Thursday, January 31, 2013

Conflicting Values: Environmental Safety or Human Safety?

Sometimes you have a situation in which two values conflict.

Depending on the values, it can bring a simple frown, a lump in your throat, a twist in your gut, or even a strange wave of heat that suddenly courses through your body like you've just been pushed into a sauna, then yanked right back out.

This morning I was happy.  Elated, even.

I was getting a new washer!  Soon, I'd have have clothes that were actually clean!  As you may have figured out by the preceding statement, I'm not exactly the best hand-washer on the planet.  Just ask my hopelessly stained cloth napkins.

It's my own fault that it took this long.

I took way too much time fretting over whether or not to tell the landlord that the machine was broken.  I didn't want to be the annoying tenant that calls over every little problem.

I finally decided to call, and a new washer was scheduled to be installed at 10 am.

On the way back from walking my daughter to school, however, I realized that the old, broken bench that had been left by the basement door was in the way.  No problem, I'd just move it.

Except that it was frozen in place... and the layer of ice around it was almost an inch thick.

Hence the dilemma.

Not only did I have a bench frozen onto the ground, and therefore in the way of the new appliance's entrance, but there was a slippery safety hazard.

I could:

1.  Reschedule.  This was probably the least nausea inducing method.  Unfortunately, it would require waiting at least another week, due to the fact that temperatures are going to dip into the negatives again after only brief rises.  This means that the bench may actually stay stuck in place.

Not to mention... the laundry was piling up pretty high.

In my defense... it's winter, and we dress in layers.  I can only hand wash so much!  Rescheduling really wasn't an option.

2.  Go to town on that ice patch with a blow dryer.  Yes... I actually grabbed an extension cord and tried that.  I don't recommend it.  After 5 minutes, I still hadn't freed one leg of that bench.  It was a lot of fun, but there was no way I'd have that bench free in time.  A blow dryer would have worked for laying down some sand to provide grip for the people that came to install the washer, but it was a no-go for bench removal.  That left me with

3.  Use salt.  I hate salt, but I had no choice.  It had to be used.  Salt causes water to have a lower freezing point, which means that the solar salt I used would cut through the ice in a fraction of the time a blow dyer would, breaking it apart so that I could free the bench.  I placed a large amount around each leg base, and sprinkled a bit around the rest of the doorway.

After the same five minutes that got me nowhere with a blow dryer, the salt had broken up the ice enough that I was able to free the legs that were frozen onto the concrete.

Why do I hate salt so much?  Well, aside from the fact that it destroys the capability of soil to provide healthy nutrients for plant growth, it's not safe for wildlife or humans.  How do I know that?  Even the very basic salt that hasn't been treated to work in extreme temperatures carries this warning on the bag:

"Do not take internally, and avoid contact with eyes, skin, or clothing."

Good reason to stay away from the stuff.  I like my eyes the way they are, thank you very much!

I despise the idea of using salt, but the idea of causing harm to the men that would bring my washer was even worse.  In a question of possible harm from salt or very probable harm due to slipping and falling, I'll take the first choice.  Even if that choice does make me queasy.  If only I had more time...

But it had to be done.  

And just in time, too.  Ten minutes later, the dryer arrived.

When it got here, I could have hugged my landlord.  Not only was I getting a washer, but I was getting a used washer that was in spectacular condition!  That baby hummed softly during the test we went through, and it was built to last.

You may wonder why I'm happy about a used washer.

Most people, after all, want something new and sparkly.  The thing is, though, that new and sparkly doesn't necessarily mean better.  The fact of the matter is that the newer models of washer break at a faster rate, and just don't hold up to much abuse.  My worry over ending up with something new, rather than a nice, sturdy, used model was one of the reasons I took so long to get anything done.

Furthermore, a used washer means one less product being churned out of a production line to end up in a landfill.  It's eco-friendly.  This washer is getting a second life in a new home, rather than finding itself in a dump.

This makes me happy.  

The landlord wins by spending less money on a replacement, and I win by getting a sturdy washer that actually washes my clothes, and that will last for quite a while... not to mention a sense of being a part of an environmentally responsible action.

Another awesome example of reuse!

Perhaps karma decided to throw me a bone just this once.

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