Thursday, 31 December 2015

Honking Hospital Granny (The Loss of Common Courtesy in a "Maturing" World)

I recently retired from my profession as a medical microbiology laboratory technologist within a community hospital.  Sadly, I will miss the pure science, but certainly not the business as healthcare has become a “cost before compassion” industry.

However, I do believe my retirement will provide more time to post my observations, struggles, progress and annoyances as I experience with my disability but also a platform to just plain gripe about the stupidity that I see invading our daily lives.

What is happening to people, to society, to the world in general?  We have lost our common sense, our manners and our humility.  We have replaced good behaviour towards others with an “it’s all about me” attitude.  We tell ourselves that we have matured – to show kindness is to show weakness.   We now walk with a swagger, talk with bravado.  Rules?  Nobody is going to tell me what to do!  We have become self-important!

It was what I observed waiting outside the hospital where I worked that had me think about all these changes that had occurred in my lifetime

It had been a re-occurrence I observed every several days over a period of a month or two as I waited for my bus to arrive.  An elderly woman driver rounded the crescent-shaped entrance to our ambulatory unit and while still a hundred meters away, started honking her horn repeatedly.  As she coasted to a stop, an equally ‘age challenged’ gentleman trudged through the hospital doors, obviously summoned by her prearranged sonic command.  Utilizing his walker, he unsteadily made his way towards her car, arriving out of breath in spite of his oxygen tank’s dangling tubes delivering vital gas to his nose. The woman finally exited the car to stow his walker in the trunk but offered little assistance in seating him within the vehicle.

I found myself increasingly annoyed listening to her summoning horn honks and watching the impatience directed at her husband.  A woman of her age should exhibit some public courtesy.

On this day I confronted her as she stepped from her car to summon her tardy companion.  “This is a hospital zone” I stated.  “Why do you disturb all those within earshot with your honking horn?”  Well, this granny-like figure lit into me without hesitation!  She told me where quite explicitly where to go with words that most hardened street thugs might not have rattled off so fluidly.  So I was told off.  And, she continued with her honking behaviour, glaring at me with each subsequent arrival.

It was then I realized how foolish I was.  How I heard her honking but not the cacophony of noise that had enveloped the immediate hospital environment.  It finally struck me why there was no 'Quiet -Hospital Zone' signs at our facility.

I listened to that ‘soup of sound’ in which I was immersed and started to decipher the elements that had invaded my daily world.  Perhaps it is a defense mechanism that pushes these sounds to the background so that we no longer hear them, that they no longer invade our consciousness and drive us to insanity.

I heard:
I heard honking horns.  Not just the woman’s honks summoning her husband, but honks as greetings, honks saying goodbye, impatient honks sonically telling the driver in front to “move it!”  Then there were the honks which occur when you remotely lock or unlock your car door.  There were honks all around but it was ‘grandma’s’ that irritated me.

I heard the ear-splitting screech of the back-up radar warning pedestrians of reversing vehicles.  A sound so intense I was afraid it would awaken the residents of our morgue.

I heard the teeth-rattling drone of multiple gas engine powered leaf blowers operating at 7:00 am outside the hospital cafeteria.  Patient wards were nearby yet this grounds crew was armed with miniature tornados rattled windows sent all sorts of dust and spores airborne.

I heard car stereos blaring and booming the latest Hip-Hop for all to hear while the occupant, head bobbing to the beat, was oblivious to those nearby.  I thought I could see the automobile’s side panels bulge outwards with each bass beat.  Cars frequently deposited a patient for their appointment and then plugged up the laneway in wait for their passenger’s return, thereby avoiding parking fees.

I heard a myriad of sounds and noises which now invade our lives without our knowing.  Like a cancer which is not recognized until it is too late –and then can no longer be ignored.  Cars idling or revving, cell phones chiming overlapping tones, truck tail-gates rolling down to a crashing stop, squeaking wheels….you get it.  It is now the norm.  Many no longer know the joy of true silence.

A ‘Quiet – Hospital Zone’ sign would make no sense in this new world of ours where all our ‘devices of both necessity and convenience’ speak to us with sound.  My world had departed.

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Read further only if you wish to hear me both reminisce and bitch about the world that was, and the world that is!

My, how times have changes, even since I was a child.  World war two was certainly one of many “bookmarks” in the world timeline.  Post-war it was obvious that the world had its fill of war, conflict and killing.  Much of the world had entered a gentler phase which was reflected in the movies that were produced such as ‘An American in Paris’ (1951) or ‘The King & I’ (1956) as well the television shows we watched such as ‘I Love Lucy’ (1951 -1957) or ‘Leave It To Beaver’ (1957 – 1963).  Such shows would not sell in today’s market.  Music was also creative without spewing rabid anger or using offensive language.  Buddy Holly and the Crickets sang about ‘Peggy Sue’ and Chuck Berry had us rockin’ to Johnny B Goode. This was the world I was born into.

