Saturday, April 29, 2023

Trying To Understand Streetlight Math

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 1, 2023] ©2023

There’s been a lot of publicity lately as to whether the city should install 500 “smart” streetlights with cameras to help deter crime.  At this point, we just wish they’d fix the dumb ones. 

We have a particular interest in this problem since one of those less-intelligent streetlights is  right in front of our house and has cast our corner into such darkness that we need flashlights to find our front gate at night.  Even our dog is hesitant to step off the front porch into the abyss. 

Several articles in the Light have recently addressed the issue of the 5,900 (and counting) broken streetlights (out of 57,000 in the city) and the city’s alleged efforts to fix them.  I say “alleged” because I just can’t make the math work.

The way we calculate it, the streetlight on our corner will not be fixed in our lifetimes. Especially, as City Councilman Joe LaCava has noted, “streetlights are failing faster than we can replace them.”

Various statistics have been bandied about as to how long it takes a streetlight to be repaired once it is reported on Get It Done.  The Light reported on March 9 that streetlight repairs now get done “an average of 272 days after a problem is reported.”  In a follow-up piece on April 20, the paper noted that many local citizens reported no repairs “well over a thousand days since their reports were filed.”

A TV news report of a neighborhood in Southeast recently reported that their streetlights had been out for eight years. 

I’m not a mathematician but this would be well over an average of 272 days. 

The city is apparently trying to catch up with the backlog by hiring electricians as independent contractors with the hope of repairing “800 streetlights in the next year.”

Which means that, absent accurate data on how many streetlights are fixed by the city itself, our broken streetlight, posted on Get it Done in early February, could well not be fixed for more than seven years. 

I had originally been encouraged to note when I checked back on our Get It Done request that our streetlight repair had been designated “In process.”  But while watching the news clip of the neighborhood whose streetlights had been out for eight years, theirs said “In process” too.

So what exactly does “in process” mean?  I’m detecting some slippery semantics here.  It is the illusion of in progress without actually being.

Our streetlight repair is further complicated by the fact that, as I have discovered over the decades I’ve lived at my quirky address, neither SD G&E nor the city of San Diego will lay claim to our street light.  Eerily, both insist that there is no street light in front of our house.  

Trying to get a non-existent streetlight repaired is problematical at best.  It has usually taken me at least six months each time (2003 and again in 2012) to prevail upon various parties at both SD G&E and the city to resolve this issue. (It’s the city’s street light.)  I consider the repair of a phantom streetlight not once but twice to be among my top life accomplishments and should be listed in my future obituary. 

But you can’t prevail upon actual humans anymore; it has to be done through Get It Done. I posted photos of the street signs, of the light itself, and even the numbers on the bottom of the light. But I can easily see the city deciding “nope, not our light,” and axing it from the queue.

Honestly, if we could pay someone privately to fix it, we would. Fearful of breaking a hip while taking out the trash at night down our winding front walk, we have installed a string of Edison lights across the eaves in front of our house.  We’ve pondered placing a Craigs List ad for “person with tall ladder and light bulb changing experience.”  (Hint, hint.)

But even with the Edison lights, the street corner in front of the house is still terrifyingly dark.  We regularly hear the screeching of tires as cars barely make the turn at night.  Three times since we’ve lived here, cars have crashed through our front fence, one ending up inches from the house.

We were thinking of those Edison lights as a temporary measure until our “in process” street light repair burbled up to the top of the average-272-day queue but now we’re thinking we’re going to have to light our corner ourselves if we want Amazon to deliver in the dark and speeding cars to keep from ending up in our bedroom. The motion lights over our driveway just don’t each that far.

 Meanwhile, inquiring minds want to know:  who came up with this average-272-day figure?  And do all Get It Done requests automatically get an “in process” designation? Meanwhile, if you’ve got a tall ladder, you could be our new best friend.




Sunday, April 9, 2023

Bad Patient

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 10, 2023] ©2023

Over the years, my friends and I agree that husbands, when sick, tend to fall into one of two categories.  One group reverts to total incapacitation and needs last rites for a head cold.  The other refuses to acknowledge illness at any cost.

