Some questions for Monday

This is a sign. Read it.

The computer-generated sign on the door inside the YMCA was short and to the point.    

“The bikes are in here,” read the 72-point type. “Thank you.”    

And sure enough, I could see them through the large glass window of the converted classroom — about a dozen stationary exercise bikes, packed tightly together and ready for spin class.    

I’m not sure why the sign was there, other than the fact that the staff had access to basic word-processing functions and could create and print any message they wanted. The proliferation of computers has made sign-printing so simple that anyone can do it, for even the most superfluous of reasons. The folks at the Y seemed to relish this power to visually communicate, almost to the point of annoyance.    

There’s another sign that appeared recently in the men’s locker room that has generated some controversy among the mostly older patrons. It reads: “Swimsuits are required in sauna, spa, steamroom and pool.”    

Most of the retired guys there during the hours I exercise complain bitterly about the restriction, even though everyone ignores it and no one enforces it. They seem to relish splaying themselves au naturel across the wooden planks while they talk about how things aren’t like they used to be.    

“Next thing you know, they’ll make us wear clothes in the shower,” observed one.    

I could see his point (though it was a bit shriveled). If you can’t be naked in public at a fine Christian institution like the Y, where can you be naked in public?    

One of the few professionally created signs in the locker room is on the door, warning against the use of cellphones and their cameras. After release of provocative photos of celebrities in various stages of undress at their health clubs, the Y posted this sign. Not that we have patrons anyone would be interested in seeing nude online. I guess that’s why this one, too, is ignored, particularly in the photo below.    

Don't take a picture of this

Can I go here?

Are there regulations that exist to enforce the use of handicapped bathroom stalls by handicapped people only? Or is there an assumption that people of goodwill and compassion will act responsibly, avoiding the lavishly spacious facilities so the differently-abled will have a commode at the ready when they need it?   

Because I don’t think the latter is working, if my own behavior is any indicator.   

I’m all in favor of a smallish government that focuses on basic services and minimal law-enforcement, so I wouldn’t advocate a sub-cabinet-level division to impose a national regulation on the subject. No one wants to see federal marshals patrolling the men’s rooms of our nation, peeking under the barriers in search of lawbreakers, except maybe certain former senators.   

But I’m not sure that self-policing works either. If you considered using a handicapped parking space, there’d be both the law and the general public to dissuade you. In the privacy of a restroom, neither of these sanctions exist, so for me the temptation to splurge is too much to resist. If there’s a handicapped stall being used by a handicapped person, I won’t go so far as to order them out. If it’s already empty when I arrive, though, I’ll go ahead and use it.   

If a law were to come to pass, I think I’m ready (not to comply, but to circumvent). My grandfather left me a bizarre antique cane, the bottom of which is a deer foreleg and hoof, that I could start carrying into the stall with me. If having one regular human leg and one deer leg doesn’t qualify me as handicapped, I’m not sure what does.   

You call this acting?

I watched a great documentary on the Discovery Channel the other day about the life of early man. It was called “Before We Ruled the Earth: How We Hunted” and showed what it was like to be a proto-human hundreds of thousands of years ago.    

As you might imagine, life was tough. But it couldn’t have been much worse than what the actors who participated in numerous re-enactments had to endure while preparing for these roles. The hours of makeup required to protrude the brow, harden the jaw and apply matted wigs to make the modern actor look prehistoric had to be nearly interminable. And the costuming sessions must’ve been equally difficult. The only effortless planning was probably the dialogue, since script-writers were generally limited to groans and murmurs.    

I imagine that, considering how difficult it is to break into the acting game, these roles were relatively prized among those who were cast. (Probably almost as valuable as the scavenged rib proudly waved about by “Cro-Magnon #2” in one scene.) At least you’re working in a paid position, even if you can’t gather your relatives around the premier showing and brag about how much the director admired your nuanced style.    

It also had to serve as a good stepping stone to future gigs. All of the speaking, er, grunting roles were credited at the end, so you would be able to list the effort on your resume. It might just be enough to make James Cameron think of your name next time he makes a movie, assuming you can wait ten years.    

