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A Canary's Song

From The New Reactor -- Vol 8, No. 1: January - February 1998.

The following is true, but all identifying references to the parties involved have been altered. Our Canary writes: "It all started with this message." -- barb

Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 11:27:32 PST
Subject: Carpet Repair in Library

There will be a small patch of carpet replaced in the Library this afternoon at 3:30. Due the severity of the carpet condition, it needs to be done ASAP rather than the usual after business hours (the carpet company has a van in the shop as well). They will be done by 5:00 PM at the latest. Please make arrangements to leave early if this will affect you. Thank you for your cooperation. A.

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Subject: Re: Carpet Repair in Library
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 11:31:29

A, thanks for the heads up!

I've just figured out the lobby john (jane?) was painted. Fortunately, I had my mask. But an ALERT message on the door would have been good. Never know what outsider may have her asthma or chemical sensitivity triggered by paint -- Canary

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Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 12:01:25 PST
Subject: Lobby Lavatory Ceiling

Canary, I got a copy of your message to A, from Z [manager]. (Does that make sense?) The lavatories have not been painted. If you detected odors, they may have resulted from washing down walls, stalls, counters and facilities in the ladies lavatory in the Lobby, as part of the "blitz" cleaning.

I'm glad you had your mask, and I hope you did not suffer as a result of the odors. B.

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Subject: Re: Lobby Lavatory Ceiling
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 12:24:24

Excuse me.
There were two holes in the wall of the restroom. Those two holes have been repaired. The walls, not ceiling, have been painted. Trust me. I kid you not. I don't make this stuff up: stuff happens! -- Canary

And then Canary wrote a little more to B --

Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 12:28:02 PST
Subject: Re: Lobby Lavatory Ceiling

B, I made a boo-boo before -- I said walls, I must have been thinking of lunch with [friend]!

The word is really singular: wall. Just to keep everything on the up and up. --Canary

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But then Canary discovered her mistake was that she thought she had made a mistake --

Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 12:53:48 PST
Subject: Re: Lobby Lavatory Ceiling

B., Actually, they may well have painted more than one wall, after all. And another thought, it's good that I use my own TP,* because one roll is empty and the other is nearly gone in the handicapped stall. Just thought you'd like to know.

By the way, in answer to your first question, with all the STUFF I've been dealt around here, the answer is: "Yes, it makes total sense to me!"

I got my excruciating headache -- don't know if that constitutes "suffering" though.

[* I was told to use my own toilet paper because the stuff they supplied had picked up the chemicals from the cleaners they use, which they had previously stated are non-toxic AND unscented. Ain't that a grin?

Fragrances permeate plastic wrap!]

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Then Canary learned --

Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 14:36:18 PST
Subject: Re: Lobby Lavatory Ceiling

You are correct. The holes in the first floor women's lav were made some time ago, and were patched on August 16. Sometime after that date (but, I believe, some time ago) those patches were painted by E.

E's contractor (who patched the walls) was here yesterday, but he DID NOT PAINT those walls. He noted that the walls had already been painted and he left. He did carry his gear into the lavatory but was only in there a matter of seconds. - B.

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Canary again writes to B --

Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 15:44:52 PST
Subject: Re: Lobby Lavatory Ceiling

B, me again --

Come to think of it, Aug 16 was a month ago, and that might be about the time the holes were made, but I really didn't care and I did not make note of it. The holes could have even been there when I came back from vacation July 29. I don't know. They most certainly were not patched back then. In fact, it just dawned on me today that they were patched, so that work was recent.

Now, I'm not saying they were just done last night. Please don't misconstrue my "just dawned on me" statement, but I'll not be easily convinced that I wasn't seeing holes there as recently as last week, maybe more recently than that. It wasn't a burning issue in my mind so it was slow to register. It's just the same as realizing I read "August 16" for the date of patching and was slow to register.

Besides, I'd be willing to bet the walls smell too strongly of paint to have been painted a month ago. When painting and patching happens I may be slow to register, but I'm not so totally oblivious as to have not noticed since August 16. --Canary

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And then, finally --

Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 13:19:29 PST
Subject: Re: Lobby Lavatory Ceiling

Again you are correct. The first floor lav WAS PAINTED last Friday night. E must have arranged for the painting and forgotten to notify staff before he left for vacation. I will relay this situation to him and make sure he doesn't forget again. (I think he is usually quite good about notifying staff about these things.)

I was in that lav on Monday morning and I didn't notice the paint odor, but when I checked it out this morning, I agree, the smell did suggest that recent painting had occurred. H [the contractor] confirmed what your senses told you, that that wall was painted last Friday p.m., after 6:00 p.m., not "some time ago."

We will renew our efforts to make sure that information is communicated in a timely manner. - B.

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Dear Readers:

In an aside, Canary tells NR Staff --

"It took a while for it to sink in that I'd been having such a wonderful time at my workplace that a month had just flown by, and what "B" was saying was that I was claiming month old (August 16 vs September 17) paint was "fresh."

"All of this because I felt it would be a good idea to alert people to the fact that there was fresh paint in that room.

"I was solely interested in alerting and sparing other people. Afterall, my body had already reacted to the fresh paint and I knew to protect myself with my mask. And, I knew to avoid that restroom, which was the most convenient, since my forced relocation.

"The same sort of exchanges have happened all too often regarding their denied spraying of pesticide, which, of course, proves out that they did spray! But at first I'm made to feel delusional and then they tell me I'm correct. Notice the, "Again you are correct." But they never learn!

By the way, notice how quickly "E" became the scapegoat in that exchange." -- Canary

We learned they never did place a "fresh paint" sign -- nor have they in subsequent cases. If it is not required by law, it won't happen. Public health, accommodation, common sense -- courtesy if you please! -- are ignored.

Susan Molloy, Barry Karr, and others, have worked diligently for 15 years to have the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) recognize MCS and the need for accommodation of our invisible, non-architectural barriers. Promises have been made by CBSC and not kept. We have letters. Lots of letters.

The exchange above epitomizes life for the worker who has MCS, regardless of workplace. Our barriers are not only invisible chemical barriers, they are entrenched attitudinal barriers as well -- starting at the management level. It is past time due for a change!

-- barb

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