My husband is in that latter category.  He has always had a Do Not Feed the Lions approach to health care.  The less you tell them, he maintains, the fewer procedures will be inflicted upon you. 

Please note that this philosophy, while working well at times, has almost killed him at others.

Olof has always been a truly terrible patient, but after his 2018 heart attack and head injury (he did a face plant into our armoire on his way to the floor), I found it exasperating trying to nurse someone back to health who was utterly uncommunicative about how he was feeling.

“Not to put too fine a point on it,” I said to Olof at the time, “but only one of us has a degree in nuclear physics. The other one is actually intelligent.  And cannot keep you alive without your verbal participation.”

It was incredibly stressful.

“Surely,” I’d implore, “there has to be some middle ground between denial of discomfort”  - the chest pain he claimed was “heart burn” -  and paramedics resuscitating you?”

Fortunately, he did make a full recovery, thanks to excellent medical care and his sainted wife. (That would be moi.) I even, ultimately, came to be fond of him again.

Such is Olof’s lack of cooperation in his health care that I have felt compelled to observe that if he should develop a long-term malady, I was putting him in a home.  Preferably the type you see on Sixty Minutes.

Here is an example of how it goes when Olof is ailing.  There was an occasion back in 2011 that I noticed him limping. Badly.  But he denied anything was wrong.  Even that he was limping. And even after he fished crutches from a long-ago athletic injury out of the hall closet.  His knee was significantly swollen but he insisted he hadn’t “done” anything to it.  He was wincing painfully and became perilously close to falling on multiple occasions, especially when navigating the two steps down to our bedroom. 

I, of course, suggested Advil and ice and elevation.  Olof was willing to consider elevation but not the Advil or the ice.  Especially not the Advil.  That stuff isn’t good for you, he insisted. 

Neither is falling on your head, I rejoined.

Olof’s theory is that if you take pharmaceuticals or other amelioratives (ice) then you don’t know when you’re better. 

“Actually, Olof,” I countered, “when the Advil wears off in eight hours and the pain returns, you’ll have a pretty good idea.  And you will have suffered less in the meantime, never mind reduced a lot of potentially-joint-harming inflammation.”  (I used to be married to a doctor. 

But Olof was stoically refusing all treatment, including and especially a trip to Urgent Care.

He was immune to threats.  “Just so we’re clear,” I announced to him on Day 5.  “I do not respond to medical emergencies after 9 p.m.  So if you fall after that time, I am merely putting a blanket over you – a scratchy one if it’s between 1 and 4 a.m. – and leaving you until morning.”

As Olof pointed out, he had had a similar affliction several years earlier although this time with his ankle.  He’d been worked up by our draconian primary care doctor at the time, Dr. No (as in no alcohol, no sugar, no starches.) She had a particular vendetta against pasta.  Olof loved pasta.

Dr. No sent Olof for x-rays and labs, citing a preliminary diagnosis of gout.  If so, she informed Olof, he would have to start eating a diet rich in low purine foods like coffee, bread, rice and…pasta.

Olof could barely believe his ears.  Did the “p” word actually across Dr. No’s rabidly carb-averse lips?  (We were so glad when she retired. 

Until the test results came back, Olof said, could I start making pasta every night?  Maybe lunch too?  Which, by the way, only he can have?  “You want pasta,” he added, “you’ve got to have your own gout.” 

Olof was suddenly one happy guy. This wasn’t a bad trade-off.  He loses a foot but gains pasta.

But three linguine-filled days later, it was determined that whatever was ailing Olof’s ankle was not gout.

Both Olof’s ankle and later the swollen knee resolved untreated and diagnosed within ten days.  Olof insisted his medical philosophy had once again been vindicated.  If you just leave things long enough, they will either get better or kill you.  Either of which is preferable to seeing a doctor.  Never mind that the “kill you” option very nearly happened several years later with the heart attack.

