Cleanliness is Next to Therapy

I scrubbed the oven this past Saturday morning. No foams, no self-cleaning-burn-it-off-smoke-up-the-whole-place method—just old-fashioned vinegar, then soak, then scrub. I’ve had it on my list for about 6 weeks, but my wife has had it on my list for about 3 months.

I actually enjoyed the activity. While listening to a couple of my favorite podcasts, while the other two residents were sleeping, I’m scrubbing. Pssst…don’t tell my family!

There is something about cleaning something, especially something extremely dirty, that feels good to me. No, I’m not available to scrub your tub, wash your car, or power wash your deck…but I have enjoyed those activities in the past. Yes, they can wear me out, and I’m glad they are over when I’m finished. There’s also that sense of accomplishment when you look at the “after” shot.

One of our employee benefits at my company has always been free coffee. Not el cheapo swill – fresh ground, premium brand, locally roasted, always available coffee. Employees make it themselves with a grind and brew system in a 12-cup airpot at a time. I have always appreciated it, and now that one of my autism hacks is very limited caffeine, I appreciate the company continuing to have decaf beans available. There might 2 or 3 out of 400 of us who like decaf…so it’s usually me making it.

When I approach the coffee station, if it’s unkempt, if there are coffee stains, torn packets of sugar, or other evidence of slovenly activity, I usually wipe it all up. I can usually do it while the decaf is brewing. I have joked with people who notice that I am making coffee and cleaning the station, “Hey, just being Bart the Barista…no worries!” Or I have also said, “If I had a kitchen counter this nice at home, I’d take care of it.” That’s a little passive aggressive, I admit.

I don’t do this just because I might be nice, nor out of service to fellow associates – although they do appreciate it for the most part. Having done side work in a restaurant while I was a server, I learned how to look for the problem areas on these airpots and brewers, and how to clean them. I see the problem – and I struggle to walk by it. It almost always pings my ADD. I probably should be getting back to the activity that the company is REALLY paying me to do and let the “cleaners” clean the area, but it bothers me. Sometimes, I can walk in and walk out of the break room; other times, I’m giving up a few minutes to making the area look better or starting a new pot to leave for the next user.

Coffee is also one of my “enthusiasms” – a big concept with some in the spectrum community. Just like some with autism get fired up about superheroes (kinda me), cars (kinda me, too), video games (I’m over them), coffee is almost a hobby for me. Every out-of-place object does not immediately catch my attention. Some do, and some don’t. There may be other things, like the dirty oven, that I don’t see regularly or easily. They are not on my radar. They don’t get my attention until someone points them out. But, I like coffee, I want it, and the station where it is made, to be fresh and contaminant-free, and it bothers me when I know it’s wrong…and I can I fix it quickly.

Am I “certifiable?” Well, I do have a neurological test and a brain scan…. Cleaning therapy is drug free, and it only costs me a little elbow grease. That reminds me, the Mini needs a bath. Keep shiftin’.

Published by Bart Shoaf

Blogging about victories and challenges as a middle-aged man with a late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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