Why Do They Call It a Rest Room?

42761954 - hand dryer iconI walk into a public restroom and hear an ear-splitting roar. The source is the hand dryer, a tiny thing, not much bigger than a wallet with a knob on it. No one is using it, I notice as a woman in white Capri pants brushes past me, shaking her dripping hands.

Some dryers holler, some hum, but none of them get your hands dry. You could stand there all day and still come out wiping your fingers on your pants.

These little noisy ones make your skin move around. You can watch it sliding across your veins and ligaments. I don’t know if it’s good for your skin, but it’s fun to watch. I want to call everyone over and say, “Hey, look at this,” but there’s an unwritten rule in public restrooms, at least ladies’ rooms: You can only talk to people you bring in with you. You must pretend the others are invisible.

With bathroom dryers these days, I never know whether to put my hands under it or in it, sock it, do tai chi in front of the motion detector . . . or press a button. Is a towel going to come down? If it does, they never give you enough. And sometimes you get to choose: auto dryer or paper towel? Choose the towel, then notice a little girl staring at you, horror in her big green-police eyes. “The dryer doesn’t work,” you lie.

And now the internet is full of posts about how electric hand dryers spread germs. Read this happy little ditty: “Here’s the Gross Truth About Bathroom Hand Dryers” by Carly Cassella.

Remember the cloth towels that used to come down in a circle and were never quite dry? Now that was sanitary! But then, how often do we wash our towels at home? Does each person use his/her own? Would you ever consider installing an air dryer?

At least when you’re waiting outside, the noisy dryer tells you your wait is almost over.

It’s not just the hand dryers that make going to a public restroom an adventure these days.

Toilets haven’t changed much. You still sit or squat over a horseshoe-shaped thing atop a porcelain bowl and do your business, but with automatic flushers, sometimes you get a booty bath when it decides to flush for no particular reason. Other times, you finish, stand up, stare at it, and nothing happens. Has anybody else ever done a little dance to try to make it flush? And it still doesn’t? So you push the button. Whoosh. Or you walk out, hoping nobody sees that you failed to flush. Just as you exit the stall, you hear: Whoosh!

I often wonder why there are 20 stalls and two sinks and there’s always some woman redoing her entire face when you just want to wave your hands under the water. And why, when the woman finally realizes someone’s waiting and moves half an inch to the left, is the soap everywhere but the dispenser? Why is the counter always wet so you have nowhere to put your purse?

Have you ever stood waiting for a sink to turn on, complaining that it’s not working, then realized it was not automatic?

With automatic toilets, sinks, soap dispensers and hand dryers, you still have to touch the door knob or handle to get out, so what’s the point?

Finally, why do folks spend a fortune installing automatic toilets but don’t fix the door locks? Between trying to hold the door closed with your foot, hanging above the toilet seat to avoid germs, and being subjected to dryers loud enough to liquefy your eardrums, I don’t see why anyone would call it a “rest room.” Would you?

I welcome your bathroom adventure stories in the comments.

More bathroom reading:

“For Drying Out Loud: Noisy Hand Dryers Cause Issues for Some,” Dallas News, Thor Christensen

“Hand Dryer Noise in Public Restrooms Exceeds 80 dBA at 10 Feet (3m)” 

Did you know there’s a whole collection of restroom pictures on Pinterest? Crazy, but I know you want to look.

And for those of us who are tired of bathrooms with toilet paper on the floor and graffiti on the doors, here’s “Best Public Bathrooms; Where to Go When You’re on the Go” 

 

 

 

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Just Give Me a Plate of Hash and Eggs

20750606 - a frying pan with corned beef hash and eggsI seem to be a food peasant. A plebeian. Totally lacking in culture, even if do have a master’s degree.

I splurged on a slightly expensive hotel on my way to California two weeks ago. It was about a thousand degrees out, and I was exhausted from planning, packing and driving all day. I dreaded what lay ahead in San Jose, and hell, I deserved it. Too beat to leave the building, I ate dinner in the adjoining restaurant. Mostly I just wanted cold air and a cold drink.

A hostess dressed in a silky black dress and wearing far too much makeup for off-stage led me to a small table against the far wall, one of those places they put people who dare to come in alone wearing faded jeans and a T-shirt promoting a literary magazine.

