Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Public Restroom: A Technological Challenge (Take 2)

I used the restroom in the new wing at the Anchorage Museum yesterday. It was all very sleek and design-y, only brushed metal fixtures, totally clean and spiffy. A thrilling 10 on my personal Public Restroom Rating Scale. I did my business and washed my hands. With soap. From a soap dispenser recognizable as a soap dispenser.

But then I was stumped: how to dry my hands?

Nowhere in all that sleekness and stone walls and minimalism was anything that resembled towels or air. I should have been warned by the motion detector light when I entered: I was entering a Smart Restroom. Actually, a Smart Inclusive (private stall) Restroom that even signaled vacancy:

I’ve had my challenges with restroom technology, chronicled here. But this was going so well: the water turned on, and the soap dispenser fairly shouted normalcy. There were even two hooks on the restroom door because we have purses and we have coats and two hooks is such a convenience and do you see why I’d give it a 10? (And, of course, the two hooks were Museum quality design.)

Behind the toilet, there was a steel plate with some kind of sensor-thing named Toto. Toto flushed the toilet. See what I mean by sleek?

Other than the motion detector for the light, there was nothing else on the smooth, stone-like walls.
I left my private Inclusive Restroom and walked out into a neighboring Inclusive Restroom, thinking maybe mine was the only one missing the hand-drying thing. Nope. It looked the same.

I took my wet hands out to the security guard and asked, “How do we dry our hands?” He said I had to hold my hands under the faucet arms.

Now, you have to tell me: would you have guessed where to dry your hands?

And in case you think the difficulty is not clear by my drawing, I’m going to go so far as to include a photograph. See? (Tim says it looks like a plane landing on the sink.) I’m just proud of myself that I didn’t think the arms were handles to regulate hot and cold.

I held my hands under the faucet arms, and a good blast of air dried them right off. But I challenge anyone – of any age, any Third of their lives – to enter that restroom cold and discover the dryer. Personally, I’d need a little sticker on the arms saying, “Dry hands under here,” but I’d guess that would disrupt the design.

Either that or I could have a lot of fun counting how many people come out shaking wet hands.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A New and Better Old Thing

In my Quest for New-ness to keep from going stale, sometimes I end up with an Old Thing Renewed. Like swimming.

It started with a free upgraded month from the athletic club, an upgrade that would get me into the clubs with pools. So while this possibility existed all along, I always concentrated on “it’ll mess up my hair color” or “my skin won’t be able to handle both winter and chlorine” or “it’ll be too crowded.” Negativity can really take hold, but in this case, the mere extra of “winning” this free month sent me into the pool.

And when I took that first plunge and swam across the pool, I felt welcomed into the water. I don’t know how to describe it except that water is my element. It relieves me of the burdens of land.

Land is my klutzy place. Land is where tree roots and cracks in  the sidewalk lie in wait to grab me. Land is where I can fall on my head (and this includes ice because when it’s hard, I count it as land, not water). Yes, I know I run, but I run vigilantly, looking at my feet and the hazards awaiting them.

This is how I start a run: “Grunt, grunt, get going. Creak, creak, get a rhythm. Just go, it’ll get better,” and it does. Eventually. After a few miles.

This is how I enter the water: “Ahhhhhh….”

How did I forget this? I don’t know when I first learned to swim, because I seem to have always done it. When the town pool was built in our town, my family got season passes. We’d spend the day at the pool, go home to eat supper, and return to the pool afterwards with my father. I even did synchronized swimming for a while.

Yes, the same girl who suffered through calisthenics in high school. You know “calisthenics” – the ’60s version of Jazzercise or aerobics or Zumba – the thing that involves rights and lefts and choreography. The phys ed teacher would start by saying, “Let’s begin. Will someone take Barbara aside and work with her?”

This same land klutz did synchronized swimming!

So now I’m in the pool again, doing laps. I count odd numbers out and even numbers back in. Eventually, after a couple of trips to the pool, I reach my ¾ of a mile length: 54 lengths of the pool or 27 laps. I get out. It’s where I always stop, where I have always stopped. ¾ of a mile.

And then one day, I decide to do 56 lengths. I have finished 54 and another out-and-back doesn’t seem so earth-shaking, so I do it.

The next day, I do 60. Then I calculate that if I did 63, and that’s divisible by 9 (just like 72), it would mean I had done 7/8 of a mile. Someone said I must have an active imagination to be able to go back and forth over and over again, and I told her I do math problems. I calculate the percentages of my laps, so figuring out – by ninths – is just one of my little games.

