Public lavatories and kids

October 26, 2013

When I was walking home from the reservoir today, when I got across the playing field and near the bike path, I saw a woman disappear into the port-a-potty, which sits there, I think, as a convenience for people using the playing fields or watching the games.  (I could see later she was there for a jog on the bike path.)  She left two very young children in a stroller right outside the door.

I wasn’t sure what to do.  It wasn’t my business, but I was a little surprised at leaving infants unattended.  I decided to kind of stand nearby until she emerged, just to make sure nothing untoward happened.  It didn’t.

So tonight I’m listening to PBS NewsHour’s little feature of casual talk between Mark Shields and David Brooks (facilitated by the always watchable Hari Sreenivasan) on Fridays, and David Brooks starts talking about commuting to New Haven by train.  Which immediately brought up to my mind an incident that occurred while I was commuting between New Haven and Boston on Amtrak, when a woman asked me to hold her baby while she used the lavatory on the train — while the train was stopped at a station.  It seemed to me to be somewhat relevant (by my standards, at least) to the topic of people conversing too freely, and being overheard, on trains, which was what was being discussed.  Lowered inhibitions and all that.

I think this pretty much qualifies as an example synchronicity.

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9 Responses to “Public lavatories and kids”

  1. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    I do not think there is any “synchronicity” in what you mentioned, Diana. But you certainly did right to watch the woman’s children for her. She may not have been aware of the danger.

    You point up a very real problem for women with children in public places. I know of at least one reported case of a woman attending some county fair or similar event who relieved herself in a small facility where a baby carriage would not go. So she left it outside.

    When she emerged, her daughter was missing, even though it was a very short time. I do not know if the child was ever recovered. The other situation, asking a woman who looks OK to hold a baby for a few minutes, is far less dangerous. Yet there are cases of record where an unmarried mother has disposed of her unwanted child in this manner.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I have my misgivings about the judgment of people who jog with their children or dogs, anyway, but I try not to judge them. To me it looks self-centered; do they check in with the dependent and adjust the length of the jog according to everyone’s needs? So many times in the summer I see the dog panting, for example. No one has appointed me Nanny-in-Chief, so I hope for the best, that they have evidence that the children or dog really do like this activity and give signs of eager anticipation when they are getting ready to engage in it.

  2. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    True enough, Diana.

    You ought to read Elizabeth Leseur. Look her up. She was a nineteenth-century French wife of strongly religious perspective who was in all respects obedient and dutiful to her husband.

    When she died of TB, her diary was found, much as with the writings of Marcus Aurelius. Such deep and meaningful thoughts as she wended her way through life ! Such perfect understanding of her own limitations ! Your writing reminds me of her some. She could say meaningful things about the most ordinary occurrences.

    Of course you are right that many people are thoughtless about the rights and needs of others, and even of their animals. Inherent limitation of judgment and understanding affects a goodly proportion of mankind. Most of the injustices I have suffered came ultimately from this cause.

    At the present time, I have a landlord who reads books and is adequately efficient in practical matters. Yet when she “does not want to hear” something, like an answer to some fallacious point or unreasonable demand she has made, she acts in every way as though she did not hear it. My neighbor and fellow-tenant has been dealing with her thirty years, and he tells me there is simply no hope in expecting her to be rational. She likes to threaten and bully both of us to “show who is boss.”

    My neighbor Robert has learned not even to answer her but to be like a “yes-man.” I could never do that. I hope I can reconcile current conflicts with her so I am not forced to move. I do not have a house like yours to live in !

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I will look her up — the writer you mentioned, that is, not your landlady. I’m sorry about your landlady. When your neighbor doesn’t answer her, does his being like a “yes-man” mean that he actually meets her unreasonable demands, or is he basically ignoring her when she becomes unreasonable?

      • Jeff in New Jersey Says:

        Both in part. I have occasionally heard ttem in conversation. His basic policy with her is not to challenge anything she says, however unreasonable. But when she asks him to do something specific, he nearly always will, even when unreasonable.

        He is much more valuable to her than I am,because he is a highly skilled mechanic and handyman. He can get on her roof and clean her wood-stove chimney for her.

        My skills are mostly academic and verbal,which she has no need of. I try to accommodate her also, but within the limits of self-respect. I have taken the time and trouble to meet demands clearly silly, but there is a limit beyond which I will not go, and this leads to threats and other troubles.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        There are a couple of good books out there about “difficult conversations,” but it’s still true, I think, that some grown-ups have developed habits of behavior that are hard to deal with, no matter how “evolved” the person on the other end is. A friend of mine once pointed out to me, when I was complaining about somebody’s egregious behavior, that the other person was just trying to get her needs met, and we could be impressed at the lengths she had learned to go to in order to accomplish this.

  3. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    Could you point me to a good book you are familiar with ? My skills with difficult conversations are somewhat less than those of a diplomat I tend to be always straightforward and to the point, though if “diplomacy” might call for more indirection and a “roundabout” approach.

    I need to talk with my landlady, and called her several times last night and this morning. She refuses to answer the phone though at home. She is 77 now and there is distinct evidence of personality change and highly distorted recollection of recent events. I need to get through to her before she sets in motiion something which will create difficulties for both of us.

    My lifelong viewpoint has been that if I learn only ONE valuable thing from a book, that has made it worth reading.

    I was mistaken about Elisabeth Leseur. She died of cancer, not TB. She was a faithful catholic and there is a movement to have her canonized. You would appreciate her diary, if you can find a copy. I came across an old copy in the Firestone Library (Princeton University) and was so impressed I xeroxed the entire book. Not even the catholic book store in Manhattan had a copy, though the proprietor knew of her.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      Difficult Conversations, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, and Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall B. Rosenberg.

      Sorry for your troubles. I found myself saying very little when my neighbor called me at 7:22 a.m. this morning with not an emergency but something she knows she could have told me days ago. Not at all what you’re talking about, but the common theme is that we get to field the issues of our proximate fellow human beings. That’s our challenge, how to field them. (Go Red Sox!)

  4. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    Thank you, Diana.

    I will try to learn what I can from one of these or both. My early adult conditioning was in the U. S. Marines, where I always showed proper respect but also spoke plainly and to the point, as I had learned from my mother, who was the same way, and which superior appreciated. Now I am in a situation where I need certain other skills. I was not brought up to be a diplomat!

    And thanks also for pointing me to that very significant article on “Blame,” which was, with its comments, pregnant with meaning.

    For what it is worth, I do not see any contradiction between determinism and free will. It is a matter of correct understanding of the meaning of these terms, and even that depends heavily upon definition.

    By acquiring knowledge and learning various skills, including improved thinking skills, almost anyone can expand the scope of his or her power over himself and his environment, or raising the level of his “free will,” so to speak. It is the thoughtless and drifting who are buffeted by external events. Yes, there are unknowns, but thinking in terms of accidents and probability, we have some power over those things as well. I am sure your house is insured.

    As to determinism, that applies only to “ultimate reality,” or the universe as a whole, which is timeless. Past and future exist right now in a sense. There are many cases on record of psychics predicting future events with faultless accuracy.

    The example given of the youth who accepts drug dealing as a norm and then shoots someone in a “deal gone bad” is a poor and irrelevant example. Even with his conditioning, he must know just from watching TV that murderers are severely punished, and whatever his emotions, that is all he needs to know to be held responsible. The law necessarily employs a stern doctrine of “enforced responsibility.”

    If a robber is fleeing the scene of a robbery, it make take him less that one second to decide shooting a man who blocks his path, yet even so that is willful or “pre-meditated” murder, subject to the death penalty.


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