A waiter dressed in black and packing a snooty attitude handed me the menu. Holy smokes. All the entrees cost at least $20, nothing included. And there was nothing ordinary. All chipotle this and cream sauce that. As I pondered, a different black-suited waiter brought me a basket of cold French bread, a tiny bowl of ground nuts, and a plate on which he poured olive oil and a swirl of balsamic vinegar. How are you supposed to apply them to the bread? Where’s the butter? Yes, I’m a peasant. The oil made my lips feel greasy.

A couple specials were written on a blackboard in chalk. I couldn’t read them. Glare, plus half the words were in French.

When a third black-suited waiter arrived to take my order, I asked him to tell me about the specials, and I chose the steak and linguine after asking, “How much?” $22. Fine. It came with steak slices carefully arranged in a half circle, the odd-tasting sauce decorated with peppercorns, bits of red bell pepper and flakes of aioli cheese. Laid across the plate was the big spoon in which I was supposed to swirl my noodles, something I never do at home.

Folks at the next table were all dressed up and raving about the food. I savored the memory of the hamburger I had eaten for lunch at the Apple Peddler in Sutherlin, Oregon.

I hate to admit it, but on the road I usually seek out the familiar chain restaurants: Denny’s, Apple Peddler, IHOP, Black Bear Diner, Elmer’s. I already know what they have and know I can read, write or stare into space and not feel out of place. Plus when you order pasta, you get a salad, too, even off the senior menu. Sometimes you even get dessert.

Maybe it’s how I was raised. Mom was not an adventurous cook. Slab of meat, potatoes, canned veggies, white bread. We went out to eat at the Burger Pit or got takeout raviolis from Pianto’s. I never tasted any kind of Asian food until I was in high school. A lot of foods—Swiss chard comes to mind—I never saw until I got married. Heck, I had never used a salad bowl. Kabobs? Tofu? Quinoa? Are you kidding? Homemade bread? Why? And booze? At our house, it was canned beer, screw-top wine or highballs, and only for special occasions.

As an adult, I like to create with food. I make some weird salads and Boboli pizzas and freely adapt recipes. But apparently, I’m not as sophisticated as I thought.

At the fancy restaurant in Redding—Redding, off I-5, where the locals still wear cowboy hats—you can watch the flames as a chef deglazes a pan with his favorite liqueur. You can order almond-encrusted halibut with apricot horseradish, pan finished pork tenderloin—free range, of course—with creamed pan jus, apple burrata crème fraiche and fresh sage, or pulled chicken with smoked gouda, carmelized bacon and onion jam on artisan bread. They’ve got peach bourbon bread pudding for dessert.

Can I just get a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with lots of mayonnaise and a scoop of vanilla ice cream?

Sigh. I have such a plebeian palate. On the way back to Oregon, I stopped at my usual place in Yreka, a little cheaper, best bed ever, and across the street from Poor George’s. The lone aproned waitress, limping with a broken toe, served me hash and eggs and biscuits and gravy–$11—and told me the saga of her pit bull who ran away and just came home. She even showed me the dog’s picture on her phone. That’s my kind of restaurant.

***

For those following the Dad saga, I helped my father move home from the nursing home and hired a homecare agency to help him with meals, cleaning, errands and such. So far, he’s not getting along very well with his caregiver, but he’s happy to be back in his own house, walking very carefully with his walker.

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Text copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017

Photo Copyright: markstout / 123RF Stock Photo

Highway 58 detour worth every mile

img_20160906_101219591For 20 years, I’ve been driving back and forth from my home on the Oregon coast to San Jose, California, where my family lives. I usually take I-5, a straight shot inland, or, if there’s snow in the mountains, I take Highway 101 along the coast. See the same things, stop at the same places, no time for side trips, tempting as they are. It takes me about 13 hours.

This time was different. I scheduled in extra time for a vacation. Just outside Eugene, I left I-5 and headed southeast on Oregon Highway 58. I wanted to see some of the sights I’d seen in the winter on the train and take a little time for myself.  I wanted to see waterfalls and lakes. I wanted to hike in the high country. I wanted to sit by a river and write poetry. I wanted to see the tiny towns along the way and end up in Klamath Falls where my grandmother started her teaching career a little over a hundred years ago. So I did.

Everything published about Highway 58 emphasizes that it leads to Crater Lake, and yes, you can get there that way, but I had already seen Crater Lake several times. I was seeking new territory. Over the next few posts, I plan to share some of that country with you. Did it bother me to be a woman traveling alone? Maybe it should have, but no. I enjoyed my freedom.

