Sunday, July 22, 2012

UPDATE – 15 July 2012

“My gynecologist likes me. He really really likes me!!”
This is what a young woman of 40 years screamed out very loud to me on a train, even though I sat right next to her. Everyone stared at us. But more on this later.

One of the strangest things you find in the UK and Ireland is that many bathroom and restroom sinks have two faucets—hot and cold. Apparently, according to London legend, in an earlier time (much earlier) the quality of cold water and hot water was not the same. If you had one mixed-water faucet with different temperature water, you might get less impure water when you wanted to drink, for instance. So they split the hot and cold to allow you to get separate clean, cold water regardless if the hot water or hot water tank had impurities or had become contaminated. This contaminated hot water, when in the mixer pipe, might contaminate water in the cold water pipe and that could lead to contamination back in the public water supply. So regulations were put in place preventing the mixing of taps. Add to that the fact that people in Britain love tradition or the fact that separate taps are cheaper than mixer taps which you find in the rest of Europe.  So even though Winston Churchill was fascinated at mixer taps during a visit to Russia in 1942, 70 years later the UK still has somewhere around 40% separate hot and cold taps.

As a newcomer to the UK you’ll notice various techniques employed to get the right temperature you want from 2 separate hot and cold taps. Here are my notes:

   1)      The Brrrrrrrrr – Just wash your hands in cold water for a quick wash. (This is what many Brits do. They are not bothered about cold water for quick washes.)

   2)      Out for a Swim – Plug the sink up and fill up the basin. Then alternate releasing cold and hot water into the basin, testing the water throughout, until you reach the desired temperature. Then wash. (This is also a British method. All of the remainder are mostly foreigner methods.)

   3)      Applause – Turn both faucets on and put one hand beneath each faucet. Quickly clap your hands together, rub, and then return them back to the each faucet and quickly clap them together again. Repeat as often as necessary, and sometimes repeat without rubbing.

   4)      I’ll take one Cold with a Side of Hot – put both hands under the cold water faucet. Occasionally reach your right hand to the right hot-water faucet and grab a bit of hot water and bring it back to the hand under the cold water faucet to slightly and briefly warm the water up. Repeat as often as necessary.

   5)      Sunny-side Up – This is the reverse of Cold with a Side of Hot. It’s good if you plan to moisturise your hands afterwards because the hot water really strips your hands of natural oils. You also need a tolerance for hot water.

   6)      Uneven Applause – This is the same as the Applause but you make one faucet run with less flow. So if you are a Sunny-side Up person, you might let more water run and less cold water run. With that balance of uneven flows you then try clapping the hands together. You can do the same in reverse, with more cold water flowing than hot water. Then Clap away!!

   7)      2nd Degree Burns – Flex your chest and turn on the hot water faucet!! Good luck.

All of these techniques reminds me how blessed it is to travel outside the UK and experience the mixed-temperature faucet in most other places. And this is exactly a joy I experienced when traveling from India to the US for a wedding of a dear beautiful friend, Rosa. After the wedding, on a train on the way to the JFK airport from New Haven, I stepped off the train briefly before it left to say goodbye to a friend. Upon my return to my seat, there sat a woman who was extra-friendly. I sat down across from her, next to her luggage which covered two seats next to me. She immediately began eyeing my plastic bag of two bagels.

“What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“That,” she points at my plastic bag.

“Those are bagels.”

“Are you gonna eat them?”

“Yes, I plan to, though I won’t eat them now.”

“Oh . . . so you’re gonna eat them?” she says sadly.

“Yes, I’m going to eat them,” wondering if she wants them.

“Oh,” she says not asking. “That’s good that you’re going to eat those bagels in the plastic bag.”

“Yeah,” I say sheepishly.

“What’s that?”

“They’re bagels.”

“No, not your food. What’s that?” she points to a half-eaten donut on the dirty floor.

“Oh, It’s just a donut.”

“Do you think it belongs to anyone?”

“No, someone probably just left it there.”


“I said someone probably left it there.”

“So no one owns it?”

“No, it’s on the floor.”

“Oh good.” She reaches and grabs the donut.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m really hungry.” She starts to move the donut toward her mouth.

“Don’t do that.”


“Because the donut has been on the floor.”

“Oh, I don’t mind.”

“Don’t eat that donut.”


“Because it’s not clean.”

“Oh it’s fine. See, I’ll just rub it against my jeans.” She rubs the donut against her jeans crumbling 1/5th of the remaining donut, leaving only 4/5ths of it to eat.

“It’s just that---“ She starts to eat the donut. This is when I realised that something isn’t quite right.

“MMM, this donut is sooo good. Do you want some?”

“No . . . . . . . I have these . . . bagels.”

