The World is Much Too Loud
Last night we went to Canadian Tire to pick up a few things for my '91 Chev Blazer. She's sporting a new (to her) set of rims, a set of new Toyo tires, new clutch and parking brake assembly, and will soon be getting a new right front fender, driver's door, and tailgate. At 377,500+ kilometres (226,500 miles, for the unconverted), she's still running beautifully and is easy on gas. Dorne needed a few things so we headed out.
I always figured that if I'm in a store, I'm there because I already know they sell stuff and that if I have the money, I can buy stuff. I don't need to be further brainwashed by in-store propaganda, in the form of small TVs with looping advertisements.
I get great joy from simply walking down the aisles and hitting the "power" button. "Power" isn't only powerful when it's on; switching it off is powerful, too! One by one, every annoying, blaring TV telling me I needed this kind of motor oil, or that kind of seat cover, was silenced by the simple touch of a finger.
I'm sure someone has done a study or two about the effects of the constant barrage of noise to which our culture is subjected. I know how it makes me feel, and I've seen how it affects the behaviour of people who already face challenges in their lives.
While I was in Massachusetts, the occupational therapist who worked for the same agency was determined to have all clients on a pureed diet, because he believed they all had dysphagia, a nasty word meaning "difficulty swallowing". He would order the mobile dysphagia-testing unit to come to the day programs, haul clients out, put them in this modified truck filled with strangers and bizarre-looking equipment, put a spoonful of something barely edible into the client's mouth, and then take x-rays of that individual's swallowing process.
And do you think that under those circumstances, anyone wouldn't gag???
The reports would come back to the residences with the "strong" recommendation that the individual have all food pureed.
Well, THAT certainly contributes to quality of life, doesn't it? I've always believed that it was the responsibility of the agencies to support the best quality of life possible. Hmm, maybe in more than 20 years in Human Services, I've been wrong? (it's been known to happen, once or twice).
Many of the folks served by the day programs had been stored in an ungodly institution know as "Belchertown Institution", in Belchertown, Massachusetts (the institutions where retarded people were warehoused didn't provide any kind of "life"). This place was no different from hundreds of other human storage facilities in Canada, the USA, and other parts of the world. It was survival of the fittest; a feeding frenzy at mealtimes, being literally hosed down instead of bathed, and living with sexual, physical and emotional abuse virtually every single day.
Could any one of us live like that and come out unscathed?
Many of the ex-inmates of Belchertown had only been released from that hell within the last decade or two, going from unimaginable terror to small group homes, sharing a regular house with (usually) three other individuals, having staff around the clock, accessing all the things in the communities in which they lived just like the rest of us.
Mealtimes went from stuffing anything that vaguely resembled food into their gullets and swallowing as quickly as possible, to sharing the meal-making duties, setting their own table, choosing the food themselves, and being able to slow down in a quiet environment and actually enjoy a meal.
Soooo ... Mr. Tim The OT decided to "test" individuals by putting them in a situation which was strongly reminiscent of those Belchertown Days, to say nothing of the fact that lunch time at the day programs was crowded and noisy, another reminder of a time better left in the past.
When nearly all the test results came back with recommendations to provide pureed food, Mr. Tim The OT became extremely agitated if the residential managers didn't go running to the doctors to get an order for a modified texture diet. He even went so far as to contact parents and alarm them about the safety of their adult offspring's food texture, talking about choking to death and other such scenarios.
Conversations with him bore no fruit. I explained to him repeatedly that the quiet environment of the individuals' homes provided the atmosphere they needed to slow down and enjoy a meal, and that we saw none of what he was seeing in the day program lunch rooms. He didn't get it. I said, please, try making the lunch time environment quieter and I'm sure you'll see a decrease in swallowing difficulties.
He just didn't get it.
I refused to send the residential managers running to doctors for an order which I felt was unnecessary in the residential setting in which people lived. He tried to pull rank on me and wasn't successful.
And he still didn't get it.
A peaceful environment has little stress. Gentle and pleasant mealtime conversation provides just the perfect setting for fullest possible enjoyment of one's food.
I hope Mr. Tim The OT has decided to stop battling ghosts, and has made the right choice for those individuals who depend on staffs' abilities to make their lives everything they can be.
There's a reason for the Belchertown story. (see, I can tell a long story filled with minutia, too, but my stories actually have some context .... ;-)
The constant barrage of noise impairs the quality of life for us all. Commercial radio and television numbs the mind and impedes our ability to make good decisions. How many people do you know have the TV on from the moment they wake up till they go to bed (and sometimes even then, they don't shut it off)? How many conversations are hollared over some kind of blaring electronic noise? Computer games, car stereos, the gattling-gun rattatatat of every day life is part of what's making us grumpy and miserable.
And that includes me. Across the street is a family with several children, most of whom have Fetal Alcohol Sydrome (don't even get me started on that). One of the services provided by my tax dollars is that the youngest child has a "worker" who comes three times a week to pick him up after school. She pulls up and honks the horn until the kid comes out.
Last week I was washing my truck and she did this. It's loud enough when I'm in the house, but right there beside me, it was obnoxious. The first time she honked, I nearly jumped out of my skin. The second time, I bellered at her "stop that @#$#@ honking" (the kid wasn't around). She looked at me in total surprise and STOPPED HONKING. Gosh, and that was all it took after more than two years of putting up with it?
Right now, here in the house, all I hear is the play of our (now five ...ahem, another long story!) kitties, the birds chirping outside, and a Tracy Chapman CD playing very softly on the stereo. It is calm and peaceful. Part of the peace is from the quiet, the other part is from watching our feline companions celebrate their protected lives here in our house.
I will always shut off blaring looping advertising in Canadian Tire, or Zellers, or wherever I am. I will always ask people to turn down the radio (or turn it off, even better), lower the volume on the TV, not honk their horns (well, next time I'll ask ... I wasn't exactly polite last week to that woman, and I wish I had been ... well, hmmm ... never mind ... hehe). I will always mute television ads, when it is in my power to do so.
I will always enjoy my personal quiet times, and the quiet life Dorne and I have together. I will always be grateful that our precious Innu (the Malamute) is a very quiet canine companion who rarely barks. I will always revel in human interaction and conversation that takes place in a setting which enhances, not impedes, communication.
I don't need to be constantly entertained. I don't need to go into a place where I intend to spend money and be pummelled with noise noise noise (maybe the retail places have decided that sensory overstimulation is cheaper than actually hiring trained staff???). I don't want to listen to country (ugh) music when I'm buying a new bra, or to have the "in-store" station broadcast bad music on poor speakers with advertising that's insulting and unnecessary.
Ok, another pain-induced diatribe is over. You can all crank up the volume and go about your business again.