Doña Quixote balks at being in two places at the same time
Featured image: Marcia Tavernese, Being in Two Places at the Same Time
While our apartment management is refurbishing our unit’s air conditioner and heater this week, we have no heat this week. Accordingly, Peter and I are camped across the road from Wilmington Flats in a hotel. Camped, because we are spread over the two places at the same time: we sleep and live most of our day at the hotel but cross over to our apartment in the afternoon, once the loud and dusty work is completed for the day, to have our evening meal and putter with our own stuff at home until bedtime. The result is that I now live in two places where I cannot find our front door in either of the long corridors.
Photo: Marriott International, Architectural Digest
As for our alternative accommodation, our apartment management company has put us up in a hotel that they own across the road from where we live. We checked out its website, and was rather pleased that we would live in a place just minutes away from home, one that looks great in pixels:
Our hotel is made up of suites, each consisting of a nice sitting area near the entrance door, divided from the sleeping area by a small office with pebbled glass sliding doors. The bathroom is off the sleeping area. The “kitchenette”, on the other side of the entrance door from the sitting area, unfortunately falls short of what I would expect in a “suite”: despite featuring a coffee maker, a microwave, and a drinks-size refrigerator, it has no water. I guess I have been spoiled by the long-stay hotel across the river from us where we once joined the interesting mix of guests that ranged from house hunters (like we were then) to truckers and other itinerant workers—there we had a small working kitchen with water where I had been able to cook complete meals. In our fancy hotel suite, though, one has to traverse the length of the “suite” to the bathroom to fetch and carry water in the plastic container I brought from home and/or the room’s drinking glasses. (The coffee maker is too large to fit under the bathroom’s washbasin tap, the only available tap.) While “normal” hotel guests can just go out for breakfast, I have to carry water to and fro to make my breakfast every morning in order to maintain my regimen that keeps my digestive system functioning: 2 meds upon waking up, then have my oatmeal and fruit after exactly half an hour. Until my regimen has succeeded, I dare not leave the room. At home, I whiled away the time—sometimes up to two hours—by doing house chores such as tidying the kitchen, doing laundry, making the bed and so on. At the hotel, I resort to pacing the room while listening my audio book. By the time I had cleaned up the kitchenette and washed my morning dishes in the bathroom and got dressed, I feel unjustifiably virtuous, as if—like my Kalahari grandmother, Truia Myburgh, did every day of her life after she and my grandfather stopped living in a covered wagon in the 1950s and she finally had a house with water nearby—I felt as if I had walked to the farmyard well, drawn up a bucket of water, and carried it to the kitchen for each household use. Photos below: Ouma Truia with her sun bonnet (Afr. “kappie”); Gerda and her brother Carel draw water from the Kalahari farm well (1974).
A well-known gerontological concept describes the way in which older people, particularly those with dementia, perceive changes in their lived space: elder transfer trauma, or the cluster of reactions in mood, behavior, and physiological symptoms that they experience when suddenly having to function in a new and unknown space. Transfer trauma is manifested in anger, irritability, depression, anxiety, and confusion. In my case, symptoms such as sleep disturbances and/or coping through bad habits like drinking or smoking, take the form of sleeping too much and overeating. Admittedly, these manifestations started before the actually moved over to the hotel—that is, while we were preparing for the workers to start their work in our apartment. We had to clear out the grocery area in the kitchen as well as the “guest bathroom,” which is the one I normally use. As a result, our possessions are scattered the other living areas in our house. For some days before our move, we have been unable to find everything from our medication boxes to our salt and pepper cellars to our toiletries…
Above: 1), our groceries on our dining table and the floor; 2), my vacated bathroom with holes in the wall above the shower and a hole and the ceiling where our new air conditioner/heating system will go; 3) the photos in my bedroom are in a numbered mess on the bedroom floor, in the nook where my computer desk is; 4), Peter has bathroom furnishings and bundles of laundry on his office floor
Despite my battling the current confusion in my life, Peter and I both feel that the change from being at home has pulled us out of a rut. By necessity, we have to eat our main meals out. I always look for restaurants when I can get a “real” salad and we both can find a meal of a good meat or other main meal protein and some cooked vegetables. Given that we love no-table-cloth-and-laminated-menu restaurants, we have so far failed on the “real” salad front: every place whose website advertised salads have come up with some version of iceberg lettuce stingily sprinkled with small pieces of tomato, onion, an olive or two, and plenty of croutons. (But the accompanying eggplant dish or Mexican barbecue or Italian eggplant and pasta or Indian smorgasbord or fish tacos were wonderful!) Also, on Tuesday we had a wonderful home-cooked meal at the home of our friends Kimarie and George. Altogether, we’ve had great experiences eating at restaurants, which we seldom do: Peter loves the enormity of the meat allocations vs our stingy at-home portions. (Me, too, I confess). Today, for example, we had lunch at a Persian restaurant on Salt Lake City’s west side, the Shaharazade, where we each had a lamb shank meal.
