Saturday, December 6, 2014
Sunday, April 8, 2012
"life as a blind person": how do I know when to get off, how do I cook, how do I read
email or surf the web?
I must admit I had hoped for a quiet journey, no conversations, some time to read.
This man's eagerness to learn, to investigate new things, the way he asks his
questions and can barely stand to wait for my answers - he'd take the words from my
mouth if he could :) - makes me think of my cousin. A happy thought.
His young, boyish voice and the words he uses and a thing or two he mentions about
his life remind me of a man I met years ago, a few times on the bus going to work.
While we're waiting for our next bus my curiosity gets the better of me.
Shall I just ask if he's Rick or is that a breach of privacy?
I ask him if he has, or had, anything to do with our local radio station.
He says no, "my boss wouldn't like it very much if I did".
He does work for a radio station though, a big one.
Hmmmm, interesting he has things in common with Rick - and his voice too if I
His phone rings. He answers and says his first name. A different name; he's not Rick.
Funny, if I had waited five minutes longer he would have answered my question without
Later at my friend's house while he is making coffee I contemplate whether or not I
will tell him about the call the other day. An AT company called me but did not leave
a message. I'm curious of course but decided to call back only if they call again.
But I'm curious... Is it interesting enough to tell my friend if I don't even know
why they called? Perhaps he has an idea why they called...
My friend appears in the doorway.
"I got a call from (name of the same AT company)," he says.
"Really? So did I! But I don't know why they called. Didn't leave a message."
"They're conducting a survey among their customers."
Funny how he starts to talk about something I'm thinking about and answers my
Funny how twice this evening I had a question in my head that was - or would have
been - answered before I asked.
Monday, August 15, 2011
In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that
she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags
weren't good for the environment.
The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the
green thing back in my day."
The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation
did not care enough to save our environment."
He was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer
bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be
washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same
bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.
But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.
We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every
store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and
didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to
go two blocks.
But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have
the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy
gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power
really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from
their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But
that old lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in
every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a
handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state
In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't
have electric machines to do everything for us.
When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a
wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic
Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to
cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We
exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to
run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a
cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.
We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen,
and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing
away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn't have the green thing back then.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their
bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a
24-hour taxi service.
We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of
sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a
computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites
2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we
old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back
Thursday, June 16, 2011
one she lives and would die for, is Peter.
They met four years ago and have been living together for two
For 45-year-old Celia the most important people in her life, the
ones she lives and would die for, are her, uhm, "our" three
Yes, Peter is a wonderful husband.
For 80-year-old Celia life has lost its beauty and meaning since
Peter died. It's no secret that she'd rather join him. Her three
children, successful and parents themselves, try to come to terms
with her (mental) preparations to leave.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
friends are dead and I have cancer which makes me increasingly
dependent. I don't want to be a burden to my children. Doctor,
please assist me in euthanasia."
Her daughter is fighting her tears, trying to come to terms with
her mother's decision.
Later, the doctor reflects on the lady's request.
How come we're suddenly so afraid to be a burden to people when
we grow old?
Aren't we a "burden" to people all our lives to some extent?
Babies are cute but they need to be taken care of and put
limitations on their parents' activities. We think that's only
natural and actually enjoy it for the most part.
But apparently we've decided that when the one who needs help is
an elderly person they're a burden all of a sudden.
A friend and I discussed this topic earlier and more generally.
The doctor is right, we need people throughout our lives.
That's what it means to be a social being.
Very often the lives of parents revolve around their baby.
As children we require time, attention and money and our parents
will drive us to dancing classes, sports clubs, music lessons
As teenagers we often cause our parents to worry quite a bit.
As partners, parents, employers, colleagues, neighbours we expect
people to behave a certain way, give us their time and attention,
be there for us, take our wishes and needs into account. Our
plans may differ from the other person's plans so we are a
"burden" even if it's a small one.
Yet we do not recognise our being dependent or a burden. We don't
call it that.
We define what "give" and "take" means from an "us and them"
That's safe, usually.
Some "give and takes" are considered a normal part of life;
society couldn't function without them.
Of course we take care of babies, children and teenagers!
Besides, they'll be productive in the future.
In other cases there is a mutual "give and take": you work for
me, I pay you.
If it's an occasional, one-time event, giving without getting
something back is acceptable too - it may actually make us feel
But if one is old, chronically ill or disabled it's apparently
considered a long-term commitment that doesn't naturally follow
from being a society and doesn't constitute a direct mutual "give
and take" situation.
But what's the difference? How do we define the reward or what is
normal in society?
The simplest answer would be: money.
Those who are economically productive or are expected to be so in
the future count and are deserving of our efforts; it's an
Otherwise you're a charity, nice for the feel good factor but as
soon as our need to feel good is satisfied you're useless.
In my opinion it's too easy to blame it all on money.
Money means "the rich and powerful", the big companies and
There's the "us and them" perspective again!
It's not our fault that people are excluded.