And then it occurred to me: I could swim a mile. I could just keep on swimming past what-I-had-always-done-and-stopped-at, and I could swim a whole mile.

So I did.

I am in my Third Third, and I now swim a mile at a time. Three or four times a week.

My hair is fading terribly (but at least the color is no longer dripping down my neck as I get out of the pool). My body takes gallons of lotion so I don’t itch, and I’m pretty sure the dark circles under my eyes have gotten worse as the swim goggles dig in right there.

But I learned a Big New Thing: I learned that many of the things I carry around are self-imposed limits. I stopped myself at ¾ of a mile my whole life. I’m not sure why, but I think it had to do with having to be somewhere, not having enough time, or just habit. But now, in my Third Third, I have the time. I just had to break my head out of its no-time-to-do-it place and consider the option to … pass that barrier.

This is mildly earth-shaking for me: what other limits are self-imposed? I think of myself as someone who likes challenges, tackles tough things, but obviously, I never swam a mile. Before.

Now I do.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

We all fall down...

I fell down and hit my head.

Now I bet you’re thinking: Age-Related. You’re not thinking klutzy-related or athletic enterprise or slapstick or ha,ha,ha or so-what-else-is-new. You’re thinking uh, oh, fragility, weakness, elderly.


So when the little toddler on ice skates got confused and bumped around and came backwards at me, I knew I was in trouble. I’m not a hockey player; I can’t turn on a dime. First skate of the season, I’m a Tin Man on skates. So I went down backwards and my head slammed into the ice.

Going down on ice takes your breath away. Slamming your head takes that up many, many notches. I’m pretty sure I panicked inside, and when I realized my jaw didn’t seem to fit in my head any more, I was … distressed.

Suddenly, people were all around me: “Do you need an EMT? Do you want us to call 911? Do you want to go to the hospital?” Tim and Sophie walked me off the skating oval, and I sat on an upside-down bucket. Sophie was worried, “You didn’t cry in Florida.”

“When was I in Florida?” (Was I crying now?)

“Typhoon Lagoon.” Oh, that’s right, I’d cracked my head before going down a water slide while we were on the National Waterpark Tour. I don’t remember that hurting. I just remember the blood everywhere. When I got to the bottom, 10-year-old Sophie exclaimed, “Mommy, all your hair dye came out all at once.”

So Friday, Sophie insisted she had to take my hat off and see if my head was bleeding. It wasn’t. She was relieved. I said, “Y’know what’s really killing me? That everyone here at this whole big Winter Solstice event is probably saying, ‘Did you hear about the old lady that fell?’”

I was on a plane a year or so ago and got up to stand in line for the restroom. Next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor and the flight attendants were telling me to stay there. Then they announced for any health professional onboard to come to the rear of the plane. It was all very confusing since no one else was required to get on the floor, just me.

Since then, I have learned that if you get up too fast from an airplane seat, you can faint. I guess I took down the flight attendant’s coffee pot with me. But it was the look on their faces that said not anyone can faint; only old, frail, infirm, elderly people faint. And then it’s so tragic.

When you’re 20 years old and you faint – I have low blood pressure, I’ve fainted my whole life – you get up, laugh, and people make jokes. They tell you how funny it was.

Now they look at me with Concern. I’m on the downhill slide to bedridden.

Am I being too sensitive? Do you know what I’m describing? Do we look … pitiable … if we stumble and fall?

Now, I must admit, the thing that sticks with me most about the whole event was a very kind woman named Mary (whom I’d met over at the hot chocolate station earlier). Mary stood next to me and said, “Relax into your body and let it tell you what it needs” or something like that which was incredibly calming and true, and I did it. I’d guess Mary was in her Third Third, too.

Very quickly, the daughter-with-an-iPhone looked into my eyes to make sure my pupils were the same size. When we got home, she looked at me again. She was worried because there were dark circles under my eyes, and that’s A Sign. “Or are those dark circles always there? It’s not blood pooling, is it?”

This is why we have children.

Then she said, “I just don’t want you to be a Natasha Richardson story! She hit her head, came home, hung out with her family, and died later. Do you have a headache?”

“What do you mean ‘hung out’!?! Like she was fine and then she died?”

“Only because she had a headache later.”

“But if I take Tylenol, will that mask the killer headache I might have?!?”

“Don’t worry. We’re watching to see if you deteriorate.”

This is why we have children.

Okay, it’s days later. It still hurts to brush my hair over the spot, and my jaw can’t tackle a bagel, but I haven’t deteriorated.

Hooray, I have not deteriorated!

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