Coffee heat rising

Staying Safe in Your Dotage

Gotta share this little essay I just posted at Quora. The prompt question was “How Can We Reduce the Number of Falls among Senior Citizens?”

Good question, eh? Here’s what I propose:

  1. Live in a place that has a minimal number of stairs. These are ridiculously easy to trip on.
  2. Where a step or more is unavoidable (for example, my house has a sunken family room, meaning that to get in or out of it, I have to step down or up), have a banister or countertop that you can hang onto whenever you have to navigate the steps. Train yourself to put a hand on this countertop or banister before taking the first step up or down, and hang on for the whole journey.
  3. Have several extensions (if you have a landline) or several cell phones that can be used to dial 911. Place these in strategic positions near the floor. For example, I have one in the bathroom (I set it within reach of the tub any time I take a bath or shower), one in the family room, one in each bedroom, one in the kitchen, and one in the dining room. DO NOT assume you will remember to carry a phone around everywhere you go when you’re at home: equip the home with many phones that can be reached from the floor and can dial 911. If these are cells, be sure they’re kept charged.
  4. Be sure each room has plenty of lighting. Make it easy to turn these on and off — at least one light in each room should turn on and off with a wall switch near an entry.
  5. Train dogs and cats to stay out from underfoot while their humans are walking around. This is easier said than done; you may need to hire a professional trainer for some pets.
  6. Do not(!!) have throw rugs laying around on the floors. Where you really need a throw rug — such as a bathroom rug next to the tub — be sure it has a latex backing or place a non-slip mat under it.
  7. Be sure your shoes and slippers have non-slide soles. Do not wear footwear that might slip on a tile, linoleum or wood floor.
  8. Do try to remember to carry a cheap, charged-up flip phone in a pocket at all times, except when you’re actually laying in bed or bathing in the tub or shower. Again, bear in mind: BY LAW ALL CELL PHONES HAVE TO BE ABLE TO REACH 911, no expensive connection required. This means that if you fall, you can use the phone to call the Fire Department or the Police, but you can’t call anyone else with it. I use these throw-away phones as an emergency SOS device when I walk the dog.
  9. Inspect sidewalks in the neighborhood. Look for places where the pavement is heaved and where the curb might not be easily visible at dusk or in the dark. Be sure to point these out carefully to the elder and remind them to watch their step in that area. If the sidewalk is heaved, call the city and ask them to come fix the paving.
  10. Suggest that the person carry a walking stick, whether or not they need it for mobility. I carry a hiking stick with me every time I walk the dog, not so much to avoid falls but as a shilelagh for self-defense — we have many drug-addled transients, prowlers, and coyotes in these parts. While I have indeed used it to chase off all comers (including Wile E. Coyote), it also works nicely as a support when stepping up and down curbs and around heaved pavement.
  11. Get plenty of exercise. I walk one to two miles a day, which I consider minimal. If that’s not practical, join a health club where you can exercise on their machines and swim in their pool. Use it or lose it!

And finally, if you have cleaning or yard care help coming in to do housework or outdoor maintenance, keep an eye on what they’re doing. They often don’t realize that some of your eccentricities — such as placing phone extensions on or near the floor — are there for a reason, so they’ll readjust things to fit their definition of sanity.

Making Telephone Solicitation FUN….

Mwa ha ha! The idea I came up with for harassing the goddamn nuisance telephone solicitors is WORKING. And it is a bit of a hoot.

Thought I’d described this antic in a post here on Funny, but don’t see the thing in the blog’s dashboard. Must have held forth about it on Facebook. Oh well…

Here’s the gambit:

When a phone solicitor calls, instead of hitting “call block” (which, since they spoof telephone numbers, doesn’t block THEIR phone but instead blocks some innocent soul in your area code or even your own exchange), pick up the phone and speak sorta politely into it.

Let the crook begin to deliver his pitch. As he yammers on, take a deep breath and SCREAM AT THE VERY TOP OF YOUR VOICE, as LOUD as you can, into the phone. SHRIEK YOUR GUTS OUT. Give him the shrillest, loudest, earsplittingest

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH

you can blast out.

