I SENSED a familiar urgency the other day when a mate said he could no longer hang around drinking beer after yet another glorious but ultimately futile battle on a lower-grade hockey field.
He said his partner had been away for the weekend and, that after ruling the roost for at least 48 hours, he now had to go home and order the kids to clean up the house.
I stood up to applaud, impressed by the bravado, because quite obviously he was kidding himself.
First, his kids would never pay attention; and, second, no matter how much he cleaned it, the house would never be clean enough.
That’s because cleaning is, ironically, a bit messy that way.
One man’s clean is often another person’s guilty – of crimes against hygiene.
And determining where you stand is often a delicate system of who’s done what for whom over the ages balanced out by a list of who will or won’t do what to, or for, whom if things don’t get done by the time they’re back from a weekend away.
It’s a crazy combination of wants and fears and needs and bleach called “living under one roof together”, and sometimes the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire.
Hence the tension in anticipation of the cleaning, and retrospectively after the cleaning, or non-cleaning, depending on how high the cleaning bar is set while drinking beer after hockey.
But people appreciate it when others stand to applaud brave things said like this, out of earshot, because it makes us feel like we’re allies.
Not that you’d want to give it away that you relate entirely to the sentiment of being wary if you don’t clean the house by the time the other half gets back from some self-justified wild weekend away up the coast or whatever.
Because that’s what underpins bravado.
Not lying exactly, but mild leaning to the side of a concept that isn’t exactly reality.
And my friend’s statement was plainly that. Particularly the bit about getting the kids to do it.
I suppose, you could try on the old indignation card, which usually runs like this: “Why should I have to clean the house when it’s you who has been away having a good time?”
It’s the kind of thing that starts to go on in your head when you don’t have someone in there messing with it.
And it indicates, in part, that those 48 hours you’ve spent up to your own devices has really got you thinking you are king of the castle and master of your domain.
But it really indicates, in the main, that you haven’t yet cleaned the house.
And you know there is a higher truth, and it’s not god or logic or indignation, it’s reality, son.
And seasoned veterans recognise this seemingly seditious talk for what it really is: a catalyst for action.
That house has to get cleaned, lest like one made of cards, it will come tumbling down, with the roof, the roof, the roof on fire.
Having stood up to applaud and philosophise, I sat down again and clasped my aching knee.
Like Danny Glover from Lethal Weapon 1 to 17, I’m getting too old for this shit (and by that I mean standing up after glorious but ultimately futile battles on lower grade hockey fields).
And if ever there was a metaphor for not cleaning up the house before your other half gets home after a weekend away, it’s a glorious but ultimately futile battle.
Shakespeare was really on to something with all that “out dark spot” stuff and rugged fellow hockey warriors know it’s not to be trifled with if you want peace in the valley.
They came up with a phrase during the Cold War for situations like this.
It’s called “mutually assured destruction”. MAD for short. And mad doesn’t do justice to the level of emotion that will ensue if the house isn’t clean upon arrival.
Nor the concept of “cold” war. Arctic, more like it.
Ultimately it’s a measure of how much suffering you are prepared to endure.
Or inflict, if you listen to the pained outbursts of the person for whom the house is not cleaned.
Because so often it’s the person who doesn’t do the cleaning that is cast as the villain.
Often by the person who hasn’t done it either.
And ain’t that getting confusing?
But as the late, probably great Malcolm Fraser famously said: “Life wasn’t meant to be easy.’’
And it won’t be if you don’t get home and get someone to start tidying up.
Probably you, because the young don’t comprehend urgency like this very well.
They still believe in fairytales, like teenage rebellion.
Which is what you’re dabbling in drinking beer after glorious but ultimately futile lower-grade hockey games.
All good things come to an end, though, like beer.
But cleaning goes on forever and failure to recognise this before the weekend is over will be like some lower-grade hockey teams to date – a no-win situation.