Above: 1), the dining room of the Shaharazade; 2), a mural painted by the owner’s friend; 3), the meal, except that Peter and I had lamb shank instead of the kebabs. Note the iceberg salad in the round bowl! It was lovely…and I ate Peter’s leftover salad as well. And we have another meal in leftovers.
To help us get us out of our rut, we have decided to have at least one meal out per week. Even if—given the kinds of no-tablecloth places we like to go to—the iceberg lettuce salads continue to appear, I don’t mind substituting them for “real” salad as long as I get mounds of it and as long it is only for a few days in a row. Anyway, we can always go home every evening for one of Peter’s luscious home-made salads if I get too deprived!
At a time of my brain life when change is just plain hard, I am glad I had this opportunity to overcome its challenges (somewhat) and embrace its joys (a lot). Mostly, though, my life is more serene and my mind less anxious if I live a very routine life. I hope that while I learn to accept it, I also learn not to stay too comfortably in sameness—as long as I am still capable of muddling through an away-from-home routine long enough to learn it.
Marcia, Tavernese. Defending One’s Work Flow. Tavernese’s painted environments are geometric in nature and explore the architecture of what Canadian phenomenological researcher Max Van Manen calls “lived space or the space around us as our brains perceive it. The human brain is constantly calculating the distance between its “self” and its surroundings. For instance, a person sitting in a room would feel the walls, the objects, and the air without being aware of it. The way a healthy person perceives spatial dimensions is different than how a person with dementia does.” Tavernese, therefore, engages the viewer on a level beyond the spoken or written word where her markings, colors, and textures invite an idea, a feeling, or an experience.
When I started thinking about the distress of being in two places at one, my thoughts went back to the quantum world where particles can be in multiple states and locations simultaneously, as demonstrated, for example, in Thomas Young’s 1801 double slit experiment that showed light is simultaneously both a wave and a particle: light diffracts as it passes through the slits, and then interferes with itself, creating a series of light and dark spots in a wave pattern. When a wave crest hits a wave trough, they cancel each other out — known as destructive interference—and appear as a dark band. When a crest hits a crest, they amplify each other—known as constructive interference—and appear as a bright band.
Double Slit Computer Artwork by Russell Knightley.
While light’s interference with itself has no psychological consequences in the psyche-free quantum word, in the macro world—where we humans are by necessity entrapped because we are massive objects with wavelengths so short that they are all-but imperceptible—”interference with oneself” takes place on the psychological level. From there, it exacts a price for humans to enable them to exist in two places at once. For me, I doubt that “constructive interference”—the light spots—can in the long run make up for “deconstructive interference.” Sounds too much like the self-rocking bipolar-style ups and downs that I am unfortunately all too familiar with. Being in two places at once are far more becoming to chunks of matter much, much smaller than than us.
Giant atoms have been found that can exist in two places at the same time—see below.
Chunks of matter that can be in two places at once, or, in other words, achieve superposition, are (in addition to light waves, or photons) usually subatomic particles such as electrons, protons, neutrons and small atoms. Setting up superpositions gets rapidly harder as the objects get bigger and experience more interactions—and superpositions are instantaneously destroyed. All the same, researchers have been steadily increasing the size at which superpositions and related quantum effects can still be observed. A Stanford University team of quantum physicists has recently found molecules consisting of 2,000 atoms—which make them GIANTS in the quantum world—that are capable of appearing in two places at once. They are “hulking things called “oligo-tetraphenylporphyrins enriched with fluoroalkylsulfanyl chains….Their atomic mass is more than 25,000 times the mass of a simple hydrogen atom.”
To create an SAT-style analogy (see images below),
giant atoms that can achieve superimposition : human body :: 1 speck of dust : all the grains of sand on earth
Thanks for the graphic, Peter!
After some days at our hotel, Peter and I, too, have achieved some kind of superposition: while we rather uncomfortably grapple to find our way in the mess at “home” every day, we have been able to make ourselves throughly comfortable at night in our home-away-from-home across the street: Peter with his radio-wave spying and I with some sewing.
To paraphrase Psalm 121:1-2,
I will lift up mine eyes unto the heavens, from whence cometh my help.
April 23, 2023 @ 8:55 am
As I have told so many friends I still learn from your writing and can’t imagine not continuing to learn. It is wonderful. But talking about the problem finding a decent salad reminds me of the sundays shared at your home when the kids were little and the delicious salads. They were a meal of their own filled with delight. And I see that you two still make great salads. Such great memories. And, belatedly, Happy Anniversary!
May 5, 2023 @ 4:39 pm
My dearest Kathy, always so lovely to hear from you, especially when you comment contains a reminiscence!Thanks for your nice memory of the times we spent together.I do think of you and your family, with whom we’ve experienced so many warm and joyful meals and other occasions. Wishing you and all of those you love just the very best. Tons of love.