Scream nonstop until you run completely out of breath. Then hang up. Do not speak a word. Just hang up.

Most of the criminals are probably using headphones to do their job. That means you leave not one but both of their ears ringing. With any luck, maybe you’ll burst the bastard’s eardrum.

Interestingly, this seems to have worked. It’s 10:15 a.m. just now, and I just repelled only the first nuisance call of the day. Usually they start about 8:00 a.m. — sometimes even earlier. And the number of nuisance calls has dropped spectacularly, from around 10 calls a day to one or two. Some days even none!

No kidding: I was getting up to a dozen pestering calls a day. Never fewer than eight or ten.

Within a couple of days after I started the Scream Gambit, the phone soliciting harassment dropped like the bastards all fell off a cliff — down to one or two calls, and some days even none. For those that persist: it’s strangely gratifying to know you left the SOB’s ears ringing.

So far I haven’t done it, because I haven’t wanted to pony up the cash, but part of the plan is to buy one or more recorders so I can play back the SHRIIIEEEEEEEEEK into the phone without having to strain the vocal cords. But seriously: after s few days of this, the number of calls has dropped to the point where that may not be necessary.

Silence is golden…

Accommodations…

Time heals all things, you know. Especially that human flaw known as memory. 😀 As the days, the weeks, the months, the years pass, that which once was clear as crystal becomes, shall we say, somewhat clouded. And those things that you do on autopilot?

Yes. Little acts like putting the keys in their accustomed place, setting your glasses on the usual counter, stashing your credit card where it belongs, feeding the dog at her favored hour…well…they just go away. If you set the keys someplace other than where they belong, they’re gone. Possibly lost to all posterity. If you put your glasses on the kitchen counter instead of next to the bathroom sink when you went to wash your face, they’re disappeared. It may be days before you find them. And feed the dog? You fed the dog? Really?? Why is she gazing winsomely at you like that, then?

This morning I went to take Ruby for a doggy-walk. I normally keep the car & housekeys, which share a key-ring, stuck in the deadbolt in the office door. That way they do not sink beneath a pile of paper or get lost under a blanket or get left on a bathroom counter or set down carelessly on top of the washer or…whatEVER. But not so, today!

No keys in the office door.

Oh, shit!!!!!

No keys on the bathroom counter. No keys on the kitchen counter. No keys on the table next to the front door. No keys IN the front door. No keys in the garage door. No keys in the basket that holds the dog-walking gear. No keys on the desk. No keys on the nightstand. No keys in the pockets of the jeans I wore yesterday. No keys in the back door. No… Fukkin’ KEYS.

After banging from from pillar to post and back again, I was beginning to get hysterical.

But the dog craved a doggy-walk, so after much digging around in the junk and old keys drawer, I found a key ring with a key to the front door and a key to the extra-hardened deadbolt on the exterior front prison door. As we’re flying around getting ready to go out the door, I happen to slap my right hip and find…

oh…yeah…

The keys. In my jeans pocket.

Note that I’d already checked those pockets twice and didn’t feel the wad of metal in there.

The in-storage keys already in hand, the regular keys went into their accustomed place in the office deadbolt. And off we went.

Whilst tromping around behind the dog, it occurred to me that instead of using the ring that holds the key to the security door’s deadbolt, the key to the front door’s deadbolt, the key to the side gate, the key to the car, the key to the office deadbolt, and the key to my son’s house, for a doggy walk I really should carry ONLY the keys to the front door. What do I need with ALL the keys to the kingdom when I’m traipsing round the neighborhood?

Why not LEAVE that collection in its accustomed place and use only the back-up keys for the front door, but instead of keeping them in the key drawer…hook them to the dog leash before putting the leash away.

Then the keys would be in the same place as an object that I have to have in order to leave the house with the dog.

Duh!

I think of this as an accommodation to advancing senility. And it occurs to me that you could make all sorts of accommodations like that. For example: put things away in places that are associated with the thing.