“MMMMmmm, do you want some? I’m gonna finish it up.”

“No thank you.”

“Mmmm, mmmm, MMMM. That was so good. Now I need to get some water. In my house I have this machine that turns any drink into mineral water, sparkling water or water beer. Do you want some? It’s soo good. I’m glad I brought some. I’m going to have some to wash down the donut if I could just find it in this big suitcase somewhere, but you’ll see. IT’s really good. The cover of the bottle says water beer but it’s really just water. Do you want some water? I can give you some. Why haven’t you eaten your bagels, you look really hungry. You remind me of my doctors. You try to tell me not to do stuff. I can’t figure out why my gynecologist tries to --- I have a gynecologist you likes me. I mean my gynecologist likes me. He really REALLY likes me.” She is speaking very loudly at this point and people are listening to our conversation to determine if I am her pimp, kidnapper, or gynecologist who she is trying to get away from by alerting others. Luckily she starts talking to other people around her who have no patience for her. In fact one woman across the walking aisle from us offered to give me “safe haven” saying “I know she needs help but I just can’t take it. You can sit here if you want.” “No, it’s fine,” I declined. It seemed rude, and I thought my friend would quiet down. But she never did, so I never slept.

She had a knack for repeating things she said. She would repeat them over and over, but not in a demented way where you don’t realise you said. She repeated in a manner like a kid who is waiting for confirmation that you heard and affirmation of the good job she has done.

During the ride there was a baby in a chair behind me. She LOVED the baby. At one point, a banker dressed in a suit wanted to sit down next to me, but she didn’t realise she should move her suitcase, so I had to ask her if she could take her suitcase of the chair. She complied very willingly, and he sat down next to me also facing her on the left side of the walking aisle. So whenever she wanted to lean over and talk to the baby, she would get up and lean her body over the business man who I’m sure could not read his newspaper when she leaned against him, but she seemed not to realise that she was pressing on him. I kept praying the businessman wouldn’t hit her because he didn’t really want to engage her in conversation and she usually had to ask him a question 2 to 3 times before he answered.

“What do you do?”

“I’m just wondering because the way you dressed. What do you do?”

Finally, she taps the banker several times. “What do you do?”

“ . . . . . I’m a banker,” he says in soft, inconspicuous tones.

“Oh,” she says. He’s happy because he thinks it’s over.

“Where do you work?”

“Excuse me, where do you work?”

“ . . . . at a bank,” he muffles.

“Oh, that’s nice. So you’re a banker and you work at a bank?”

No response. “So you work at a bank?” No response.
She taps him again (I want to burst out laughing during this). “So you work at a bank? Which bank?”

He muffles some name of a bank I don’t know, but she catches wind of the cute baby behind the banker and myself.

“Oh what a cute baby,” she exclaims rushing over to us and leaning on the business man who has this 40-year-old woman pressed against him and she talks to the baby.

“How old is the baby?”

“Two,” the mother says.

“TWO! I can’t believe it. That’s AMAZING!! Hey, everyone, this baby is two. That is soooo cool. Can she do anything?”

“She can count pennies.”

“She can COUNT pennies!!! WHAT? That is so great!! She can count PENNIES!!””

The mother corrects, “She can count pennies but she doesn’t know what she is really doing. She just says 1-2-3 over and over as she picks up new pennies.”

“She can COUNT. And she can count PENNIES!!! That is aMAzing.” She sits back down and the business man can now see his newspaper. She says to me, “Can you believe that baby is only 2 and can count pennies! I can’t believe. Gosh, only 2 years old. Who would have thought she would be counting pennies at two. Did you?”

“No I don’t think I would have thought it.”

“Well, I could count pennies, quarters, dimes, and nickels and even bills when I was a month old. When I was 3 weeks to a month old, I was counting pennies and dimes and nickels. She’s not the only one. I could count it all. Yeah, I counted quarters up to a hundred when I was a month and a half. I could count pennies, too, and more when I was 3 weeks to a month and a half. I was VERY good with numbers, very good. I started when I was about a month old.”

Now, I’m pretty slow, of course, so I start doing the math because something doesn’t sound right. How could she count at any of those ages, much less count money, much less talk. So I got really confused and then began to realise something wasn’t right with her story. But I didn’t refute it. So since we didn’t understand each other we decided to go back to more comfortable topics .  . . like her gynecologist who was now a woman.

“Yeah, I don’t know why my gynecologist doesn’t like it when I eat two double flame-broiled blood-beef chili-onion ringed, extra-oil-fried burgers followed by extra-oil fried French fries, chili potato chips and 2 shakes.”

“It’s not healthy?”