Things didn’t start off great as I left home on Labor Day. It killed me to leave Annie, who is not a good traveler. Assuring her she’d have a great time with her dog sitter, “Auntie Jo,” did not keep her from following me around with her tail hanging low. Then I discovered the restaurant where I had my heart set on eating lunch–Eats & Treats in Philomath, so good–is not open on Mondays. So I forged on, taking a different route to Eugene, only to get miserably lost. Thank God for GPS. I ended up eating lunch at the kind of diner where they vacuum around your feet while the waitress hollers, “Whatcha gonna have?” The chicken tortilla soup with two chunks of chicken and four tortilla squares floating on top set my stomach on fire.

dscn4040But then I got out of the city and encountered the first of two covered bridges on this route. The Lowell Covered Bridge is located at the Dexter Reservoir. Ah! Water, trees, blue sky. Also a restroom. I took pictures of the bridge and sank onto a bench to stare at the lake. Now we were on vacation.

Down the road, I came to the Office Bridge. It has openings for both cars and pedestrians. Walk or drive through into a big park with covered picnic areas and hiking trails. I could have sat there and stared at the Willamette River flowing below forever. Note that the directions I got online were wrong. I kept looking for West Road. I think it was a typo. Simply take the Westfir exit off 58 and follow the signs for three miles. There’s a store and a resort there for those who want to stay a while.

img_20160905_154516584Having gotten a late start and gotten lost a couple times, I hadn’t really gotten far from Eugene, but that wasn’t the point. I spent the night in Oakridge, population 3,200. I toured the “downtown business district.” It was pretty quiet on the holiday. Everything was coated in dust from months of no rain. Relaxing at the Best Western (yes, they have one), I noticed the phone book: six yellow pages for business, 32 pages total. The phone book is published by the local newspaper, the Dead Mountain Echo, not a bad local weekly. Why would anybody stay here, I thought. But I learned it’s a hub for mountain bikers, of which there were plenty, and folks also make beer there. They even have a Keg and Cask festival in August. Being only two hours from Eugene if you don’t mess around, Oakridge has a small-town feel with access to big-city amenities.

At dinnertime, I was surprised to find a Mazatlan Mexican restaurant in town and even more surprised that the food was fabulous. Shame on me for stereotyping small towns.

In the morning, surprise! It was raining. What? I had all these hiking plans and this list of stops: hot spring, waterfalls, trails, lakes. Rain? The guy at the gas station was deliriously happy to see water coming out of the sky and hoped for lots more. Sure, but today? I get plenty of rain at home. Never mind, we Oregonians carry on.

Somehow I missed the McCreadie Hot Springs–darned online directions again–but I found the biggest waterfall. Cascading 286 feet, Salt Creek Falls is the second highest waterfall in Oregon, Multnomah being the highest. It was worth the wet walk. Oh my gosh. The trail took me along the creek until it suddenly fell off a ledge and there were the falls, so big, so white, falling deep into a canyon below. My camera can’t portray the way it made me feel. Deep breath.

From the waterfall, I started off on one of the many trails, but it was just too wet, and I feared I would slip and fall into the creek. Nobody knew where I was. Bad idea. Back on the road. Waldo Lake, Diamond Peak, the Willamette Pass Ski Resort, Crescent Lake, Odell Lake, the turnoff to Crater Lake, and finally Klamath Falls, where I pigged out on a Reuben sandwich at Elmer’s and checked into the Holiday Inn Express. Back in civilization again. But that’s another story. If you’re in the mood to wander, check out Highway 58. There are lots of trains, more waterfalls to see, campgrounds and picnic areas, and places to ski. (Bring chains in the winter.The Willamette Pass is over 5,000 feet.)

BTW, I hear truckers take it south to California because it’s faster than I-5. Not the way I did it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m eleven bears from my dad’s house

black-bear-2We call it “The Bear.” Stop and let your imagination wander for a minute. No, it’s a restaurant. The Black Bear Diner. Twenty years ago, it was started in 1999 in Mt. Shasta by Bruce “Sugar Bear” Dean and Bob “Papa Bear” Manley. Now the list of Black Bear diners fills a whole page—64 locations in eight states. We could measure trips in Black Bears. Eleven bears from my house on the Oregon coast to Dad’s house in San Jose, California.

What do they serve? Nuts and berries? Well, that, too. I’d rather eat one of their giant bear claw pastries. They’re as big as a baseball mitt but a lot tastier. They have the usual diner food: omelets, biscuits and gravy, Black Bear Benedicts, Mama Bear and Papa Bear burgers, Bigfoot chicken fried steak, etc. The kids’ menu is for Cubs. Naturally. There are even bear footprints on the plates and pictures of bears on the coffee mugs.

