Archive for the 'Safety' Category

Watch your step

I visited my son, David, over the Memorial Day weekend. Jackie was going to her favorite spa, Starvation Palace, near San Diego and I felt the need to surround myself with replacements while she luxuriated in the wonders of wheat grass juice.

I had long ago learned to avoid traveling to the Bay Area on a holiday weekend, so I began my trip to Berkeley on Thursday, a few days before people would begin bumper car games on HIghway 101.

Late last year I spent a week at David’s when I attempted to dislodge my hips from the rest of my body by pretending I really wasn’t 83 and could swing 15-pound kettlebells between my legs during a workout designed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Still recovering from that misguided adventure, I promised to avoid all heavy lifting during the upcoming visit other than what was required when drinking vast quantities of alcohol. 

In stark contrast to David’s home, our Ojai house was designed to eliminate trips and falls. There are no steps in its 2,700 square feet. Walking from the curbside mailbox to the front door can be done by a slug that spends a lifetime crawling on its belly. But I exaggerate; there is a three-inch-high step from the garage to the kitchen. After several dozen attempts, I’ve met and conquered the challenge offered by it…even in the dark.

David’s house reeks with challenges best avoided by old people. The front of his lovely home is accessed by two tiers of concrete steps. I always let him, or grandson Isaac, carry my bags so that I can fully concentrate and thereby avoid a subdural hematoma.

Reaching his family room requires a scary walk down eight highly polished wood steps which are framed by a decorative but inconsistent railing. Adding to the adventure is the occasional blockade thrown at me by the family dog, a kind but lazy 100-pound Malamute named Koda. Walking up the stairs often requires a similar negotiation with the dog. I’m sure she hates me and lays in wait for these opportunities.

My bedroom is at mid-level and sports five steps leading down to the bathroom. My nocturnal needs can only be satisfied by a walk in the dark down these steps. Lying in bed at 2am gives me pause while I balance my need to pee versus navigating the steps that promise relief.

That bathroom has an ancient shower housed in a white enamel tub. I have been persona non grata to that tub ever since falling in it five years ago. Not one to tempt fate a second time, David insists that I shower in the master suite at the top level of the house, some 18 steps up, and eventually down, from mid-level to top. Walking up is easy; most people don’t fall upstairs. Coming down I envision hurtling headfirst, and breaking most of my limbs, along with jamming my nose into my brain. It makes me wonder why I need to take a daily shower.

A trip to see my favorite son and his family usually includes a day of fishing. As a younger man I was relatively unconcerned about floating in a sea of dangers. I am now more reluctant to trust my life to poorly maintained boats and an ocean that couldn’t care less about my safety. In fact, like Koda the Malamute, I think the sea hates me and lies in wait for my first bonehead move.

Casting my cares to the wind, we chartered the Osprey, a 30-foot cruiser owned by the intrepid Captain James. David invited three friends to join us. Dennis is my age (ancient), Pat is happy (an early morning beer helps), and Greg is without fear. Seas willing, we planned to cruise under the Golden Gate, take a left and search for migrating salmon.

The Osprey is docked in Richmond, about 30 minutes from Berkley. Up at 4:30, we forced oatmeal down our throats, loaded up Greg’s car and arrived at the dock just before a planned 6am departure.

The boat floats under a protective canopy and, even in early morning light, it still looks like midnight to a guy with my eyes. Low tide contributed to the adventure by making the gangplank stand nearly erect at 90 degrees. I took Lilliputian sized steps on my way down to the dock where I found myself behind everyone else.

The boat was riding stern first into the dock. I watched as everyone went aboard. Piece of cake. My turn now.

I stepped from the dock onto what I thought was the boat deck. Instead of a solid surface under my left foot, I found myself in mid-air and then into the water, feet first. It was over my head filling my clothing. Hands reached down and pulled me up and onto the Osprey deck.

It was cold and I was shivering. I thought about what Leonardo DiCaprio must have felt like, treading water after the Titanic hit the iceberg. Or Gertrude Ederle swimming across the English Channel with nothing on but Vaseline.

I was sure it was the end of the fishing trip. The ambient temperature was around 50 degrees and, as Jackie will attest, I become inoperative at less than 75 degrees even with a blanket.

But only a tidal wave can deter hard core fishermen. Captain James started pulling off my drenched clothes. The other guys joined in, some much too gleefully. I was soon naked and looking like the Mermaid statue in Copenhagen’s harbor, except for the breasts. Feeling like a sour dill pickle in cold brine, I was certain I was in the final stages of hypothermia.

The captain had a spare pair of oversized Levi’s. Dennis gave me a sweatshirt. Greg provided some socks, and the captain found an ancient set of sneakers that almost fit.  Pat’s belt barely held up the 42-inch Levi’s. David gave me his jacket.

I looked like I had been dressed at Good Will.

Oh, the fishing was outstanding.



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