Saturday, January 27, 2024

Ice(cube) Capades

[ Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published January 29, 2024] 2024

When you find yourself writing about ice cubes, is it time to hang it up?

I m aware I've written about appliances a lot lately because, well, failing appliances have been sucking up an ordinate amount of our time and money in recent months.

Sorry, folks: here comes another one.

A few months ago, I chronicled, among our various appliance challenges, the acquisition of a new refrigerator that had to fit into a very tight space and left us with exactly two choices. We re talking two choices of any brand in any price range. Fridges have gotten a lot deeper since the last time we bought one for our 1999 kitchen remodel.

We loved our previous sadly-deceased fridge and were hoping to reincarnate it. The fridge we ended up with was the same brand and exactly the same exterior dimensions as its predecessor, with, oddly, a lot less interior space. We can only assume its walls now have five inches of eco-excessive insulation.

The replacement, while hardly an inexpensive appliance, is a far (far) inferior version in every possible way. Even the door shelves on the refrigerator side are a thin, flimsy plastic. (Are they even actually plastic or something created by a hobby-level 3D printer?) It's like the designers sat down and said, How we can re-design this interior space to make it smaller, darker, chintzier, and guaranteed to annoy the s--t out of the owner?

One of the features that we didn't want but were forced to buy was a door ice dispenser. To us, it just screamed repair.

As it turns out, it s screaming a lot of other things too. And so are we.

This door dispenser takes up almost all the interior door real estate of our freezer so we have half as much freezer storage as we had before. Personally, we'd prefer to use our freezer for, say, freezing stuff.

But worse, it s really hard to get just the number of ice cubes you want from the door dispenser. Of course, with our old refrigerator, we just opened the freezer door and stuck our little hands into the heavy-duty ice bin and took as many as we needed. Theoretically, the door dispensers are more environmentally friendly because you are opening your freezer door less often. We aren't convinced.

Having never had a freezer door ice dispenser before, we've found there s a definite learning curve. Lesson one: It s all in the wrist.

You press your beverage glass against the sensor and ice starts to come out. You pull back quickly before too many come out. But you don't have quite enough so you press your glass against the sensor hoping for another two cubes. Next thing you know, there's ice cubes all over the floor. These are usually accompanied by bad words.

It's become a predictable script: ice can be heard filling a glass. Then: Wait! Stop! No! Fuck! (Sound of ice cubes hitting the floor).

So we've tried to make a friendly competition of the new ice dispenser as to who can dispense ice with the least number of cubes on the floor. Score is being kept.

When you get to our age, fun is where you find it. It also means your kids will roll their eyes and insist, "you guys need a life."

We have a life. It just happens to involve ice cube wars. So far, the ice cube dispenser is winning. And it knows it.

At Christmas, I tried to fill up a Ziplock bag with ice cubes to transport some perishable food on our trip to L.A. I held the open bag under the door spout and pressed, just as I would with a drinking glass. A few cubes came out but then stopped. I kept pressing. Was it jammed? I finally opened the freezer door to check and was greeted with a veritable avalanche of ice cubes which skittered all over the kitchen floor. Why this shouldn't have worked, I don t know. But note to self: next time fill the Ziplock bag with single glassfuls of ice.

Alternatively, one could remove the entire ice bin from the freezer to access ice to fill the Ziplock bag but its thin cheap plastic-esque material resists sliding out or back in. Best to let sleeping ice bins lie.

Maybe other ice dispensers work better than this one. But now I keep a separate glass in our tiny useless freezer filled with ice cubes from which I can then take as many as I need. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat.

Of course, we're slowly getting better with practice. But a day without a single ice cube on our floor would be a rare day indeed. The dog knows better than to stand anywhere near the fridge as ice is being dispensed lest she be in the line of fire. When even the dog has it figured out, pay attention. 


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Uber For The Elderly

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 22, 2024] ©2024

Rideshares have enjoyed mixed reputations in recent years but compared to the olden days when the only other options were taxis, they’ve been a huge boon to the elderly. 

