Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Take a Temperature

Can you really know how someone else feels unless you feel what they're feeling?

Years ago, my mom, young niece, and I were preparing to go to the mall. My niece needed to take a bath and get dressed. She was old enough to bathe by herself, but she needed someone to draw her bath water. My mom helped her pick out her clothes while I drew the water.

When everything was ready, my niece went to take her bath. I was reading in a room next to the bathroom, so I'd be able to hear her if she needed anything. After being in the tub for a few minutes, my niece called for me. I went into the bathroom to check on her. She said that the water was cold and asked if could I make it warmer for her.

Being the loving auntie that I am, I turned on the hot water knob. I told her to scoot back in the tub as I didn't want hot water to splash on her. I turned on the hot water and stuck my hand under the faucet to make sure that the water was warm enough. It was. I went back to reading. I made sure that I could hear her splashing.

A few minutes later, she called for me again. She said that the water was cold - again. I thought that was strange. She hadn't been in the water that long, and it was cold already? I turned on the water. She scooted back. Water ran. Everything seemed fine. I went back to reading.

She called for me again. This time she was shivering with her legs pulled up to her chest. She said it was still cold. What's going on, I thought.

I touched the bathtub water and sure enough, it was cold. I turned on the hot water knob and let it run. After a few seconds, I put my hand underneath the faucet. The water was cold. I turned on the cold water knob and it was hot. Then I realized the problem.

The faucets were switched. The hot water knob produced cold water, while the cold water knob produced hot water. My mom had recently bought a new home and, unbeknownst to her, the plumbing was accidentally reversed. She had her own bathroom in her bedroom and rarely used this one. I was visiting and staying at a hotel so I hadn't used that bathtub/shower.

The remnants of hot water must have come out when I added hot water the first time. I didn't put my hand under the water the additional time(s) because I assumed that the water was hot. That poor baby. I can only imagine what she thought.

Good thing I touched the water. I didn't know that I was freezing her with hot (really cold) water. I had to touch the water in the bathtub to finally realize what she was feeling.


GawdessGurrl said...

Funny. Sometimes we really don't pay attention, and project onto others what we think they "should" be feeling. Your story is a lesson in paying better attention and shifting two degrees to see it/feel it from another perspective. You are strikingly insightful.

VADRMGRL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VADRMGRL said...

Thank you, Gawdess Gurrl. You're right. It's easy to project onto others. It's harder to walk in someone else's shoes or feel the water.