Obviously the deadbolt on the office door is associated with the keys. But since loss of the car key is one whole helluva lot bigger deal than loss of the key to the front door…put a Door Keys Lite chain with the gear that has to be used to walk the dog. Hence: far more likelihood of finding them on the run. And if they’re lost? No big deal: there’s still a wad of keys hanging from the office door.

The iPhone is on a perch on the office desk because… the home base to the annoying fake land-line phone is on that desk. Clearly that’s where phones go, right? The flashlight is in a drawer next to the back door because…if you needed to go out in the back yard after dark when the power is out, you’d need a flashlight…obviously.

One could dream up any number of logical (or semi-logical) connections like that to help you remember where you’re put stuff or what you’re supposed to do.

Another option is to create a spreadsheet recording what you’ve done or what you’re supposed to do…and when…and where.

The accursed pill conundrum — another joy of Old Age — presents an example. At 12:30 this afternoon, I took an aspirin. There is no way in Hell I will remember exactly what time (or even vaguely what time) I dropped that dose of acetylsalicylic acid. Not a chance…unless I’ve written it down. In a spreadsheet. And lo! Lookee here! At about the same time I also took a Claritin, hoping the dizzy spell that caught up with me as the dog and I were trotting around was an allergy, and not a covid-19 symptom. Forgot about that…because I’ve about forgotten about the vertigo, which went away shortly after I slurped down the antihistamine.

A container with separate slots for each day and specific hours is grand for pills…but requires you to remember to look at the container. Not, we might add, a foregone conclusion.

But determining to make an entry in a spreadsheet for each dose does help keep track of what you’ve taken, when.

Well. Assuming you remember to enter the…entry.

Staying Healthy in Third-World America

This fine warning comes to us regarding fresh peaches purchased in Aldi stores.

We don’t yet have Aldi here in lovely Arizona, though the chain is planning four discount emporia in our garden state. Doesn’t matter though: the principle applies across the board: We’re not in Kansas anymore…

It’s unclear from this opaque article whether we’re talking about fresh whole peaches sold in bags, or sliced refrigerated or frozen peaches. However, it looks like probably they’re talking about fresh whole peaches. So, here’s a message from 1955, courtesy of US citizens living in lovely Saudi Arabia, where ALL fresh produce was assumed to be contaminated with this, that, or the ’tother fecal bacteria. It applies now as it did then, back before the US was a Third-World country:

Before bringing any fresh produce into the house, fill a kitchen sink (or, if you have it, MUCH better: a garage or workroom sink) with soapy water. Dawn is really good: a generous squirt of Dawn in a sinkful of cold water.  But any dish detergent or laundry detergent will do the job.

Gently submerge the produce in the soapy water. Let the produce sit there while you go on about your business for a few minutes; videlicet:

a) In another sink, wash your hands in soap and water

b) Bring in the rest of the groceries.

c) As needed, wash other (non-produce) groceries in the kitchen sink, using soap and water.

d) Drain the kitchen sink, rinse off groceries, and place them to drain dry or wipe them dry with towels. Toss towels in washer.

e) Put these groceries away.

f) Return to the sink where the produce is soaking. Wash each piece with soap and water (that is: your produce is sitting in detergent water — say, Dawn or Ivory + water — and now you take a bar of good strong soap and wash each piece with the soap under running water.

g) Rinse well, and set these aside to drain dry

h) After 15 or 20 minutes or so, to the extent the produce is still damp, wipe it dry with clean toweling.

i) Then, and only then, put it away in the refrigerator or in whatever cool place where you store it.

Got it? Wash produce in detergent, bar soap, and water; wash your hands in soap and water; rinse produce well; drain produce dry; refrigerate produce. Pray for the best.

Ideally, items that have tough skins — such as citrus and melons — should be doused briefly with dilute Clorox and rinsed well before storing.

If it is revealed to us moderns that we’re talkin’ about refrigerated or frozen processed peaches: cook the damn things before eating them. 

