Rose colored glasses?
Pat and I have occasionally had the privilege of visiting and sometimes staying on the Queen Mary, the majestic ocean liner that now sits in Long Beach, California. While it is a pity that she no longer sails the seas, it is a blessing that she has been preserved as a hotel and convention center, rather than being left to rot in some graveyard fleet. I applaud the officials whose decisions led to the preservation of the ship.
On the Queen Mary, both in the public spaces and in the staterooms, the mirrors all have a pink tint. This was an effort to fend off seasickness – the idea was that if people were feeling queasy, and they looked at themselves in a mirror and looked pale, it would aggravate the queasy feeling. But if people didn’t look so pale, maybe they wouldn’t feel so pale, either.
As far as I know, it worked. The medical literature is full of studies in which people felt better, and sometimes experienced improved health, because of perceptions. Rose-tinted mirrors could well have reduced the incidence of seasickness on the Queen Mary.
At the community college where I teach, the light fixtures are being replaced. Where formerly, there was a harsh blue-white glare, the new lamps have a gentle rose hue. I’m sure the primary reason for the new light fixtures is energy savings. I seriously doubt the physical plant people thought about the emotional impact of the new lights – they were thinking only about cutting costs by switching to more energy-efficient lamps.
On the other hand, one of the buildings I work in has had an environmentally shaky past. A couple of years ago, it was remodeled, and the remodeling included re-roofing. It was closed for most of a year. Then, when it was re-opened, many faculty and students reported noxious fumes and negative health consequences. Eventually, after a large number of complaints and some negative publicity, the powers-that-be tested the air quality in the building.
The air-quality tests showed that harmful materials from the new roof were being vaporized by the sun shining on them, and then drawn into the building’s ventilation system. So the building was once again closed down, and the ventilation system was rebuilt so as not to draw in harmful vapors from the roof. To my mind, it would have been smarter to remove the roof and replace it with non-toxic materials, but apparently the powers-that-be decided an overhaul of the ventilation system would be better.
So after an additional many-months-long shutdown of the building, it was once again reopened this spring. Things were all right for the rest of the spring term. But now it’s the summer term, and the hot summer sun is beating down on the roof, and the building is full of fumes again and people are getting sick again. The new-and-improved ventilation system is just not up to the burden. And people are experiencing headaches, nausea, and a lot of other unpleasant symptoms.
But, hey, we’ve now got rose-colored lighting. Maybe if we don’t look so sick in the mirror, we aren’t really so sick after all.