I can’t even count the number of rides home I gave over the years to seniors who were relegated to a folding chair in front of a supermarket, a cart full of melting groceries next to them, waiting for a taxi that never came.  These were women who would normally never get in a car with a stranger but after an hour in a folding chair in a grocery store parking lot, being murdered didn’t sound too bad.

Now a senior myself, I’ve been thinking about all the other applications ride shares might be used for with the elderly. On your 65th birthday – as soon as that Medicare card is laminated and tucked into your wallet, the dementia anxiety attacks – and jokes – begin. We laugh, of course, to hide the fact that we’re completely terrified. Watching the 11 o’clock news about the elderly person who has wandered off from her facility truly puts fear in your heart. You can’t help but super-impose your face on the screen. And you just know your hair would look like hell.

I read an article a while back that said if you can’t find your car keys, that’s getting older. If you don’t remember you have a car, it’s dementia. Every time I’m searching in my mind for a word for a column or crossword, I find myself muttering a refrain in the background, “I have a car, I have a car.” Probably if I stopped doing that, I’d remember the word a lot sooner.

It didn’t help that soon after my 65th birthday, my older son, the perpetual prankster Rory, saw an ad on TV for a placement service for the severely memory-impaired. Several days later, a very sympathetic woman called and asked for my husband Olof, and when told he was at work, was dismayed to learn that I had been left unattended. She seemed to have a great deal of information about me and when I adamantly insisted “I do not need institutional care!” soothed, “You seem to be having one of your good days, dear.”

But back to Uber. I think ride shares have huge possibilities for the senility set. There could be a special app that pops up as soon as you pick up your phone showing a photo of your house with your address underneath and the words “You live here.” If you still couldn’t find your house, you’d just press the icon’s Save Me! option and a ride share would show up and take you home. That, of course, is assuming you can remember to push the button but that seems inherently easier than remembering your address – especially here.

Addresses in La Jolla are basically permutations of the same ten Spanish words.  You could be forgiven even before you’re senile for not remembering whether you live on Vista Playa Bonita or Playa Bonita Vista.

I had some even better ideas after my younger son told me that over the holidays one year, they sent a ride share to their house for the chocolate soufflé they’d inadvertently left home. The sitter handed off the soufflé to the Uber driver, who delivered it to the dinner party. (For the record, the soufflé rated the driver very highly.)

So, I’m thinking, if soufflés, why not Mom?

Letting my ever-overamped imagination run wild, I was thinking that Uber could develop an application called “Find My Mother.” Mom wanders away from The Home and son is alerted by the Escape Alarm on his phone that she is no longer tied to her bed. Son presses his new GoGetHer app which immediately gives a GPS location on Mom who presumably has her phone in a little velvet carry bag around her neck. (OK, you may have to microchip her.) The Uber driver swoops in, puts mom in the car (hopefully she goes quietly) and returns me, er, her to The Facility, courtesy of the “If found, please return to” app on Mom’s phone. Avoids that whole embarrassing evening news thing. Never mind that son didn’t even have to blink during his office Power Point presentation.

Now, as a senior, I think these Uber applications should go both ways. Don’t like the nursing home your kids have stashed you in? Before you make a break for it, you install an override app on your phone with special instructions to the rideshare driver: DON’T TAKE ME BACK TO THAT PLACE! LEAVE ME AT THE DOWNTOWN TRAIN STATION AND CHARGE A ONE-WAY TICKET TO SAN FRANCISCO ON MY CREDIT CARD. THEN THROW THE PHONE IN THE BAY. Like, we have rights too.

Now that I’m on Medicare, issues of aging occupy a lot of my brain cells. Olof thinks they would probably be better spent on memory exercises. The important thing is, I’m pretty sure I have a car.



Saturday, January 6, 2024

When Christmas Is A Parallel Universe

["Let Inga Tell You,"  La Jolla Light, published January 8, 2024] 2024

It becomes increasingly worrisome to me that I couldn't identify half of the Christmas gifts that were exchanged Christmas morning, even ones that I gave.