The Black Bear diners play on the idea that bears are cute and cuddly while those of us who live in bear country know bears are enormous animals with extremely long claws that they’re not afraid to use. Their long fur is probably not nearly as soft or as clean as it looks from afar.

Giant wooden bears carved by chainsaw artist Ray Schultz greet customers at the door of the Black Bear restaurants. Mom, Dad, baby bear. Sometimes there’s one on all fours that children (and childish adults like me) can sit on.

Signs continue the bear theme: Caution: Mama bear on duty. Bear with us—Please wait to be seated. Welcome to Camp Grin and Bear It. The menus are printed inside old-fashioned newspaper pages with actual stories from a long-ago year—I got 1937 last week. You can keep the menus if you want.

Bears eat big. Even the so-called smaller orders are huge. My meat loaf at the original Black Bear diner in Mt. Shasta last week would have lasted me three days at home. And my Reuben sandwich down the road in Willows was so big I needed a couple of those bears to help me eat it. It’s all good. Not spectacular but dependable, down-home comfort food served by friendly people in Black Bear tee shirts and suspenders who might just call you Sweetie or Honey.

The Bear is always crowded. Expect to wait in line for the little bear’s room while singing along to oldies playing over the speakers. In Willows, I found myself belting out “Aquarius” with the Fifth Dimension, then looked around and realized all the others in line were too young to remember that song and were probably thinking I was a little crazy. Too bad. Mama Bear can sing whatever she wants.

Don’t forget to hit the gift shop for a bear mug, T-shirt, water bottle or even a wooden bear to keep you company until next time.

No, the Bears didn’t pay me to write this, but I couldn’t resist.

If We’re Going to Sit This Close Together, We Ought to at Least Say Hello

The man next to me in Row 28 of the Alaska Airlines 737 was handsome and tall, nicely dressed in a white shirt and brown slacks. The lady squashed into the window seat was thin, her red hair sparse. None of us spoke to each other the entire two hours we were in those seats. Window woman knitted. Handsome man worked on charts on his laptop. I read on my Kindle. His leg was touching mine for most of the trip, but we did not say a word, not until we landed and I asked him if he was leaving or going home. He was visiting friends in San Jose. I said I used to live in San Jose. I didn’t mention I was here for my cousin’s funeral. Then we got off the plane and rolled our rolly bags away.

Across the aisle, a man with huge headphones watched a movie on his iPad. The guys next to him dozed. In front of him, an Anglo man with equally huge headphones seemed to be reading Chinese on his laptop. Directly in front of me, all I could see was the beige back of the Row 27 seats with menus and the airline magazine in the pocket. I could barely see the window past people’s heads and the wing blocked our view anyway. Might as well read my book.

It’s crazy how people don’t talk to each other anymore. When I got to the gate in Portland, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone already seated at Gate C2 was staring at a phone or laptop. So I got my phone out, too.

On the return trip, where I had the middle seat in Row 29 of 32, the woman on my left had her sunglasses on and read off her tablet from beginning to end. She switched to games on her phone as we landed. My efforts to talk got nowhere. The woman on my right was a little younger and clearly a regular on these flights. She knew the menu and knew the flight attendants. She plugged in her headphones and had her eyes closed or focused on a magazine the whole trip. The whole vibe was “don’t talk to me.”

Everyone seems to want to be alone. We’re all staring at our phones, tablets, computers, and books. We seem to want to become invisible. People used to talk on planes. I remember a trip long ago where I almost had sex with the handsome guy sitting next to me. We talked the whole trip. That doesn’t seem to happen anymore. Aside from a few couples whispering to each other or a baby screeching at takeoff and landing, I hear only the roar of the plane and an occasional garbled announcement from the captain. With WiFi in the plane now, why talk? Right?

I couldn’t help thinking how much more fun it would be with a friend or a mate. We could talk. Also, we could go to the bathroom at the airport without having to take all our stuff. We could share a table at the restaurant with a person instead of a suitcase. We could make wisecracks about all the people staring at their screens.

I think we’re all nervous about flying, about going through security, about the possibility of the plane crashing, about being late. We’re uncomfortable being so close to strangers. I know I’m a bundle of anxiety when I fly. So much so on the return trip Friday that I handed the TSA agent my debit card instead of my ID. That got me a trip to the possible terrorist line. But they let me through.

