Tag Archives: dehydration

Insensitivity to Living Things Hits a New Low

I know that we’ve had little sun in Vancouver this year and that with the last week finally revealing summerlike temperatures, people were awestruck. But I wonder if the following incidents are because people didn’t realize what sun could do or because they’re just exhibiting an ignorance and negligence which is, in fact, criminal.

On July 4th an Alberta mother left her four-month-old baby alone in the car in Kelowna. The exterior temperature was 30 degrees Celsisus (86 Fahrenheit), so the interior would have been even hotter. When the RCMP broke the window to get the baby out the mother returned and proclaimed the baby was okay. Seriously, she may as well have left her baby amongst containers of toxic chemicals as well. In a half hour a car sitting in temperatures of 90 degrees F can reach 124F, hotter than most of us could stand. Babies can’t regulate their temperature.

Another incident yesterday had a mother leaving her three-year-old child unattended and locked in a hot car while she went into a nearby house. The exterior temperature was 25 degrees Celsius. It’s not just that it’s dangerous to leave any living thing in a hot car, it’s also highly irresponsible and against the law to leave a child that young unattended at all.

The third in a week was an RCMP officer leaving his young police dog locked in a car while he went fishing for three hours. Imagine how hot that car would get. And another puppy died because it was left in a car for three hours where the temperatures reached 68 degrees Celsius. That’s four incidences in one week, and one death.

I’d like to say that the RCMP officer should have known better, but really, everyone should. Just as we must have a license to drive or to marry I think it would not be a bad idea to have a license to parent or to own a pet. We’re dealing with lives here. Granted that half of the population has an intelligence below average (okay, it’s a sliding scale with many at the “average” range) but this isn’t intelligence; it’s common sense.

Besides never leaving a living being locked in a hot metal box for more than a few minutes, parents should not be leaving children alone, period. There are a range of dire events that could affect unattended children in homes or cars. Here are just a few:

  • heat exposure
  • cold exposure
  • suffocation
  • kidnapping
  • car being hit or brakes being disengaged
  • fire
  • choking
  • falling

These are not cautionary myths to scare children. These are real, and animals and children die from the negligence. All this while RCMP are still investigating the death of an 18-month-old child left alone in a house while the parents went for a walk at 1:30 am. Their heat had been cut off so they were heating the place by keeping the oven going. Still, the child should not have been left alone. Don’t people understand that the word “parent” means that you’re in charge and the caregiver? If a living being is left in your care you are responsible for its well being. Use your brains and think about the consequences of leaving them alone, or in a hot car, or in a swimming pool.

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Traveling in India: Removing the Mask

Years ago, I traveled in India for two months. The first month was in Meghalaya, a Himalayan tribal state in the northeast corner of India. I was there with my friend, a native Khasi of Meghalaya. (I’ll talk about Meghalaya some other time.) The second month I set out on my own, traveling to India and Nepal.

The hard journey began almost immediately. Because the Meghalayans were fighting with the Assamese (and because the plane out of Meghalaya, Vayudoot Airlines, was too scary to fly again) I had to take a bus into neighboring Assam. It was a very long, hot bus ride where we passed a crowd on the road standing near the stiffening corpse of man who had been hit by a car (I presume) and was bloating in the hot sun.

Hours later I arrived at the airport where of course the plane ran on Indian time and was over three-hours late. I had left in the morning but by the time I got into Calcutta, not that far really, it was early evening. I had a Lonely Planet guide and used it to find quality and affordable hotels. Except they were all full. I tried several places, each less reputable than the last, until I finally found a place. It was dirty, there were so many cockroaches that I slept with the lights on and the water sprayed from the tap at a 45 degree angle. I was completely dehydrated by the time I got into this hotel and asked the staff for some boiled water. They brought it and it was suspiciously lukewarm. I added iodine (this was before they had perfected cheap and easy to carry water purification kits or tablets) but I had to drink it.

Sure enough, three days later began the fall into dysentery and three weeks of traveling to go. Skipping forward, I was back in Delhi and sick as a dog, puking or hanging my butt over a toilet. I spent a lot of my time laying in bed in the hostel, too sick to eat and tired. But I decided one day to go to the Red Fort I believe. It’s been a while and it may have been some other edifice.