That gentler, peaceful, more courteous and respectful time was to be short-lived.   We began to lose our worldly innocence sometime in the 1960s.  Was it with Kennedy’s assassination, or the development of the ‘cold war’, Vietnam, further assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy?  Movies, television and music still resisted but the change was in the air.  Cinema still managed to sell ‘The Sound of Music’ (1965) however increasingly controversial topics were introduced ‘The Graduate’ (1967) and directors utilized the viewer’s own imagination to conjure up horror and violence such as Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ (1960).  Television had us watching ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ (1960 – 1968) or ‘My Three Sons’ (1960- 1972) and violence went space age with ‘Star Trek (1966 – 1969).  Music was ‘growing up’ as well with protest songs (‘Blown in the Wind’ Bob Dylan or ‘Fortunate Son’ Credence Clearwater Revival) about war, struggle or inequality.  The message came across clear and strong without rage or expletives.

I am not so naïve to believe all was beautiful and that the decades I mention did not produce any content which goes against my argument.  Yet, for the most part, I believe it to be so…

And as the intervening decades passed, our anger grew, our self-importance became first and foremost.  Independence and individuality outpaced society’s collective values.  Kindness became equated with weakness, manners with conformity and politeness with hindering free expression.  The “Me Generation” was born and was reflected in the cinema we watched, the television shows we tuned into and the music which blared from our speakers.

We now consider ourselves mature, and worldly.  We have become angry and aggressive.  We know our rights, and nobody is going to tread on them.  Nobody is to tell me what to do!!  Anything goes!  Only the strong survive!  Musicals and variety shows are out - Bad behaviour is in!  Crude and vulgar content rules.  The most successful movies have the highest body count and greatest gore.  The villain has now become the hero.  We worship the ‘bad boy’.  “Music” is often a monotone profanity laced rant against society, females and authority.  Video games exhibit engage in all sorts of bad behaviour, from graphic executions to car theft and rape.  They are the biggest sellers and of course greed and the all mighty dollar rule!  Language is crude, rude and explicit whether in the media or in public.  “Honourable” politicians are often the worst offenders.

Do the media ‘arts’ provide what audience wants….or does the audience learn to like what the media feeds them?  Does the media reflect who we are, or drive us to become what we are?

We no longer walk with humility but swagger with bravado!

Yet it still makes me laugh.  We have no problem watching, or permitting our children to watch graphic killings, whether it is real as on the daily news or simulated as in video games, movies or television shows.  I cannot flip the channel without seeing another person get shot.  Yet we recoil in disgust when two people, on the big screen or small, are engaged in lovemaking. Yes, depicting sex in any media makes many cringe in disgust.  Killing yes, Sex no!  I'm not talking graphic porn -even an uncovered boob makes us crazy!   Cover the children’s eyes – usher them quickly from the room – then call the broadcaster to lodge your complaint.  Make Love, Not War, has fallen on deaf ears…

 Those same serial television programs show people being killed every episode, in every conceivable gruesome fashion, yet they can’t do so while smoking a cigarette.  As we all know, cigarettes will kill you and we must protect our children from such behaviour (smoking, not killing) as it may indoctrinate them.  It may entice them to try smoking, but certainly won’t desensitize them from killing – don’t be silly!

Go Figure!

The world I grew up in had men removing their hats when entering a public building.  They opened car doors for the ladies and walked closest to the curb so to protect their dates from splashing cars.  They stood to acknowledge a woman entering a room. People opened doors for others and passed that door off to those following behind so as not to slam it in their face.  We allowed people to get off of buses and elevators before trying to clamber aboard ourselves and it was common courtesy to give a woman your seat on a crowded bus.   We watched our language in public and said ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ as required.   It was truly felt, not just rhymed off automatically.  No, the world wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but there was a more extensive practice of what was common courtesy.

It would take so little effort to honour the requests made by the hospital (or civilized society) yet our combative nature has us flaunt those rules and lash out at anyone who objects.   Over the years, while waiting for my ride to arrive, I witnessed drivers park and snooze under ‘No Parking’ signs.  I watch people light up cigarettes under the ‘No Smoking’ sign.  No smoking means no outdoor ashtrays so butts are flicked to join discarded coffee cups, candy wrappers, Styrofoam containers and plastic pop bottles.  I’ve had doors slammed on me and witnessed the same on others. 

 I observed an arriving driver grumbling about not being able to find a wheelchair – then once finished with the one he found, he kicked it into the snow covered flower beds for the next patient.  And of course whether on public roads or on hospital property, drivers speed through the parking lots, ignore signage and use speed bumps as launch platforms.

So in the end I suppose I am naïve.  The world has grown up and I still long for the kinder, gentler days.

I am too old to change.  Granny obviously wasn’t!

Sadly, I feel we need another world war to once again re-align our values and to realize what is truly important....That's if anyone would survive the next world conflict.....

A handicapped washroom in my hospital I found it one morning.

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