If you’d asked me a few months ago what new skills and small pleasures I saw on my horizon, restaurant-style dishwashing wasn’t that high on the list.
That was before I met The Avenger.
The Avenger is the sanitizer used by Beacon Hill Friends House to ensure the cleanliness of the dishes, utensils, cups and glasses used by residents and guests. The drill in brief: We wash by hand anything people have used for eating or drinking. We stack everything in a rack and run it through the Avenger’s high-temperature rinse for two minutes. We remove the rack, empty it and stack everything on the shelves. It turns out that those things dry perfectly well, eventually, without the intervention of towels.
Unless you’re planning to stop by for dinner soon (which I hope you are), that’s an awfully fat paragraph about how clean we keep our dishes at the Friends House.
I burden you with it because the Avenger has become both my favorite chore and my handiest image of what I like about the sharing economy.
Most of the recent trend pieces about the sharing economy focus on the services side — FlightCar for parking at airports, Home Exchange for extended holidays, Airbnb for shorter-term lodging. Carol and I have had good results with such outfits, each offering not only lower cost but more enjoyable experiences than the established services they’re disrupting. Each relies on enterprising applications of technology and information that characterize the common definition of the sharing economy.
At the Friends House, though, we’re discovering a broader sense of the idea — maybe it’s better described as a sharing culture than a sharing economy.
Another way of looking at it, as Wikipedia suggests, is participatory culture.
The economic frame for the sharing trend relies on the idea that the more use we collectively draw from a resource, the greater value we’ve added to it. When it comes to the Avenger, though, it’s not so much that the 21 of us in the house are especially conscious of enhancing the value of this pricey gadget. It’s more about the vibe its collective use stirs among us.