Monday, August 26, 2013

"A Candianan Holiday"

I’ll be trademarking “Candianan” (for the hordes of people who split their vacation time between Canada and Indiana and need something to call it.)  Use it, and you owe me a nickel.  Canadian or Indianan funds.  I will accept either.

Like every ballgame – for people who appreciate ballgames – every trip is remarkable in its own way.  It doesn’t matter what happens.  Or doesn’t happen.  It’s still unique.  It’s still special. 

Such was our recent duo-destinational vacation, where we spent five days in Canada, primarily in Northern Ontario, and nine days in our little log cabin on Chickadee Trail, in Michiana Shores Indiana, which is literally across the street from Michigan, where it’s an hour later (“Eastern Time” vs. Indianan “Central Time”), and the roads are paved better.  You can almost hear the Indianan streets complaining, “How come they get blacktop?” 

Answer:  Michigan is a more prosperous state.  Not counting Detroit.

You start on a trip, and you look for omens, portents, forecasts and foreshadowings.  At least I do.  I am definitely “Old School” in this matter, by which in this case I mean Ancient Greek.  When it comes to predictive “signals and signifiers”, I am unabashedly “Zorba the Jew.”

At these moments, my sensors are delicately on the lookout for auguring indicators.  How is this trip going to be?  You know, like you go through “Security” and you forget your wallet in one of those white, plastic x-ray bins.  That is not an encouraging start. 

It might mean something; it might not.  Though the “Oracles of Delphi” could always intuit a foretelling.  They were never mistaken, which does not necessarily mean helpful.

“I predicted an ill wind would blow.”

“I had a terrible gas attack.”

“Did I say it was an outside wind?”

The portent in question is equally ambiguous.  You would need an “Oracle of Delphi” to decipher it.  On a slow day when they’re not trying to determine whether the dissected chicken entrails portend a victory over the Persians and have some spare time for predictions about holidays. 

For amateurs like myself, reading the tealeaves can be highly problematic.  As with trained psychotherapists, professional soothsayers know how to “factor out” the “counter-transference” of personal subjectivity.  For the “uninitiated”, however, what we see is akin to a Rorschach Test, our interpretations revealing more about the observer than the observed.

Consider the following, and how it might be varietously understood.  Please forgive the example.  We are not in control of these matters.  We take our portending evidence where we find it.


So I am availing myself of the “facilities” in the Los Angeles airport prior to our departure.  The commode in question has an “automatic flushing” capability.  I have no idea how that works but when you get up to leave, it flushes. 

This is a miracle of bathroom technology.  Countless years have been devoted to making the manual flushing handle a thing of the past (while ignoring ways of making airplanes fly cross-country faster that they did fifty years ago.)  Only the top engineers got to apply their geniuses perfecting this automatic flushing system, the less prestigious in the field consigned to working on hand-towel dispensers, searching for ways of insuring that that the least amount of paper will be consumed.  Below them are the guys who developed the “no faucets” process, wherein, when you place your hands under the tap, the sink water comes out.  Engineering is an ever-expanding field of endeavor.  Imagine, three exciting specialty areas, and we haven’t even left the bathroom. 


So I am making use of the device with the automatic flushing capability, and suddenly…

The toilet flushes before I get up. 

I am completely taken aback.  I’m just sitting there. 

And I hear the thing flushing. 

It is not supposed to do that.  It’s supposed to wait till you get up to leave.  But this one didn’t.  I’m not ready to go.  I am, in fact, quite a ways – I am trying to be delicate here – from “Mission Accomplished.” 

And yet, the automatic toilet has already flushed.

And right away I start to wonder,

What exactly does that mean?

For mentally healthy people who do not take things personally – and by “things” I include the atypical behavior of inanimate objects – their immediate conclusion – I am only speculating here, not being a member of the cohort “Mentally Healthy People” – they’d think, “This automatic flushing mechanism is not working correctly” and simply leave it at that.

A totally reasonable evaluation.  But by no means the only one.

Not by a long shot.

My response, of course, of the “Guilt Induced” variety, goes inevitably to

“I broke the toilet!”

Followed immediately by the “Fearful”

“Are they going to make me pay for it?”

I am, however, aware of other interpretations of this situation, a sampling of which include the following:

Situation:  The automatic toilet of which you are currently availing yourself flushes prematurely.  How do you explain that?

There is the “Ego-Centric” reaction:

“Why me, God?  Why me?”

The “Easily Intimidated” response:

Okay!  I’m up!

The “Congenitally Fearful”:

“This toilet is trying to suck me into the pipes!”

The “Philosophical”:

“If the toilet only flushes when I leave, and it has already flushed, does that mean I have already left?  And if I have, then who’s the guy sitting on the toilet?”

Then there’s “Poetic” response:

“A calm repose,
A healing hush.
Then hark! I hear
An early flush.” 

The “Indecisive”:

“Was that my toilet flushing?  Or the toilet beside me?”

The “Auditorially Challenged”:


The “Ethnically Hair-Triggered”:

“It knows I’m a Jew!”

The “Empowerment Junkie”:

“Hey!  I’ll tell you when I’m finished!  Okay?

The “Problem Solver”:

“If I only had my…(no idea, I am not a Problem Solver) with me…”

The “Mathematician”:

“What are the probabilities of my having to “go” again so I can determine the probabilities of this toilet doing this again?”

The “Entrepreneurial Businessman”:

“I see money in a more reliable flushing apparatus.”

And finally, the “Existentialist”:

“Stuff happens.  Sometimes before it’s supposed to.”

I exit the Men’s Room, mystified by the hidden meaning of this omen.  I did know it was different because, though I had enjoyed the comfort and convenience of the automatic toilet on dozens of occasions in the past, I had never till that moment been subjected to the uncharacteristic, and vaguely disturbing, “Pre-Flush Experience.”  

Perhaps the “Spirits” was telling me that the excursion we were about to embark upon would be uncharacteristically different.

I know that sounds crazy.  But you know what?

It was.

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