Fortunately, I didn't have to know what they were. This is what Christmas lists are for. The grandchild or other relative wants this thing? OK, I'm game.

What does it do? I'd ask with genuine interest (and a nagging fear that the world has passed me by) as they oohed and aahed over it.

But then, I am a person who doesn't want any gift that comes with instructions. As I have often chronicled, I have enough trouble operating my iPhone. In fact, a regular source of entertainment at family Christmas gatherings is passing around my phone and laughing at the directions taped to the back. But at least I don't have to worry about someone picking up my phone by mistake.

Christmas is always my favorite holiday of the year, made even more special in that it includes a good-sized group of relatives both from our side plus my daughter-in-law's. A genuinely congenial group.

Fortunately, during gift opening, I was seated next to my daughter-in-law's mother, a truly kindred soul. As a gift was opened, I'd lean over and whisper, Do you know what that is? And she'd whisper back, "Not a clue."

One such item was a gift I gave my 14-year-old granddaughter from her wish list which was described as a Luxury Intensive Skin Treatment Candle. So, was this some kind of skin treatment, or a candle? Turns out it was both. As the fine print, which I hadn't bothered to read in my haste to get my Christmas shopping done, noted: "Nourishing cocoa butter is blended with soybean oil and almond oil to leave the skin smooth and silky, whilst delivering therapeutic benefits for the mind and body. After blowing out the candle, the wax reaches the perfect temperature for application on to skin."

It is also "100% natural, ethically sourced and finely crafted from sustainable origins with absolutely no artificial ingredients." Which, along with using the word "whilst", explains why it is $46. But it made her happy so it made me happy.

One gift that totally stymied me was a bunch of colorful reels of something. Turns out they are printer "food"  for a hobbyist-level 3D printer.

I'm still trying to get my head around a desktop robot pet my nine-year-old grandson desperately coveted. Apparently these things are hugely popular and come in all forms and prices. Thinking this was going to be an easy purchase, I was dismayed to go on Amazon and find the little critters priced from $29 to $500. (I went on the lower end.) According to the description, these robots are "the perfect companion for both kids and adults who love pets, with abundant emotions, idle animations, and interactive features."   No idea what any of that actually means. Should I mention that my grandchildren have actual real pets? With, presumably, emotions (they're dogs)? But my grandson was elated to now be able to share the emotional life of an inanimate object.

I didn't buy this next one, but one of the uber-health-conscious family members received a Smart Ring, an actual fashion accessory ring loaded on its inside with teeny weeny electronics that you wear on your finger 24/7 and tracks, well, pretty much everything. Waterproof, it monitors sleep quality, stress index, heart health, skin temperature, body movement etc. which is then presumably sent to your equally-smart phone? It s apparently way better than those clunky passé  smart watches. The Smart Ring alleges to track every movement you make which in my case, would be tracking all the moves I wasn't making. I don't need a Smart Ring (or watch) to abuse me about my weight. I have a primary care doctor for that, and she doesn't need re-charging.

Another grandchild received an easy-to-operate drone. My son and his wife, who host Christmas, moved several months ago to a house with lots of outdoor space which their previous home was woefully lacking. Anyway, when out taking a walk shortly after the move, they noticed the next-door neighbor leaving his home and said to each other, "Um, is that ...?"   Turns out a very famous but now elderly movie star lives next door. When the drone gift was opened, my daughter-in-law's mother leaned in and whispered, "Not sure how the neighbor is going to feel about drones circling over his house. Or about letting kids come over and retrieve it after it crashes into his patio."  This may be a gift that only gets used at the local public park.

I confess that every time someone opened a present that I could actually name, I felt a huge sense of relief. It was starting to feel like I was in a sci fi movie in a parallel universe but which fortunately still served the same totally recognizable and utterly fabulous Christmas dinner. When I can no longer identify what we re eating, I'm calling it quits.

                                                        These reels are "food" for a 3D printer