“It’s not, but I just don’t get it. She and my cardiologist and my therapist. They always complain and say you shouldn’t eat that. My gynecologist got very mad at me. REALLY mad. I told her I ate two double flame-broiled blood-beef chili-onion ringed, extra-oil-fried burgers followed by extra-oil fried French fries, chili potato chips and 2 shakes and she flips out. I was like “GOSH.” Why does she have to be so mean and flip out? I don’t get it.  It was just two burgers and two shakes. What’s the big deal? I don’t get it. Why are they so mean? Do you know? Why do they get mad?”

“I think it’s because they care about you.” And in that moment, our conversation slightly changed.

“Oh they care about me? You think they care about me?”

“Yes, they do it because they care about you.”

“Oh, wow. I never thought about that. They care about me? You know, you’re right. I think they do it because they care about me. You know, they must really, really care about me if they really complain to me about what I eat. Wow. I think they REALLY REALLY care about me. My cardiologist must really care about me. I think I must be my cardiologist’s favorite  . . favorite .  . . “


“Patient. I must be my cardiologist’s favourite patient. He must really care about me. My gynecologist must really care about me. I think she likes me. I think my gynecologist really really likes me. Gosh, I never thought about it before. They must really care about me. I must be my therapist’s favourite patient. DO you think they care about me?”

“I think they do.”

“Wow, you must really care about me, too. I think my therapist and gynecologist really care about me. I think I must be their favourite person. When they see me coming down the street, they get really excited and because I’m their favourite patient. Wow, they must really care about me. Are you going to eat those bagels?”

“Here you can have it.”

“Are you sure? I can have it.”

“Yes, I’m not that hungry.”

“Wow, thanks, mister. I’m going to save them for later and eat them when I get to New York when I’m with my mom. I’m going to save it for later because I already ate that donut off the floor. It was a good donut. Do you want some money? How much do you want for it?”

“OH, no. I don’t need any money for it. IT’s a gift. Don’t worry about it.”

“What. You don’t want money?”


“Wow, you know what? You’re really nice. You’re a really nice person. Has anyone ever told you that?”

“A few people.”

“Well, you’re a really nice person. Do you want some money?”

“No, it’s fine.”

After that we talked some more which mainly consisted of her talking. She took 2 walks to the food compartment of the train because she thought she missed her stop even though we were getting off at the same place. Each time she said she saw her gynecologist up there. I wondered whether or not the gynecologist was really there. But when we got off at Grand Central Station, sure enough, her mother was there to pick up. And I was glad.

It’s strange how a really friendly person, in that part of the world, can be seen as mentally disabled in some way. I’d love it if friendly was the norm. I wasn’t sure what was exactly wrong with her, but the fact that she was seeing so many professionals and was taking 6 pills a day (diabetes, seizures, etc. I didn’t tell that part of the story) was a bit worrying. The woman with the baby thanked me when we landed. I didn’t think I did anything special and told her she was really nice with my friend. The woman with the baby said her own sister is handicapped. And that’s when I learned the word to use was handicapped. Regardless, she made me laugh a lot, and her mother was there to pick her up. I was really glad.

As for me, I’m having a good week. I just got back from a weekend at Oxford in which I watched my good friend James’s choir, the Oxford Gospel Choir, perform their end-of-the-year-before-summer-break concert with the ACM choir directed by Mark Di-Lesser, a judge on the UK “The Voice.” And his choir, the ACM gospel choir, was a finalist in “Last Choir Standing.” We had a good time, and it’s interesting to hear a British choir do American Black gospel music.

Last weekend I spent running around with one of my favourite people, Grace Kwak. With Grace, we just laugh all the time. It’s always a good time. She is the one that got me to move to London (thanks, Grace ;-). She pops in every 4 months or so to see London shows. So we went to the Globe Theatre and saw “Taming of the Shrew” and we also did a Globe Tour with afternoon tea. The next day we saw “Top Hat” with songs like “Cheek to Cheek” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Piccolino,” and “Top Hat,” “No Strings,” and “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails.” It was cool. I haven’t seen a very old musical from the 30’s in a very long time. So it was nice to go back and see that and hear them try to talk like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It was great music (Irving Berlin) and good dancing. So we had a great time. One of the women I was with, Ramona, sometimes would ask “When is the song going to be over?” She is more of a Katy Perry fan, I was told.

Lastly we did a Sunday jazz brunch at Royal Albert Hall. Once again, Grace was attentive to everything I said, and reminded me that it would be good to talk to the pianist of the group that we heard. I completely forgot but they performed lovely music. It was the French chanson-jazz style. And I love accordion music. I have a friend that gave me a kid-baby accordion to get started learning. You can’t play all the notes on it but you can get started learning.

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