When the credits rolled at the end of the broadcast, I learned that among the characters wandering the snowy landscape of Neanderthal Europe were Aak, Gaag, Do’og, Gnok, Kul and Bjor. Gnok had a particularly touching scene when one of his fellow hunters died in a cave, just as the others were noticing ancient drawings of elk on the wall, and wordlessly postulating who had been there before them. Turns out modern man and his antler-tipped spear was just around the corner, rendering the soon-to-be-extinct Gnok to a sad fate, not unlike that of those who used to work in American manufacturing.    

At least I think that was Gnok. It was hard to be sure, since I was under the impression everybody in this particular tribe was named “Unngghh.”    

Headgear for cavemen?

Speaking of which, can anybody tell me if Neanderthals wore hats?    

My wife and I were out in the cold last night when she suggested I could use a good knit hat. She repeated the theory that seventy percent of body heat was lost through the top of the head. I said I thought that had been debunked, and re-stated my aversion to hats on the principle that my head already looks too big.    

“Even the Neanderthals wore hats,” she said.    

I didn’t think they did, having just watched the above-mentioned documentary. They may have wrapped moss around their heads, or perhaps donned the carcass of an otter after it had been gutted of meat, but it was hard to imagine anything approximating a “hat.” With the tremendous size of those primordial brows, how could any conventional hat possibly fit?    

I googled “Neanderthal hat” when we got home, and got mostly hits that described primitive images designed into home-knitted headgear. I could find no archaeological record that milliners were at work so early in our history.    

If anybody reading can cite any evidence one way or the other on this issue, please let me know.

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7 Responses to “Some questions for Monday”

  1. tom1950 Says:

    My deep research into the subject of headgear for Neanderthals found that many wore the skins of freshly killed animals. This particular headgear seemed to cause many incidents of ‘friendly clubbing’ in the field because many times the wearer failed to remove the game animal’s head. Thus, while sneaking through the forest, another hunter would mistake the moving head as a target and strike.

    This has carried on into modern times and into the game of American Football. Headgear has now become a simple dinosaur egg placed over the cranium of each team’s Neanderthal linebackers which allows the wearer to crash headlong into faster, more nimble, pigskin gatherer’s called ‘line backers’.

    T.O.M.

  2. Parent Says:

    Teenagers are snapping naked pictures of themselves on their cell phones and sending them to echader. Lots of parents are aghast. Any signs “Using cellphones are prohibited” is just ignored.

  3. Nikki Hahn Says:

    Years ago at a Casino (the rare moments anyone might see me in one) I went to use the restroom. There was a line. In the restroom, there was only one stall available. As you guessed, it was a handicap stall. An intimidating woman was standing next to it with her arms crossed forbidding anyone, but the handicapped to use it. So while the line stretched out the door and all of us women were crossing our legs and hoping to get into the stall sooner than later, not a single wheel chair was in sight. The entrance was narrow. The wheel chair person would have to wait in line to get to the handicap stall anyway. I left pretty irritated. Now I have Crohns. I only use that card if I am in dire need because I do not like the idea of cutting ahead of a line because I can.

  4. Emily Says:

    I have to agree that I too sneak into a handicapped bathroom now and again. I also feel a bit ashamed, as if I’m disrepecting those in actual need of it. But, hey, if there’s a handicapped person around, then, of course it’s theirs for the taking. But if there’s not, I’ll be the gutsy one and snatch it up. I mean, it’s not like a parking spot where I would be utilizing it for maybe an hour or so–well, let’s hope not. We’re talking 3 minutes tops.

  5. fakename2 Says:

    I gotta have one of those canes. What does the top part look like? I don’t actually need a cane at the moment, except under the circumstances you described, and it would certainly come in handy later on. Perhaps you could post a picture so that I could have it accurately reproduced.

  6. planetross Says:

    I’ve only had one guy in a wheelchair browbeat me while leaving a handicap stall.
    I think he had a catheter so it wasn’t like he was really in a hurry.

    note: I think I may have been non PC twice in this comment.

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