Aren't industrial tycoons and politicians people just like
everyone else? They were our neighbours, our friends, our
relatives, our colleagues long before they rose to fame, power
Besides, it seems to me that it's not so much being a burden on
the state (being dependent on money or health care from the
state) that bothers people the most; it's the feeling of being a
burden on a partner, children, neighbours, the feeling of being a
charity - and we all know what that means: "I'm the great
benefactor, you are the grateful recipient of my benevolent
gift". Great to be on the "I" side, much less great to be on the
Charity is not solely the domain of tycoons and politicians, it's
where we all participate, that's how we know the rules so well.
However good our intentions may be, however loving and
compassionate we may undertake our task of caring for someone, we
often (unconsciously and unintentionally) send the message: "you
are dependent, the weaker one who needs to be taken care of." We
may say it's understandable, not a problem, but it's still a
top-down approach a lot of the time where we, high above, reach
down to help the other person up.
As humans we want to be respected and appreciated, valued for who
we are and what we have to offer. We want to be seen as
essentially equal to others.
Charity robs us of all those things. Charities no longer belong
to "us" but are "demoted" to "them".
One would think that we (="us"), non-employers, non-politicians,
unflawed by money and power, should recognise the value of ALL a
person has to offer: love, creativity, insight, understanding,
patient listening, acceptance... and that shouldn't change when a
person grows old or becomes disabled. We're basically still the
same person with the same personal human gifts to share with the
world, the same soul, the same mind.
Whether one belongs to "us" or "them" they have their strengths
and weaknesses and we all complement each other.
Let's not forget that it's only a very tiny thin line between us
and them. Everyone will be old one day. Anyone could become ill
or disabled, it only takes one fateful moment.
And when we're there, across that supposedly well-guarded line
between us and them, we too still want to be respected, accepted,
So let's stop thinking in terms of us and them. We can do that
without denying differences because basically everybody's
If nothing else, let the (possible or certain) reality of our
future inspire us to stop this "us and them" thinking.
Better yet, let's do it out of respect for humanity.
The bottom line is we all need help in some way every day whoever
If we can see that and no longer impart the message that "we
young / healthy ones are above you crippled / old people" we
might save some lives and improve the quality of many more.
Finally a note to "them": I learnt that some people have a strong
need to feel needed. They are happy if they can help and are
appreciated for it.
They may want the world to know what great deeds they're doing
and how much they sacrifice.
If the world says "wow, that's great, you are so giving!" it will
strengthen their sense of identity.
So don't think it's because you're "weak" or "needy" that they
"have to be there" ("us and them" thinking is such an easy trap to
fall into for anyone!); if you were "young & healthy" and broke
an arm, hurt your ankle or just had the flu you'd be just as
useful to them.
Just let them help you if it makes life easier for you, then give
them a sincere "thank you" and make their day!
Friday, June 25, 2010
Fortunately there are still people of all ages (from all parts of
the world) who believe in these values and strive to live
according to them (and know their national anthem too).
Let's cherish those values!
Senior citizens are constantly being criticized for every
conceivable deficiency of the modern world, real or imaginary.
We know we take responsibility for all we have done and do not
HOWEVER, upon reflection, we would like to point out that it was
NOT the senior citizens who took:
The melody out of music,
The pride out of appearance,
The courtesy out of driving,
The romance out of love,
The commitment out of marriage,
The responsibility out of parenthood,
The togetherness out of the family,
The learning out of education,
The service out of patriotism,
The Golden Rule from rulers,
The nativity scene out of cities,
The civility out of behavior,
The refinement out of language,
The dedication out of employment,
The prudence out of spending,
The ambition out of achievement, or,
God out of government and school.
And we certainly are NOT the ones who eliminated patience and
tolerance from personal relationships and interactions with
And, we do understand the meaning of patriotism, and remember
those who have fought and died for our country.
Does anyone under the age of 50 know the lyrics to the Star
Just look at the Seniors with tears in their eyes and pride in
their hearts as they stand at attention with their hand over
Thursday, May 6, 2010
On a Sears hairdryer -- Do not use while sleeping.
(That's the only time I have to work on my hair.)
On a bag of Fritos -- You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.
(the shoplifter special?)
On a bar of Dial soap -- "Directions: Use like regular soap."
(and that would be???....)
On some Swanson frozen dinners -- "Serving suggestion: Defrost."
(but, it's just a suggestion.)
On Tesco's Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom) -- "Do not turn upside down."
(well...duh, a bit late, huh!)
On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding -- "Product will be hot after heating."
(....and you thought????..)
On packaging for a Rowenta iron -- "Do not iron clothes on body."
(but wouldn't this save me time?)
On Boot's Children Cough Medicine -- "Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication."
(We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we could just get those 5 year-olds with head-colds off those bulldozers.)
On Nytol Sleep Aid -- "Warning: May cause drowsiness."
(...I'm taking this because???....)
On most brands of Christmas lights -- "For indoor or outdoor use only."
(as opposed to what?)
On a Japanese food processor -- "Not to be used for the other use."
(now, somebody out there, help me on this. I'm a bit curious.)
On Sainsbury's peanuts -- "Warning: contains nuts."
(talk about a news flash)
On an American Airlines packet of nuts --"Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts."
(Step 3: say what?)
On a child's Superman costume -- "Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly."
(I don't blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)
On a Swedish chainsaw -- "Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals."
(Oh my God..was there a lot of this happening somewhere?)