Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Big Plans for Tomorrow

I recently determined that something had to leave my schedule—every second seemed allocated to something or other—and so, with regret, have ceased to be a Laguna Honda volunteer.

During my months of going there, I always started by visiting two residents who were formerly guests of the soup kitchen. I never knew them there, but the soup kitchen’s director told me about them.

M. was usually lounging on his bed with the TV on, wearing a half-smile as he announced, “I’m getting out of here tomorrow!” In the beginning I would say “See you next week” when I left, but finally learned not to, as he always answered, “Won’t be here!” After that I said, “I’m lucky I caught you before you left.”

I liked to ask what he planned to do after he got out. The first time, he said, “Get drunk!”

“What are you going to do after that?”

“Get laid!”

“Sounds like it’s going to be a wonderful day!”

Sometimes his answer was, “Go see [the soup kitchen’s director]!” or “Have a cheeseburger!”

The last time I visited him, he said he was planning to get drunk and then “find a woman.”

“Where do you find a woman?”

“At the bar!”

“Oh, so you can do both things at the same place. What’s your favorite bar?”

“One that’s open!”

M. once pointed out a framed photo of himself with the Dalai Lama, from when the latter visited the soup kitchen several years ago. That was the only observable photograph in his room.

N., the other fellow, I think must have had a stroke, as he really can only make the sound “Uh.” Consequently, our visits usually weren’t very long. His dog is being cared for by another guest at the soup kitchen, but the couple of times I said, “So-and-so is taking good care of Annabel,” it didn’t seem to mean anything to him, though by then I had figured out he could understand me perfectly. At first I (stupidly) assumed that because I couldn’t understand what he was saying, he couldn’t understand what I was saying.

Once I realized the incomprehension didn’t go both ways, I started speaking to him more normally, and it seemed to me that, over the months, his speech improved a bit, or maybe I began to be able to tell one “Uh” from another. He was always lying in bed, staring at the TV, holding the nurse call device to his ear as if were a phone. There are a number of photos of friends, family members and animals in his room.

In my final weeks of volunteering, his face would light up when I arrived, and when I went into his room for my last visit, he put his hand on the cart next to his bed, but I couldn’t figure out what for. We had our usual type of exchange, with me talking and him saying “Uh.” However, his face was becoming increasingly animated and it really did seem as if we were somehow communicating better. I said, “It seems as if your speech is getting better. Does it seem that way to you?” and he nodded. After a short while, I got up to leave and he put his hand out on his cart and I realized he wanted me to take his hand. I took his hand and said, “How sweet! Thank you!” It really made my day. I will miss him and might go see both him and M. from time to time, though maybe neither will recognize me if I’m not there every week.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Narrator on Aerator

In recent months, the hot water coming out of my kitchen sink faucet began, at times, to be a very diminished flow which would persist for several days and then return to normal. More than once it returned to normal after I turned it off especially firmly, and when the plumber arrived, he suggested the hot water handle might just need a new washer, though he quickly caught himself and said a whole new faucet would be even better.

As with many things in life, I should have just left well enough alone, but after a while, I decided it would be good to at least try replacing the washer, which requires turning off the water to the entire building, because my hot water shutoff valve is cemented into the wall.

The plumber arrived and quickly convinced my building manager that, given the age of the equipment, a new faucet would be the best way to go. He went out to his truck to see what he might have available and installed a shiny new faucet. Cost: $600.

The new faucet turned out to differ from the old one in that the water emerges higher and much closer to the back edge of the sink. This meant that any time the water was on, there was a tremendous racket as the water fell from on high down to the surface of the sink—conversation proved to be a bit impaired—and it also meant that a vast amount of water was splashing onto the counter. Also, I was having to reach farther to get to the water. It was only a few inches’ difference, but I could feel the slight additional strain.

Over the course of a couple of months, I thought this over and solicited suggestions: Was there a more appropriate faucet out there somewhere? Could an S-shape piece be fashioned and fitted to the end of the spout so that the water came out farther forward and closer down? I discussed it with the building manager, assuring her I’d pay for any further work or parts.

A few weeks ago, when the plumber was in the building checking something in another unit, he stopped by and agreed the water comes out too high and too far back, but concluded that the real problem is that my sink is too shallow. What I needed was a much deeper sink, to reduce water splashing onto the counter. Or perhaps the real issue was the height at which the pipes come out of the wall, which, to be sure, is comically high. Therefore, he thought we might consider tearing the wall open and lowering the pipes, and I’m sure we would certainly consider that if we wanted to spend $5000, extrapolating from the cost of the new faucet.

Fortunately, after that I went on a walk with my walking friend and he suggested a flow restrictor to reduce the volume of water. I went over to Cole Hardware on 4th St. between Mission and Market and talked to David, who has helped me many times, and he sold me an aerator/sprayer with a swivel joint. It cost $7.60 and has completely solved the problem! The volume of water is less, so it’s not objectionably loud when it hits the sink, and the flow can be aimed forward, so it’s easier to reach and there’s much less water on the counter.

(Click photos to enlarge.)