And as always, he recovered far sooner from his various afflictions than his wife did.




Sunday, April 2, 2023

10,000 Letters And Counting

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 3, 2023] ©2023

I am having a hard time believing that, God willing and the creek don’t rise (well any more than it has already risen in this incredibly wet winter), I will be posting my 500th “Let Inga Tell You” column in a few months 

Even my sons are a tad puzzled as to what I’ve found to write about over the last 14 years given that, as they put it, “you have no life.”

Of course, among the topics I’ve often written about is them.  Especially my older son Rory who has given me several life times of material. Most recently, I detailed the term paper he wrote about me for his college Abnormal Psychology class in his quest to understand how I was quite possibly the worst mother in the history of the world.

But this is the thing about writing: (almost) everything is fodder. 

Mostly I like to write about topics that I think will resonate with La Jolla readers.  I think I’ve lived here long enough to have a pretty good pulse on the community.  And while writing may not put much food in my refrigerator, it definitely feeds my soul.

People have asked me if I ever have writer’s block. (They might be the same people who wish I’d develop writer’s block.) 

But honestly, never. 

I should mention that my sum total formal writing training was freshman composition in college, the only C of my college career.  The professor hated everything I wrote, gracing the top of every composition with “Ha ha.  You think you’re so funny.  C+” 

Fortunately, I had a mother who encouraged my writing from the time I could hold a pencil.  She always had nothing but praise for the (godawful) little stories and poems I wrote.  She never ever corrected any grammar or spelling.  As she said later, she just wanted me to feel the joy of writing.  Someone else could correct the grammar and spelling later. (They did.)

In a way to subtly encourage me, however, she would ask to buy the more promising stuff for a nickel or dime.  When she died, I found a whole file folder of these Early Ingas.  If this was the best stuff, she obviously had a vision only a mother could have. 

One possible advantage for my so-called writing career was that when I was growing up, phone calls were prohibitively expensive and there was no internet.  So if you wanted to communicate with people, it was by letter. 

I wrote – no kidding – thousands of letters.  In fact, it was how Olof and I kept in touch after we returned from our (high school) senior year abroad in Brazil which is how we met. Olof and I knew even after the first three weeks in Brazil as 17-year-olds that we would be lifelong friends.  He – somewhat surprising for a (future) Air Force pilot and then an engineer – was an avid letter writer too.

Given that there were no correctible apparati in Olof’s and my communication years, we just wrote on manual (later electric) typewriters or even yellow lined paper. 

First draft was the last.  No editing. We both love story telling. We just wrote about whatever happened to be going on in our lives at the moment, relishing regaling the other with detailed sagas about the most mundane of events. All these years later, the “mundane events” columns are my favorite ones to write. 

When I say “mundane,” I’m really not kidding.  Far too few of our letters still exist (we both moved a lot). But I still wish I had a copy of the missive I wrote Olof about my first husband and I deciding to save $125 by acid washing our kidney-shaped pool ourselves, sliding around in make-shift attire (rubber raincoats, rubber boots, old jeans) on the sloping sides of that pool with sloshing buckets of acid.  OK, so the second degree burns weren’t that funny.

Still, it may have been the finest thing I’ve ever written. 

So that’s the long answer to why I’ve never had writer’s block.  I just pretend each column is a letter to someone, minus the “dear so-and-so” line. 

And now, all those decades of letter writing have segued into 14 years of wantonly publishing often-ill-considered personal stories in my local paper. 

Of course, certain themes (other than my older son) have been recurring over the last 14 years of this column, particularly my total frustration with technology.  Olof, the neighbors, and parking in La Jolla have had plenty of play too.  What the other 450 have been about, I’m trying to remember.  But there are four 3-inch binders of Inga columns on the shelf behind me, so I should take a look sometime. 

When my book came out, I was tempted to send a copy to my Freshman Composition professor. But then I realized that this would only have vindicated his position.  “Thank GOD I did not encourage that woman!”  It still would have been a C+.

Or lower.