Friday, February 09, 2007


In some ways I truly am just a guy.

A comic's stereotype of a man.

I love, love, the remote control. I love the sensuous way it fits into my hand. I love the feeling of power it gives me. And I love the connect between the eye and the finger that makes it possible to judge a show in a half second. But I also love how the flicker sometimes pauses, when you are distracted, on an odd station. And there are some really odd stations.

Interupted from 'flipping' by the phone, I landed on a fishing show. They have shows about fishing. Hook, line and sinker, fishing. Wow. Who knew? Everyone on the show wore hip waders and they talked very intently about ... fishing. There was this guy on the programme and he was talking about fishing strategy. Outsmarting a fish. Tricking a trout. Fooling a flounder. My attention became rivetted. He said that "you gotta upsize your bait". The guy he was talking to looked dumbstruck - like Moses looking at the burning bush.

"You gotta upsize your bait."

I knew immediately what he was talking about.

A friend of mine growing bald and pudgy had bought a really expensive, really little car. He was upsizing the bait.

My dog used to whine and be annoying sometimes but when that didn't work, he switched tactics he looked up at me with adorable doggy eyes - the little bugger just upsized the bait.

I watched in fascination as a female friend of mine put herself together to go out to a conference get together -it took her forever, and she stressed over everything from earrings to pantihose - but now I realize she was upsizing the bait.

This philosophy has worked for people with disabilities too. I remember working with a mom who desperately wanted help motivating her child to use a spoon. I watched as the kid grew frustrated as peas kept falling out of the spoon. Peas!! I said, 'hold on' left her home went to the grocery store and came back. "Let's try again," I said pulling chocolate pudding out of the bag. That kid's motivation skyrocketed. Why? Peas to pudding. I upsized the bait.

It works. I didn't know what to call it then, but I knew it worked.

Today I was reading in a report about some guy moving back from the institution to the community. He's fearful of the move, grown comfortable with captivity. It struck me, 'we gotta upsize the bait'. We can't just show him a picture of a home - a room of your own is a mass of responsibilities - vacuuming, cleaning, bedmaking - all of which is done for him now. We gotta show him the colour of the community, the flavour of neighbourhoods, man, we've got to advertize, to hell with Febreeze, give him a whiff of freedom. Upsize the bait.

It's not as if we don't have the goods.

The community is amazing. Yeah, it's daunting, but it's amazing. Given the small lives that so many lived in institutions - it ain't difficult to upsize (say it with me) the bait.

I'm going to suggest we get together and figure out what he likes, looks forward to, dreams about.

Then we've gotta, wait for it ... 'upsize the bait'.

A fishing show - who'd have thought that the water would be that deep?


Anonymous said...

Your post reminded me of someone I worked with who moved out of a institution to his own independence. On the face of it everyone thought it would fail (even me I am ashamed to admit.) His physical care needs were so high! He was so quiet as well, I guess we had stopped trying to understand what he said.

So we moved this quiet church going guy into his own flat with a big care package.

During a review some months later he turned to one of his staff and swore at them with this big cheesy grin on his face - called them a Ba' Bag - he was unhappy with something they were saying. Everything halted and then we all burst into laughter - he was laughing at us and had "developed" a sense of humour. He could tell us what he wanted and if he didn't like it that was clearly stated as well. Now he has stopped attending his day centre - he's too busy!

How did he find out about independent living? Well he was involved in a big closure of institutions in our country but due to his needs he was one of the last to move on. He had seen those he knew move on, visited them and decided.

And now when people express concern to me about their relatives needs being too high for living independently I know too as a professional, living independently is worth it and most people can go for it.

I don't know if calling someone a "ba bag" can be qualitively evaluated but it spoke volumes to me - of freedom and choice.

Frances said...

Dear Dave- I read your post today with particular interest- ( I know, how do I normally read it?)- because I am married to a man who used to watch those fishing shows regularly. Yeh, he actually liked them.He's been to Alaska twice on fishing charters and has the 'trophies' to prove it. And when we were dating guess what we did more often than not? Right-we fished! I guess he knew he didn't have to 'upsize the bait'. I married him anyway!
I have two new favourite phrases today- 'upsize the bait' and 'ba'bag'! Hilarious!Frances

lina said...

Upsize the bait - I like it, I like it alot! I'm going to work that into my regular conversation - and perhaps life!!!

Manuela said...

As someone who takes at least two weeks every summer to fish, I am familar with "upsize the bait". To me it always meant use crayfish instead of worms. You never pull out those crayfish too early, you save them for when the biting is just right. I love the analogy but you know the next time I take vacation and go fishing I am going to spend my time thinking of how upsizing the bait applies to life, to work, to family....I love the analogy but there goes my vacation.

andrea said...

Dave, switching from peas to chocolate pudding isn't just about "upsizing the bait" -- it's also about catching easier fish!

Pudding is gloopy and kinda sticks to the spoon, and the damn peas just roll off of it.

Really, I'd say start with something like peanutbutter or pudding (that the person likes, both flavour- and texture-wise), then move up to something slightly looser, like macaroni & cheese, then up to something still a bit looser, then to peas.

Starting at peas is dretful. Go with the tasks that are just at the edge of the person's abilities (that good ol' Zone of Proximal Development), not way beyond.

andrea said...

moment of randomness here; just remembered this silly poem:

"I eat my peas with honey;
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
but it keeps them on my knife."