I got my first job when I was sixteen. I was a dishwasher at a restaurant for about half of summer. Soon after I started, my mom wanted me to tell my grandfather about my new job. She was proud of me for getting a job, even though it was a job with low status and poor pay. My grandfather had worked as a short order cook and a baker for most of his life, so he was well-versed in working in a kitchen.

When I told him about the dishwashing job, what he said back to me was really strange. He said, “That’s great. Washing dishes is a good skill to know in case society collapses and machines won’t work anymore.” It was out of character for him to say something so cynical, and it pretty much stopped the conversation in its tracks.

Now it is over 25 years later, and I wonder, as I listen to podcasts dissecting news, technology, and podcasts as I wash dishes in my house four times a day: Is society going to collapse? Is climate change the thing that does us all in? Are we, as a species, extinguishing all of the natural resources we need to survive? How long is it going to take for things to start falling apart because of it? Maybe not as long as I would like it to be.

If that is how society collapses, perhaps machines will be the only things left that will be able to wash dishes. In that case, my dishwashing skills will not be useful after all.