Are you sane?
Back in the days before science and modern medicine made their contributions to the field of mental health, sanity was a pretty arbitrary thing. Even in those dark days, though, it was useful to have a test for sanity, so you could determine if someone reached the minimum threshold of mental competence to be allowed to manage their own affairs. Here's one test. Would you pass?
One test for sanity involved giving subjects a mop and bucket and then sending them into a room where the sink was plugged and the tap had been left running. If they turned off the tap, they were sane. If they just started in mopping as the sink continued to overflow, they would be judged "not competent."
I expect most of you will agree with me that modern mental health care is to be preferred over this sort of rough-and-ready division between sane and not. And yet, I think there's a certain value to this test. In your own life, are you careful to turn off the tap before you start mopping?
I've seen plenty of (metaphorical) mopping in the face of an overflowing sink, usually in one of three situations:
There are times when the source of the leak is hidden, so a wet floor is the only symptom. For example, if the "wet floor" is a difficulty in paying your bills, I'm sure that Wise Bread readers would immediately know that the "open tap" is an excess of spending over income. But someone who has just begun to manage a household for the first time ever can perhaps be forgiven for failing to recognize this as quickly as a more experienced person would.
Sometimes the problem is not so much ignorance as it is denial. You see somebody mopping away, but when you suggest that they turn off the tap, they assure you that tap is already off and go on mopping.
Lack of authority
This is a different situation from ignorance and denial. it's quite common to see employees mopping away under an overflowing sink. If you point out that the tap is open, they respond with a heartfelt "Duh!" If you suggest that they might turn off the tap, they shrug and say, "I'm not allowed to do that. My job is to mop."
I list the sources of insanity in order of increasing level of difficulty to solve.
Someone who is merely ignorant can be educated. Depending on the exact circumstances, they may learn the lesson quickly enough on their own, once they realize that continuing to mop isn't going to solve the problem--although there'll always be some people who's first impulse will be to get a better mop.
If the problem is denial, the solution has to be different. Rather than education, they need something more akin to counseling. Personally, I'm inclined to refer them to a professional immediately, as I've rarely had much success in helping someone who's in denial.
I leave "lack of authority" for the last, because it's really a special case--there are two people who need help here.
There's a person in authority who's either ignorant of the problem or else in denial about it--and can be helped as above. (In practice, they'll usually turn out to be aware of the problem, and will claim that the mopping is just a temporary stopgap until a plumber can be called. Sometimes that's even the truth.)
It's harder to help the person doing the mopping. They usually have either a long story of futile efforts to convince management to turn off the tap, or else a short story of management so stupid that there's no point in making the effort. Either way, they finish up by shrugging and saying that, as long as the manager wants to pay them to mop, they're willing to keep mopping.
I've spent my share of time mopping under an overflowing sink for no better reason than because someone was paying me to do it. It's frustrating, humiliating, and eventually soul-destroying behavior. Don't do it. If efforts to educate management fail, find another job. Insane behavior doesn't become sane, just because someone's willing to pay you to do it.
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