Having now been in India long enough to know you had to ask specific questions and bargain, I made a deal with a motorized rickshaw driver (there were bicycle and foot rickshaws as well). We agreed on the price and I said, “That’s for both ways, right?”  He agreed, but when he dropped me off at the fort he asked, “How long are you going to be?” I shrugged lethargically and said maybe a couple of hours or so. And off I went.

You walk a gamut of merchants at the entry of the place and I was looking in this one shop when this merchant reached out and grabbed my breast. I was too sick and shocked to do more than look and walk away. I should have slugged him. But I saw the fort, took pictures and left a couple of hours later. When I get outside there is my rickshaw driver and he starts yelling at me about the length of time. We argued as I said this is what we had agreed to. I had told him I didn’t know for sure how long I would be, etc. etc. However, there were about another ten drivers standing around all staring at me, arguing in both languages. I felt intimidated by the pressure so pulled out half the fee for the one-way trip and threw it at the guy, stalking off to find a bicycle rickshaw driver.

I agreed to a price with him and got in, completely dissolute by the experience. I didn’t look at anything and just sat there in a distant haze. Only motorized vehicles were allowed around Connaught Place, the giant traffic circle (with many lanes from many directions) in New Delhi.  Around the outer circle were stations for the other rickshaw drivers to drop off their clients. I paid and despondently got  out of the rickshaw. As I trudged away I heard, “Mems’ib, mems’ib.” I turned back and there was the original rickshaw driver with the police.

At that point I didn’t think about the corrupt Indian system and paying baksheesh or about the lies this guy had told. I freaked out. I started screaming at all three of them, walking up with my wrists together saying, go ahead take me away. You’re trying to keep me here and who knows what other delirium was going on. Keep in mind that I was very sick and had been traveling with an overloaded backpack and a bag and a carpet (another long story) for three weeks. I was way beyond my normal comfort zone. I cried and screamed and then pulled all of the cash out of my wallet, threw it at the men and then went and sat on a wall and cried. Actually I bawled.

At one point the rickshaw driver came back and put my change beside me. I don’t know if he had an attack of conscience or if the police kept him honest. I didn’t care. I cried and cried and have no idea how long I sat there. At one point I heard a timid, “Mems’ib,” again. When I looked up there were about six men looking at me, concerned. One asked, “What is wrong?”

I cried out something like, “nothing,you’re country is trying to keep me here,” etc. I was at the end of two months and heartily tired of trying to fend on my own which had not been easy in many ways. Eventually, I wandered back to the hostel where I was staying. Before I got there a beggar came up and touched my arm, looking up at me with wide eyes. This was a child of maybe 12. Now I had already been told by my friend, and observed, that no one touches another in public in India. Actually no man will touch a woman and strangers do not touch. She had said if someone touches you, it’s a sign of disrespect. After the illness, the breast grabbing, the fight with the rickshaw driver, the police and my general lack of coping by this point, I sobbed at this poor beggar, “Oh just go die, it’s easier.”

Yes, I told a beggar to die, because at that point it’s what I wanted to do. It was perhaps the ugliest aspect of my personality and was one aspect of a life-changing journey. Before I went to India, I had this group of friends and that group of friends. I had the calm me, the conservative me, the partying me, the studious me, etc., and very few saw all of me. Like many people in our culture, I had my masques for different occasions.

Between the dysentery, the overloaded packs and the very different culture of India and their way of  dealing with time and communication, I ran out of coping mechanisms. I was stripped down to my essential self. When I returned to Canada and was at some point telling  a friend about my journey, she said, “Yeah, you’re more accessible now.” After that, everyone pretty much got the same me, amalgamated for good or ill, with fewer masques.

India was a very hard journey into my self, where I learned many valuable lessons about culture, environment, people and life. The biggest lesson was about me. I would still recommend that everyone travel to a third world country if the can. It is an eye opener and truly shows many of us how privileged we are where even conservation can be a luxury. But those are tales for another time.

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