On Life

On Life (A Small Topic)

Life is very interesting. The options are, at best, unclear. They may, or may not, be as interesting, but we will surely not know for certain until there is no recouping what we have today. Quite possibly, we may not be even aware of whether the option exists.

Therein lies a mystery.

How this all fits with my current life in the old folks home is confusing. On the one hand, it surely makes the day go more quickly. And more pleasantly. On the other, how often I may be relying on what is surely a philosophical crutch is a bit scary.

Take an incident that took place this morning. A fellow inmate here, Roland, and I shared a table for breakfast. Roland is blind, and he usually has an attendant helping him eat. The attendant was missing when I entered the room, so I rolled my chair up next to Roland, thinking I could somehow help. Later, I struck up an interesting conversation with her, Dayna–she was the caregiver. She had quickly materialized and was replaced by Evelyn, who is also a caregiver. The circumstances of the exchange of duties is not important here. Suffice it to say that I was unaware of the switch. One moment I was looking at and talking to Dayna, the next to Evelyn. Needless to say, the transition was startling. My initial response was to notice the change by commenting, “You’ve changed.” Evelyn apparently appreciated my situation, and responded in kind.

From there my mind went to one of the most intriguing characteristics of this, and quite possibly all, old folk’s homes, the apparent unpredictability of virtually everything here-abouts. Take breakfast, for instance: when you will get two pieces of toast when you expected only one, or bacon that has been highly overcooked, is totally unpredictable. So is the time that lapses between ordering and being served the meal. The latter seems typical of all meals. Whether the orange juice is small or large is also anyone’s guess. The food is usually good, though

I, at first, thought the inconsistency might be a consequence of a characteristic I do like–the absence of tipping–but now I think it is more planned than that. It would surely take great attention to detail to produce intentionally anything like the appearance of randomness that pervades almost everything I encounter here. Time has done nothing to allay the effect, by the way.

Anyway, a consequence of such random behavior on the institution’s part is a mistrust on the reliability of one’s own memory on the part of the residents (or, as I prefer to call us, the inmates). That has the obvious, if conceivably paranoid, perception by the inmates of the institution being in total control. Maybe it only seems I ordered my dinner a long time ago. Maybe there really was evidence of the change in Roland’s caregiver.

I began to laugh uncontrollably at the absurdity of it all. Then I began to cough, which I often do in such circumstances. An odd thing frequently occurs just here. The caregiver becomes distressed by the apparent distress of the cougher. Coughing may lead to vomiting, which can lead to aspiration, which can lead to death. Which results in unbelievable paperwork for all concerned.

In this case, the caregiver’s response was to suggest I take a drink of water. Her intent was to help, but there was virtually nothing she could do which would help at that time. Similarly, we all want reassurance that the cougher is going to get through the coughing fit alive. But the most unhelpful thing a caregiver can do at moments like these is ask, “Are you alright?” The temptation to ask is overwhelming, and almost never avoided. The cougher is not alright. But the last thing he needs to be doing is to reassure the caregiver. Or to think about taking a drink of water. He apparently needs to cough. Coughing is good that way. You almost never do it unless you need to, and vice versa.

At any rate, I obviously got through the fit alive. But it’s interesting here, being alive and living in an old folks home. Next time I hope to tell you about some of the more interesting people I have met here. Until then, via con Dios.

Moore On Old Folks Homes

More On the Old Folks Home

One of the things about caregivers that gets my goat is the pretty common experience of getting one who wants to finish your every utterance for you.

As I’ve gotten older this has become an increasing problem. I’ve gotten softer spoken and have slowed down in presentation a  great deal. Still, the fill-in virtually never comes close to the intent. My intent, that is.

A classic example occurred recently when Jenelle, one of my least favorite caregivers, asked me whether there was anything else I needed help with before she left. Now, one of the traits which Jenelle displays, and one of those which most annoys me, is that she wants to exit the room the instant she enters it. Her request was really aimed at exiting, not soliciting more work. She has often left the room without my having responded to such comments. Jump now, or it will be too late.

Anyway, my response became, in time, a tactic in which I essentially try to stall until I can come up with the right words to give her more to do until I really can ask for what I need. In this case, she asked me if there was anything she could do for me. My response was that she could help me with the belt I place around my knees to prevent the right one from being injured from being jammed into walls by my power chair. Somehow this evolved to my saying something like “watch me try to put my belt on my knees.” This was meant to be the start of a sentence which ended with “so you can judge for yourself whether I need help doing it.” She jumped in before I could finish: “You mean that by watching you do it I have helped you?”`

Now I don’t know why Jenelle expects me to be a slacker, but she apparently does. That bugs me a lot.

When I was a carpenter–no. When I was a laborer, before I became a carpenter briefly back in the 1970’s, I encountered several slackers, a subclass of the laborer society. Laborers tend to do their best to avoid work. Numerous times I recall thinking these people often worked twice as hard to avoid work as they would have done if they had simply done the job in the first place. I only spent about two months total as a laborer before being promoted to the status of carpenter’s apprentice. This was, of course, in a non-union environment. In addition, I was not frightened by fractions.

Anyway, I don’t like being perceived as a slacker. And that is exactly how I think Jenelle perceives me. Perhaps she has experience in her own life which prejudices her toward that expectation. The laborers I knew back in the day probably had children of their own. Maybe Jenelle was one of these. If my father was a slacker, perhaps I would finish the sentence for the speaker the way she did. I gave her permission to leave, which she promptly did.

She is, as I said, not one of my favorite caregivers. Fortunately, I have only seen her once since this incident. In fairness, I should specify that her heritage is totally unknown to me and whether she has anyone in her family in the slacker community. It’s completely my fantasy.

On Sexual Harassment

On Sexual Harassment

That bosses often abuse their power is, and long has been, a fact of life. Since men are, more often than not, apt to be the bosses, whether sexual harassment is involved or not depends as much on the boss as anything.

Whether harassment is a part of the boss’ standard operating procedure or not is probably crucial in making a judgment on the situation. Sex is a very odd thing. In my career, I have often held a great deal of power over a great many women, both subordinates and students. A rule of thumb was to never date your students. That said, my wife of more than thirty years was once a student. She was a student of mine when I first met her, in fact. I did not date her then, but she was a student of mine later, when I was involved with her, but before we were married.

Generally, I think I was pretty circumspect. There was one time, though, that I may have gone a bit far. I didn’t actually have any direct power over the woman involved, but my position was definitely superior to hers and the power question was not clear. I was very much attracted to her and wanted more from our relationship than I later concluded she did. I had heard, on the grapevine, i suppose, that the surefire way to get a woman to have sex with you was to get her alone and just refuse to leave without having had sex with her. I employed this advice to it’s fullest.

At the time, which was about forty years ago, The issue of sexual harassment never crossed my mind. But looking back on it, I think it should have. At any rate, I have never felt good about the whole incident.

It was, however, not my standard operating procedure, as it appears it was with many of my peers and even our present groper in chief, so I had plenty of room to rationalize. People like Weinstein seem to have been more the rule than the exception. Of course, sex is weird, so who is to say? Not me, that’s for sure.

Which dances around the problem a bit. How is one to deal with the nuances that come with sexual attraction and workplace relationships? I suppose there is no fixed answer to that. But you can surely see character in how some take advantage of their power, while others do not. The bottom line must lie, somehow, in being sure the attraction is mutual. But, if it is not, where is the future in that?

Good, though, is the recent focus the topic has drawn. The topic needs to be brought into the open, and bosses, of all stripes, need to be more aware of their power and more respectful of the rights of their employees.