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Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday: disaster control law order toilets

Today began with some text messages from friends and family on the east coast who were letting me know that there were tsunami warnings for the California coast as a result of Japan's gigantor and devastating earthquake and tsunami. The tsunami evacuation route signs are posted about 5-7 blocks inland from where my bed is situated, which was where I was when checking my phone to receive such notice. Once the internet I take for granted as existing and accessible from my home computer gave me sufficient knowledge to know that I was not in imminent danger, I proceeded to the next important order of business of the day, hiding clothing that needed to be put away under my comforter rather than putting it away, all so that the company tasked with replacing my impressively highly functional toilet with a low-flow, green toilet could tromp through my apartment to do so without knowing what a mess I truly was.

Which potentially disastrous event do you think caused me more repeated and intense stress throughout the day - confronting the realization that something similar to the devastation in Japan could happen to me at any day or any time and, despite assuring my father to the contrary, I didn't really know what I would do nor did I have backup batteries for my flashlight (where is my flashlight again?), OR pessimistically having no faith that my apartment's plumbing would be functional upon my return home this evening and believing with certainty that strangers would be knocking on my door to turn off my water (if it wasn't off already) and rip out an old toilet at 7 a.m. tomorrow to replace it with an eco-friendly toilet I was certain would not get the job done?

Yes. Door number two.
(I'm not going to even go with the obvious joke there...this entire post could get very scatological very fast).

Why am I full of indignant rage and outrage because of the tiniest of life's transgressions, yet actively avoidant about eh...what really matters?

To simplify, if only a touch - not having plumbing of any kind due to natural disaster or not having plumbing due to perceived incompetence of building management's inability to make demands of contract workers, my energies go off the charts to the latter.

I really actively spent time throughout the day trying to think positively about the plumbing and NOT assume that my apartment would be a mess (not by my own hand), without running water, and toiletless to boot. It was out of my control. I shouldn't worry about it. Every time I opened a web browser NEW photos of planes and cars heaped together haphazardly like children's toys were being shown. NEW shots of fires, crying people, and bodies in the street. NEW footage of waves overtaking buildings and everything else that we couldn't see below the water in Japan. Threat of a Nuclear Meltdown. I use caps there because, really. Nuclear. Meltdown.
Yet I was still working through my inability to control the likely (to my pessimist's mind) scenario in which the toilet left me, well...shit outta luck. I think I included my fears in 3 emails to friends? And a phone call. Yep. The one where I admitted I was avoiding going home because I was afraid of what I'd find. The same phone call where I assured my father I did indeed have a plan.

If I was freaking out this much over the potential of an inconvenience that would not be a disaster, what would I possibly do if it were truly a disaster? Happy idea. Best move on to the immediate and then try my best to exert control.

A relevant aside: hilariously, I did not realize I was a control freak until fairly recently in life, and still probably would try to answer dishonestly on an internet "Are you a control freak?" quiz if I thought the answers would peg me as one. (Thereby controlling the outcome, OF COURSE).

Today is a rare day when such an incredible, unbelievable, staggering event beyond control happens that it forces reflection, whether you want to or not, because you can't help feeling like everything you're doing throughout your day is ridiculous, insignificant, and really not that big a deal when compared to people who are suddenly stripped back to survival as the only goal for the day. For me, what was thrown into sharpest relief was my seeming inability not to be either fired up or outraged at the little things. Why?

Well, hm, too much time on my hands, perhaps? Too nosy about other people's lives/comments/driving habits/misuse of the word "literally"? I am not sure.

Rage point 2 of the day.
So, just after convincing myself this new low flow toilet mandate was a good thing because it actually got me to do the dishes and clean up some papers (and hide clothing) before going to work, I left and made my way to a McDonald's for a cup of coffee (oh goodness, I'm realizing now my email complaint to McDonald's about what amounted to giving drivers trick cups [lids that didn't fit the cup sizes] falls into this larger effort's theme). I was in a drive-thru line behind an individual with a disabled designation on the California license plate. The driver tried to throw some trash in the trash can that appears a few feet before the drive-thru ordering box. Deciding he could not reach, he proceeded forward a few feet, stopped short of the ordering area, and threw his pile of trash on the ground.

Now, this was not McDonald's trash or something that related to McDonald's, not that that would make it excusable. This was "hey I've slowed to a speed that is juuust a bit more than stopped, so why not clear my car of hindrances like a cardboard cracker box full of other crap hanging out the top before pulling ahead to ask a man behind a speakerbox for a mcmuffin?"