This was what we had to do with when my family and I lived in Saudi Arabia, where the produce we bought in the local commissary was likely to have been grown in fields fertilized with human waste. Very little that was brought into camp from nearby Middle Eastern countries was safe to eat, at least not by “Western” standards. By the 1950s, most produce and meat you bought stateside, in ordinary U.S. grocery stores and supermarkets, was safe enough to eat that consumers did not typically obsess about sanitizing every bite. But once you were outside the industrialized world…well…you took your life in by your hands if you chose to get careless about any detail of sanitation.

Who would think that half a century later, we here in the Good Ole USofA would find ourselves living in a Third-World Country?

Learned from the Covid Plague…

So…what have you learned from your experience with the Covid Confinement and Overall Hysteria? Hereabouts, I have learned a lot these past couple of months, locked up in my house as though I were in Leavenworth’s solitary confinement row. Other than to walk the dog, I’ve been out of my house…what? twice? maybe three times since the first of April.

You wouldn’t think an inmate would gain much insight from just sitting around for day after day after day. But…to the contrary: a number of revelations have dawned, some small but a few large enough to make significant lifestyle changes.

For example…

  • Very possibly we gad around a lot more than we need to. I’ve bought a third of a tank of gas since the first of March. We’re eight days into June — more than three months later! — and my car does not need a refill.

Normally I buy gas about once every 10 days to two weeks.

  • The prepper strategy of storing up to a year’s worth of food and household supplies is not so crazy, after all.

As things get back to normal (if they ever do), I intend to store up at least three months’ worth and preferably more like six months’ to a year’s worth of nonperishable and frozen food, wine, and cleaning supplies.

Also, buy a case of your favorite wine, beer, soda pop, bottled water, or whatever. Keep it full: as you use one bottle, buy another to replace it.

  • Delivery services such as Instacart are awesomely wonderful, despite occasional lapses. If you plan your shopping carefully, these folks could help you to avoid boring trudges to grocery stores and Costco altogether once life returns to normal.

Their main drawback, for people who like to cook and to eat healthy foods, is that their runners apparently eat like most Americans do — out of boxes, cans, bags, and jars, or largely at restaurants — and so they have no clue how to select fresh produce.

A secondary drawback is that Instacart charges you more than in-store prices. Thus the privilege of having someone trudge through a store and then drive your purchases to your front door costs you a whole lot more than just the cost of Instacart’s chintzy tip to employees. There are times when this cost is richly worth it: if entering a grocery store entails risking your life, obviously a few extra bucks is not a barrier. And when you reach your dotage and are in no condition to traipse around a store that covers more than an acre — such as Costco — you would be well served by spending a bit more to get someone else to do the chore. It’s still a lot cheaper than selling everything you own to buy into a life-care community… But do be prepared to slip the runner an extra tip: they are not paid enough!

  • Use caution with Amazon.

Many of the vendors on Amazon gouge during a panicky period, even when the products they’re selling are plentiful and easy enough to buy in brick-and-mortar stores.

  • In a prolonged shopping panic, your pet’s favorite food is likely to be in short supply.

Especially if you have a picky cat, always have a substantial store of your pet’s food on hand.

  • So are basic products needed for at-home cooking, such as flour, yeast, salt, coffee, tea, chicken or beef broth, and the like.

Always have an ample supply of these on hand. Keep flour and yeast in the freezer. If you usually have one box, bag, or package of these, you should have two on hand.

  • Keep twice as much of any given staple as you would ordinarily buy.

For example, your pantry should have two boxes of salt, not one; two bags of flour, not one; two packages of pasta, not one…and so on to infinity. As soon as you run out of the first box and open the second box of, say, salt, buy a new second box next time you run to the store…so that you always have an extra supply of any staple product.

  • Same is true for household maintenance supplies.

Keep an ample supply of paper towels, toilet paper, dish detergent, laundry detergent, dishwasher tabs, window cleaner, toilet cleaner, and hand soap on hand at all times. Do not wait for these things to run out before restocking.

