There’s a washing machine in the basement of my rental, and like most rentals it’s a little…quirky.

That’s what we would call a “manic pixie dream girl.” The nice, cute way of saying “batshit crazy.”

What’s batshit crazy about a washing machine, you ask?

You select a cycle, and pull out the dial to start filling the machine with water. Then, you add detergent and your clothes, put the lid down and go do something more interesting. When you come back, the dial LOOKS like it went through all the cycles–wash, rinse, spin–but when you open the lid, your clothes are making like soup and swimming in a giant vat of soapy water.

The “brain” of the machine isn’t in step with the “guts” of the machine. Reality is broken.

So you reset the dial to mid-cycle, to catch the rinse and spin cycles again.

Twenty minutes later, the dial says that your clothes are done, but your eyeballs clearly see laundry soup in the machine.

The very dial that supposedly tells the washer what to do is not only not doing its job, but misrepresenting what is actually happening under the lid. Not very sportsmanlike.

But it’s 10:30 pm at night, and you’d like to put your sheets back on your bed eventually so that you can sleep, so you have to get this laundry soup into the dryer somehow (preferably rinsed, so you can sleep without itching yourself to death). To outwit your faulty dial, you set it to spin cycle–at least there’s no more laundry soup–and then go through another rinse.

A relatively short and simple process has now taken 2.5 times longer than it needed to, and you no longer trust the dial–the very piece of machinery that’s instrumental to getting the laundry done.

Friends, it is important to have our mental models match reality as closely as possible. When our dials are off, we are in danger of doing useless things, or we are unable to ascertain whether or not our accomplishments were successful, or–even worse–both at once. Doing something useless and thinking that it was useful.

Human beings are much more complicated that washing machines, as we are capable of so much more than simple agitation, but dealing with my haywire washing machine tonight has reminded me that it is of utmost importance to have a mental model of the universe that is in tune with reality as much as humanly possible.

Maybe I will sleep on clean sheets tonight. Maybe I will roll myself up like a human burrito in my duvet cover, because my sheets are still stuck in spin cycle limbo. I will find out after I post this.

Maybe I can’t fix my washing machine, but I can take a look at my own accomplishments, and my view of myself in the universe, and I can start to align them with observable reality.