I wanted to beep. I wanted to shout. I wanted to tattle to the man behind the speakerbox. I wanted to pick up the trash and return it to her (oh yeah, surprise! by the 1st window I realized that the guy was actually a woman) and say "You dropped this," with faux sweetness. I wanted to tattle to the guy at the 1st window! I tried to find a way that the disabled person's license plate would make this ok, but no - my outrage won out, just like the California did on the license plate - a person in the state of me, worried about the state of me. I had my coffee, but I still wanted to confront this woman. I wanted to roll down my window in traffic and say "Hey, you're not allowed to litter! It's really pointless and lazy and unfair to everyone else who doesn't throw trash out the window but might like to." She turned a corner. She seemed disoriented. And elderly. And inoffensive.

Yet her offense haunted me. And even writing about it makes me pissed again. The need for justice in the face of the most minor societal infractions would seem to suggest I'd be the world's most unexciting super hero.

A small reward for taking the time to articulate rage - acknowledgment.
Much like sharing that I've taken the time to complain to McDonald's (WHO DOES THAT?) after having let my annoyance and frustration at a system that could be better had built to a point that was no longer sustainable, I found myself doing the same with the dirty towel return policy and procedures at the gym. Suffice to say, my long-standing, well documented frustration with the current system and its absolute lack of ease and efficiency have been the fodder for more than a few laughs and opportunities to make fun of my mania by friends. Rightfully so. So when I finally sent (in response to a related email the gym staff initiated to all members, by the way) a long response to their request that towels are returned properly that outlined in no uncertain terms the ways in which the system is currently inconvenient or could be improved, I felt great. I felt relieved of a burden. I felt certain that at least 3 offices' worth of employees were making fun of my email and labeling me crazy. I would have.

But receiving a polite, generic response that acknowledged my opinion WITHOUT acknowledging I'd probably been placed on an at-risk list in some database somewhere really made me feel better. Someone had pretended to hear even if they hadn't heard. Thank you.

Rage point 3 - Jerks.
This was valid rather than ridiculous. I watched some folks take the opportunity to repeatedly make someone new, young, and intimidated feel dumb and incompetent and unwanted in group activity. I wanted to yell. I wanted to pounce like Wolverine. I wanted there to be a societal gimme for 1 sucker-punch per person per day to spend with impunity on anyone who needed it so that I could use it. I wanted to lay on the horn the same way I did with the little old manly lady at McDonald's. I wanted to ask these people why they thought they could treat other people like shit? I was furious. And remained that way wee wee wee all the way home.

Speaking of shit...

The moment of truth was upon me.
A bit bedraggled, and eager to be done with the day and take my shoes off and open a beer, I came around the corner from where I'd parked to be confronted by the sight of two even lines of toilets and toilet-related paraphernalia waiting curbside.

At first I feared they were toilets waiting to be installed, standing together like it was ladies night at some toilet country line dance bar. But upon closer inspection I saw they were the toppled thrones of the inhabitants of my apartment building, all left to be taken to a dump of their own for once. The variety was striking. Some were clean. Some looked as though they'd been in the backrooms of mechanic's shops that had run out of Lava soap for the past 40 years. Some had 70s kitsch flowery toilet seat covers. One, a fake wooden seat. I did not stop try to find my own, but really did feel the obligation of wanting to thank a reliable piece of equipment for not quitting on me just because it would have been easier.

Inside, my new toilet sits surrounded by the crud of workboots and the remembrances of toilets past. My toilet paper roll was empty. It was also in the sink, where the roll holder had likewise been deposited for safe rusting.
This machine has 2 settings and I've yet to really test its mettle. I'm also still kind of scared of it. But at least it's there and running. And maybe even saving water.

Disaster averted, I settled into a few episodes of Law & Order - original (and best). My God, I love that show. I cheer at the television when especially cutting justice is delivered (often by the aptly named, Mike Cutter, if not the real Jack McCoy). It was only in having some self-satisfied smiles while looking for shoes I could wear into my dusty, dirty bathroom that I realized I like the show so much because it presents what does not exist in real life. Order. Justice. People being forced to be accountable for their actions (even if their actions are murder, not general jerkiness). And let's not forget, Jerry Orbach.

And now, a day out of my control over, I am thankful to be able to hit the reset button, and climb into bed with all of my partially dirty clothing. Littered everywhere. Like towels that weren't returned properly. I am my own jerk! And after all, the order is restored.

As so many have said, thoughts, prayers, love to Japan.

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