  • Keep your car’s gas tank topped up at all times, emergency or no emergency.

Never let it get below about 1/3 full.

  • If you cook on a propane grill, always have on hand at least three bottles of propane, and keep them full. Remember that if power fails, a backyard grill or hibachi may be the only way to cook food.

Don’t leave a bottle sitting around empty waiting to be refilled whenever you get around to it. Schlep it to the propane place as soon as it’s empty.

  • Keep fit with regular exercise, whether it’s walking, running, in-home workouts, or yoga.

If you’re allowed out of the house, bicycling and roller-skating are good strategies, too.

  • Be sure to keep adequate supplies of OTC meds on hand, as well as bandages, antiseptics, and antibiotic ointments. Same with medicaments for your pet.

You don’t want to run out of aspirin, Band-Aids, antacids, or allergy pills during a time of shortage.

  • You really should have a vegetable garden, no matter how minimal.

This does not have to be a big production. A few medium-sized pots on an apartment balcony will allow you to grow tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and chard. If you have room, a two- or three-foot deep box will accommodate carrots, beets, turnips, even potatoes.

  • Have a hair style that doesn’t have to be trimmed frequently.

How can I count the ways that that I’m glad I let my hair grow long? When shoulder-length hair grows halfway down your back, what happens is…nothing. You just have long, spectacular hair.

There are going to be some serious changes in the way day-to-day business is done here at the Funny Farm. None of them, on its own, will be earth-changing. But taken together, they should add security and make life a lot simpler the next time a crisis lands on us.

What changes are you making, long-term, based on your covid-19 adventures?

The Coconut Furniture Oil Jamboree

Couple of days ago, I’m sitting here on the bed, reach for a glass of water, and wap! knock over a container of coconut oil that’s sitting there.

Dayum! Coconut oil is usually more like butter, congealed into a soft, greasy solid. But in this heat, the stuff melts and turns to liquid, kind of like olive oil. Only sweet-smelling. Naturally, the lid was loose (wouldn’tcha know it) and so oil spilled all over the top of the nightstand.

Jump up, haul the lamp and phone off the table, and run for the paper towels! I was, as you might imagine, pissed. But…after the mess was cleaned up, I thought…waitaminit here! This old nightstand looks great!

“Old” is the operative word for this piece. My mother bought it as part of a set when we came back to the States after 10 years in lovely Saudi Arabia, living with steel company furniture. That was in 1958: sixty-two years ago. It was nice furniture and it’s been reasonably well cared for, but as you can imagine, it’s got some wear & tear on it.

Was it greasy? No, not after I buffed the oil off. It was very nicely polished.

Huh. Who’d’ve thunk it?

Well, not surprisingly, plenty of folks have thunk it: naturally, I google this phenomenon and discover any number of websites describing the use of coconut oil as furniture polish. Many of them suggest adding lemon juice, whose purpose escapes me. Some even suggest it can be used to oil raw wood.

So this morning I took it into my feeble little head to take on a major project: re-oil all the kitchen cabinets.

Tried the coconut oil scheme in an unobtrusive corner. Darned if it didn’t…look pretty darned good. Oiled the whole cabinet: hot diggety!!!!!!!  Gorgeous, and it doesn’t stink! So launched into the project (which needs to be done once or twice a year, willy nilly) of oiling all the kitchen cabinets.

This coconut oil idea is inspired. When the stuff slopped on the nightstand, I was a) surprised it didn’t ruin the finish and b) impressed at the result of wiping it off and polishing. Coconut oil smells good (as opposed to the scary petrochemical odor of furniture polishes and waxes), and it’s good for your hands. The odor doesn’t linger after you’ve buffed the wood dry.

Now I’ve got the hang of it.

  • Clean the table or cabinetry first.
  • Rub on the oil with a soft rag — actually, I used a pad made with medical gauze.
  • Then wipe it off and buff vigorously with a clean rag…in this case, an old washcloth.

I ended up spending a nice slab of the day polishing the kitchen cabinets, quite the little project. The result? It looks really nice…well worth the work.