Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Senses Beyond Sight

Last year in my last semester of college I took a course, Creativity and Consciousness. The course load required that we complete three separate projects, one being sound, one being movement, and the other being lines. Ever since that project I have thought about the perceptions of senses beyond sight. Working in a soup kitchen serving people who are homeless or marginalized, sight is important. I can easily tell that someone is homeless for a multitude of reasons that I use by sight alone. For instance, it is pretty common for guests to carry an ALDO or Treasure Island bag because they are hefty and have handles or they might have a suite case where they keep a majority of their personal belongings. One who is homeless might wear the same clothing each day that seem dirty or has lots of holes in them. I sometimes comment on one of the guest's attire because I like the shirt or the color of the hat which most of the time leaves the guest with a puzzled expression. At first I was also confused about their expression and then realized over the months that  most of the clothing they are wearing is something someone gave them and they did not really have a choice in wearing that object. Moreover, I have to laugh because they best way to advertise is through a t-shirt that you give to a person who is homeless because they will potentially wear it almost every day. For example, last fall a couple guests came in to the kitchen wearing a "walmart sucks" shirt.  These are all things I have experienced through my ability to see.

However, if one is to close their eyes and use other parts of their senses, such as smell or hearing, different feelings are aroused. On any given day many smells are mixing in the soup kitchen area. There is the obvious smell of food being cooked or baked streaming from the kitchen area. On shower days there is the smell of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and body wash as guests leave the shower area on the second floor. Most days, especially during the winter when the air is thick from the cold weather, human smells of perspiration  cigarettes, pee, and poop are wafted through the building. This is a smell that I had a difficult time getting used to especially when I am the laundry person. I have learned not to smell instead to breath out of my mouth when I open a bag of cloths into the washing machine. This sense is quite unpleasant to experience in a soup kitchen and my verbal account of it is not presented to make fun of the guests or to point out their flaws but to present a truth of someone living on the streets. My most favorite sense to experience at the soup kitchen is sound.

I guess my favorite sense in general outside of the soup kitchen as well as in the soup kitchen is sound. I love music which is mostly a sensory used by my ears. The other day I was reflecting on a day of sounds at the soup kitchen during my morning cleaning. I have learned to know who a guest is merely by the shuffle of their feet or the sound of their voice. Below I am going to reflect on the sounds I experience on a day in the soup kitchen in poem form.

Outside my window I wake up to the noises of voices in the alleyway. Trash cans line the alleyway which attract humans and mice. I hear the trash can lids close and open while people go through the 20 cans lining the alley. I hear guests singing through the alleyway. As I walk through the upstairs where I live with 12 other housemates I hear people talking in the kitchen. Soon the whole kitchen breaks out in laughter. Kitchen cabinets close, kitchen doors close. More conversations occur. Pop music is streaming from my housemate Patrick's Ipad; Carissa and Patrick sing along. I go downstairs to work. The dishwasher is turned on. Swish swash, click clack, swish swash, slam, bang, click, clack goes the dishwasher. The radio is streaming from the boom box. Everyone is singing along. The kitchen manager is talking, setting up the meal for the day, and giving orders to the kitchen crew. Cans are placed on the table, slam, cans are opened, punch, click, chick. Slop, slop, food from the cans are poured in to the steel container. This goes on all day. Later the guests are brought in to the kitchen. The lobby is filled with sounds of laughter, talking. Many languages are occurring all at once. Numbers are being called out, numbers 1 through 10, 11-20, 21-30. Questions, bantering occur. A guest sits down at the piano. Music streams from the piano keys while notes stream from his voice. He stops playing, guests clap. He plays another tune and another. Trays are placed on the table, slam. Guest pull out their chair, screatch. Coffee is dispensed in to the mug, gupgupgupgup. Sugar packets are ripped open, ripppp. Dinner is over. The announcement is made by the kitchen manager: "the kitchen is closed, you have 5 minutes to finish your meal". The buzzard rings, a guest is late for dinner. One of the other kitchen staff yells, "we need a bagged dinner". Refrigerator doors open and close, bang, the dishwasher cleans, slip slap click clack bang, slip slap. The part-time volunteers clean. Sprish sprish goes the noise of the spray bottles. Wiff, the table is wiped. Bang the chairs are stacked. Woff Wiff Woff Wiff, someone is sweaping. Splish Splash, the mop head is wrung and mopping starts. The part-time volunteers leave, thanks are given. Doors close, lights are turned off. Shuffling is heard as we walk up the stairs. Our supervisor congratulates us on a night well done and makes a joke. We stop on the second floor, drop off the dirty kitchen laundry, slam the basket drops on the flop. Click the door is locked. Click the third floor door is unlocked. Sounds of exhaustion and thankfulness stream from our mouths. A hard day's work is done.

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