

The toaster is used a lot -- so the inverse relationship between usefulness and decorativeness means that putting the toaster on the counter permanently, keeping it there, will destroy that balance, and will be the first step onto a slippery slope that ends with not putting anything away at all, the result inevitably being a pile of silverware on the counter.


Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars... but it was murder to get there. Read Eclipse, the haunting sci-fi book from Briane Pagel. Available at and on your Kindle.

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