POSTED: December 1, 2023
I really like public buildings that are on a human scale. It doesn’t matter if they are schools or municipal buildings or hospitals. The key element for me is that they are of a size that is big enough to get the job done but small enough that they are very much the vessels for the activity, and not that the structures are so large that the structure itself is the primary focus. I posted recently about my experience with a young woman named Ofra (posted November 1st). Most of my experience with her was at a small hospital here in Valletta, Malta and it consisted of waiting in a fairly small area to find out the outcome of her medical problem and to help her back to her temporary accommodations.
I was there for many hours overnight and the whole adventure was unplanned so I had not taken a book or even reading glasses, my phone or any other distractions so the space I was in became quite familiar after a few hours. The window was close by and I could look out but it was nighttime and not much to see. I was reminded of my buddy Jim’s story about his uncle Gordon in a setting like this. Now Jim’s uncle was a character, and I think became even more of a character in Jim’s recollections of him but one story that came to mind here was that Jim’s Nana (grandmother) was in a small village hospital on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river valley, in Canada. The region, while part of Quebec, a largely French speaking province, was inhabited primarily by people with an English speaking heritage, largely from Ireland, and many of them farmed or went into Ottawa for employment.
So his Nana was in the hospital for one thing or another, and Uncle Gordon thought it would be a grand gesture to fly by in his little airplane and waive at her. For most of us, this initial plan would quickly be discarded as the small community hospital was still a busy place with lots of activities of people coming and going. Beyond this, airplanes are noisy things. In those days (the 1960’s) the small size of this little one-seater plane sounded more like a loud lawnmower than any smooth running aircraft and it might occur to most that some people in the hospital would want some calm and quiet. But Uncle Gordon did not have the same decision making process as the rest of us and saw the flight and waving as a good plan. He was also not deterred by the fact that there were lots of electrical wires running from the poles around the building to the top of the five-storey structure – he would just fly under them. Yeah. Really. What a plan.
Well he did pull it off but in so doing lost his flying license in Canada. He did keep his flying license elsewhere however, and continued to fly around the United States and the Caribbean. YIKES.
As I sat there in the waiting area, the small commissary was close. Too close. It had a very limited range of products during busy hours and only vending machines in the less busy hours when I was there. It made for tough decisions for me with my efforts to manage my hypertension – death by sugar overload? Carb overload? Fat overload? Some of the products in those venting machines liberally satisfied all three and with a lot of sodium in there for good measure as well.
I couldn’t leave to go elsewhere for a coffee or some fruit as I did not know when they would release her and at that hour there would probably not be anything very close by. It was my first time pretending to a be a dad and I really did not want to screw it up. To keep my mind off my hungry stomach I tried to focus on some other things and one was right there within sight. It was a small cabinet with a rather ancient sign LOST & FOUND. Now these lost and found cabinets, tables, or bookshelves in small facilities are quite the stimulus for anyone with an imagination. In some cases, the objects on display there look like they truly have been lost and would have some value, at least sentimental value, to someone. In other cases they look like items that are not worth retracing steps for – a paperback book, beat up baseball cap, or satchel that probably was just abandoned. But other things truly looked like they were just waiting for their owners to come back through the door to reunite with.
This notion of LOST and FOUND really got me thinking at the time. I had nothing but time on my hands sitting in that waiting area, and was desperate to not think about the vending machines.
In general LOST is a negative. You might lose your way, or lose in a game. None of us like losing things, but there are some very noteworthy exceptions. Sometimes the loss of ones virginity is a negative, sometimes a positive. Most often the loss of body weight is a good thing, but sometimes if its due to a medical problem a bad thing. A friends mother was losing her memory from dementia and that was really bad, but one day went swimming as she had lost (forgotten) her fear of water. Damn, this lost business is complex.
I was petty sure that FOUND was a positive however as I began to muse about it at about 4 am. We all love finding stuff. A bit of cash in a jacket we do not often wear or finding the right partner. But what happens when we find the partner in bed with someone else, find a lump where it shouldn’t be, or find we have been scammed out of our life savings. I guess found is not universally a good thing either.
I had a few chats with others who were waiting, walked around a bit, read parts of a paper that had been left, and eventually broke down and ate a bar that had the promising name of “only protein”. It tasted pretty good. So did the second one. The wrapper I sheepishly read after eating two of these killers: yes, there was protein but also 12 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar. And I had consumed two! Well, no use beating myself up over it.
As I was looking at the ingredient list on the little package when the doctor came out to tell me the news on Ofra, and my time at the hospital would soon come to an end.
I have since done a lot of walking, am back on my good diet and have generally redeemed myself for those two killer protein (and everything else) bars.
The notions of Lost and Found however, like my memories of that experience with Ofra have lingered with me. Most stuff of life has a crazy combination of simple and complex and I seem to spend a lot of my time these days trying to sort out the two.