These days, with no husband or kids, I always travel alone. Flying solo, you have to ask all the questions, do all the planning, and do all the heavy lifting of luggage. And you have no one with whom to share the memories, the laughs and the experiences. I miss that part the most. That and having someone to greet me when I stagger off the airplane at the end of the journey. But you’d think when you’re sharing an armrest, you’d be able to strike up a conversation. And hey guys, we’re 30,000 feet in the air traveling at a ridiculously fast speed. At least look out the window.

In spite of all that, it was a good trip. Lots of hugs, lots of sunshine, lots of quality time with family, one of whom gave me their cold. Rest in peace, cousin Jerry. I’m going to miss you. Thanks for bringing us together.

 

Motel roulette: you never know what lurks behind those doors

IMG_20150529_082338657[1]Motels are a gamble. I was in Eugene, preparing to attend a series of events at the University of Oregon related to my winning a prize in an essay contest. I had made reservations online from the comfy Best Western in Yreka that I wrote about last week. The new place was a little beyond my budget, but hey, it was the last two nights of my vacation. I figured I’d drive all day, check in, go for a swim, eat a quick microwaved dinner, and go to a reading at The Duck Store.

I check in. Ask for a downstairs room. Ask why the second night costs seventy dollars more than the first night (not mentioned online), get told there’s an Eagles rock concert in the auditorium across the street on Thursday night. Are you here for the concert? What concert? I’m here for an essay contest. My fee is nonrefundable at this point, so I get my card key. I notice the big sign saying the pool is closed. Oh, we’re waiting for a part, don’t know when it will arrive. Swell.

I move all my stuff in. Notice the security lock does not work. Notice there are no shampoos, and there’s no Kleenex. Iron all my wrinkled clothes and hang them in the closet. Notice the clock is not illuminated, and the light next to it does not work. Crawl around plugging things in. Set the clock. Unpack my instant Chinese food and stick it in the microwave. Set it for two minutes and push the button. The microwave goes on, but shuts off after two seconds. What? I reset it, push start, it shuts off after two seconds. After about six tries and one fist punch to the front of the microwave, I throw a big Portagee fit. No pool, no lock, no clock, no micro. I tell the Stepford Wife at the front desk that this room is F-d, and I want a refund. She calmly offers me an “upgrade” to a river view room upstairs.

Now, I travel with a lot of stuff, three or four loads worth, guitar, computer, clothes, food. I had spread my stuff all over my room, and I needed to be at the reading in less than an hour. You know those whirling dervish cartoon characters? That’s how I looked grabbing clothe, books, and papers, stuffing them all into bags and hauling them up the fourteen concrete steps to my new room, where the river was dark and sludgy, the refrigerator didn’t work, the air conditioning was iffy, and the toilet didn’t always flush. But I didn’t have time for another fit. I ate a few bites of my dinner, walked myself a new blister getting across the campus and arrived at the reading sweaty and stressed. Wine? Oh yes.

On the second day, my card key would stop working, a guy would be power-washing the sidewalk outside my room in the morning when I was trying to write, and the entrance would be blocked off so I couldn’t drive to anywhere near my room the night of the concert. But I did have a nicer view, including a few ducks and geese, and I got to inhale some complimentary marijuana smoke from the Eagles fans a few balconies away.

It wasn’t all bad. The pool got repaired, the Wi-Fi rocked, and the continental breakfast included a pancake machine, first one I ever saw. It was nice looking at the river, especially after my experience in Red Bluff where another river room offered a view of rocks and dirt, that section of the river dried out in California’s drought. And Sam’s sports bar next door was fabulous.

But you never know. That’s why I dream of buying a camper someday and taking my room with me. It might not offer a free continental breakfast, but at least I’ll know where I’m sleeping every night and if something doesn’t work, I can fix it.

I arrived in Eugene after a week with my dad in San Jose, a good trip, lots of bonding for both of us. We also made another visit to Kaiser Hospital, this time to replace his pacemaker. It went well. Dad is fine, but it killed me to say goodbye. Always does.

I hit Eugene on the way home to collect my prize for winning third place in Oregon Quarterly’s Northwest Perspectives essay contest for a piece called “When the Lights Go Out.” Click on the link to read it. The prize included not only cash, but a master class with contest judge and fabulous author Lidia Yuknavitch and a chance to read our works to an audience at the university. Then we got taken to dinner at the posh Excelsior restaurant. Crab raviolis!

I felt like a princess by the end of the festivities. Twenty-four hours later, I was home mowing my lawn, but I have my memories. And at the moment, everything in my house works. Plus I have Annie. Home is not a gamble.