A perfect time for chocolate; and the importance of stopping leaks

By JAYSON JACOBY Baker City Herald October 30, 2009 02:28 pm

The recall is over, and I suggest everybody eat a piece of chocolate.

Except for dogs, who can’t tolerate the confection.

Halloween is nigh, so the availability of chocolate ought to be at its highest level since Mother’s Day.

You could even procure a sample for free, if you’ve no compunction about pilfering your kids’ pile.

The nice thing about chocolate — well, one of the nice things — is that you need to be awfully committed to anger to stay mad while a morsel is melting in its velvety way inside your mouth.

I recommend milk chocolate because, though it’s not so healthful as the varieties with a higher cocoa content, its flavor is sweeter.

And we’ve tasted more bitterness around here these past 4fi months than is good even for stout stomachs.

There’s no reason for the unpleasant sensations to persist, though, no reason we can’t cleanse our collective palate.

This is business.

The business of making sure that in our small city the water flows and the sewer pipes drain and the police officers and firefighters rush to us when we need their help.

All of which continued to happen during the campaign and which will, I’m confident in predicting, continue now that the votes have been counted.

Sure the recall turned personal. Recalls inevitably are personal — the goal, after all, is to kick elected officials out of office.

Yet today the same seven councilors we chose to represent us still do.

Their job is precisely what it was before the recall.

They need to hire a city manager.

They need to ensure that the city keeps the cop cars and the fire trucks rolling, and the pipes clear of obstructions, and the streets passable even during blizzards.

Councilors don’t need to like each other to complete these tasks.

But I believe they are obliged to respect their constituents while they’re going about their business.

I don’t mean to imply that the only effective city councils are those which always vote unanimously.

I’m not bothered by 4-3 votes, so long as members of both the majority and the minority can explain coherently why they voted as they did.

I don’t think that even the recall was incoherent, once you boiled off the ludicrous and baseless accusations and distilled the matter to its essence.

Councilors Dennis Dorrah, Beverly Calder, Aletha Bonebrake and Clair Button concluded that Steve Brocato no longer deserved the job of city manager.

Councilors Sam Bass, Milo Pope and Andrew Bryan disagreed; and further, they decided that their colleagues’ judgment was so faulty that Calder and Dorrah, who were eligible to be recalled, should be removed from office.

Settling the matter, as is proper and legal, was left to voters. They decided to keep Dorrah and Calder.

Yet the Council’s clash over the Brocato case does not preclude councilors from agreeing about who should replace him.

It shouldn’t, at any rate.

Councilors will regain a healthy share of the citizenry’s confidence, it seems to me, if they can forge a consensus in their selection of a city manager.

I’m not so naive as to expect councilors will quickly forgive the grievances that festered all summer, and which remain fresh.

But I don’t think it’s naive at all to demand that these seven people, who rarely spend more than a handful of hours per month in the same room, suspend their animosity for those relatively brief periods.

An occasional honest dispute among lawmakers can be a reviving tonic, I think, so long as the opposing sides express their views with logic and respect.

But the absence of moderation, whether in public debate or the consumption of chocolate, is apt to leave many complaining of a stomachache.

Among household appliances, the toilet ranks pretty near the bottom on the danger scale.

Compared to a toilet, even a device as apparently innocuous as a curling iron seems as menacing as a puff adder.

A commode carries not a single volt of electric current.

And since it’s connected to only the cold water supply, burns are unlikely.

Yet the retiring nature of the toilet has failed to deter the purveyors of battery-powered warning devices.

The mail recently brought to my desk the inelegantly named “LeakAlertor.”

This product, which is about the size of a car key fob, is supposed to — and here I’m quoting from the package — “detect leaks that you cannot see or hear.”

The device, also according to the package, “electronically monitors your toilet.”

Which sounds like it ought to be illegal, or at least immoral.

The LeakAlertor’s real purpose, of course, is benign as well as beneficial: It tells you, by means of visual as well as audible alarms, when your toilet’s leaking, and thus wasting water.

My first thought upon seeing the device, though, was not to tout its green credentials. Instead I recalled an especially inglorious episode from my childhood, a period not lacking in personal embarrassment.

It was the similarity between the names of the products that jarred loose my memory.

Mine was called the “Wee Alert, and its purpose was distressingly similar to that of the “LeakAlertor.”

It was also, so far as I can tell, the nearest Sears, Roebuck & Co. ever came to peddling the sort of medieval torture device that medieval torturers would have built if they had had access to cheap electricity.

My parents bought the thing, and in retrospect I concede that they had ample reason for the purchase.

I had a problem with wetting my bed.

Actually I didn’t have a problem at all — I was quite adept, apparently, at soiling sheets while sleeping.

Anyway, my parents figured I was too old to persist with such nasty habits.

I suppose they were right — I was 15 at the time.

I mean 5. Five. Half of 10.

The Wee Alert was designed on the fiendishly clever principle that a child, if jolted out of REM sleep often enough, will rein in his undisciplined urinary tract. Reverse Pavlov, you might say.

But it’s how the Wee Alert works that’s truly sinister.

When moisture touches the Wee Alert (it’s basically an electric blanket that warns rather than warms), the sheet vibrates and triggers an alarm.

In other words I was subjected to shock treatment.

My parents even now, years after the relevant statute of limitations expired, insist that they employed the Wee Alert on just a few nights.

My recollection of the events is sufficiently hazy that I can’t dispute their account.

But still I wonder.

Especially on those nights when I awaken suddenly, my bladder heavy and my skin tingling.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.