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Oct 30, 2023

Quibbles & Bits: “Toileting” and ESG-ing

To which readers ask: “Should we call his executor?”

By Ed Goldman

THANK YOU FOR READERING—Nobody tells you that as you age, you discover a whole new world of imperfect gerunds.

If you’re still reading, you have my sincere thanks and admiration. Most essays that start with so esoteric a premise—or one that makes you wonder if this will end with a short grammar quiz—should be skipped. (I’d have said “should be eschewed” but I don’t want to press my luck.)

Edgy Cartoon

Device precedent

This occurred to me not long ago when, while waiting for my semi-annual haircut to be performed, I picked up a complimentary copy of “Golden Pages,” which calls itself “Your Senior Resource Magazine.” If you want to get fussy, this implies that somewhere out there is a junior resource magazine, but I’m not sure where the age cut-off would be.

In essence, the publication is mainly a compilation of service directories and ads pitched to those who qualify for membership in AARP but might find the dues or the implication of their chronological status prohibitive.

The fact that it’s distributed for free and was at my haircutter’s salon probably tells me all I need to know about her own client demographic.

Anyway, an ad for A Better Living Home Care Agency—which carried the headline, “Affordable Caregivers…Right in Your Own Home”—listed “toileting” as one of the provided services.

The term “toileting” is the somewhat imperfect gerund I hinted was coming at the start of this possibly torturous exercise. You see, a gerund is usually a word that’s created by adding “ing” to a verb—such as “asking,” “dancing,” and “eating.”

But by extension, the existence of “toileting” implies that the word “toilet” is also a verb, instead of what it’s been since the American Plumbing Age began (sometime during the Industrial Revolution, I should imagine): a noun. And a pretty common one at that.

I completely understand the service being offered and am not remotely knocking it. In fact, I contracted osteomyelitis about 15 years ago and for four months needed to wear a device that was, one might say, for non-toileting. I was grateful to have people around to assist me.

What I’m afraid of is all of our appliances turning into verbs. We would no longer be cooking: we would be stoving. Under that stovetop we’d do some ovening or broilering.

We wouldn’t wash or dry our clothes, we’d washer and dryer them. While we do microwave our food or coffee, we could now be observed kettling our tea, blendering or juicering our smoothies, air-conditionering our home and water-heatering our, you know, water. 

If you wanted to store leftovers for another day, you could engage in freezering. And if you dropped anything on the floor while doing so, you could always start vacuum cleanering. Or leave things a mess and start stying.

ESG WHILLIKERS—My first encounter with the term ESG was disappointing. Having caught a headline saying that environmental, social and governance considerations were all the rage with investors, I thought my financial challenges were over. 

Then I put on my Rite-Aid reading glasses and realized that I’d mistaken ESG for my own initials, EBG (for Edward Bruce Goldman), and plummeted back into the kind of credit card debt that could collapse a Fourth World Nation overnight. (Third World Nations are feistier and usually find a way to survive. Consider Russia.) 

I’ve made this booboo before. When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away in 2020, paving the way for the court’s shift into right gear, I erroneously read that EBG, not RBG, had died, plunging the Democratic Party into a decade of mourning. 

While I was sad for RGB (but relieved I wasn’t the one who wouldn’t be coming down for breakfast), I still wondered what it might have been like for the political party of my parents, grandparents, cousins and brothers to collectively regret my checking out. Would there have been a televised motorcade as I was driven to my final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery? Would a citizens group have petitioned the California Legislature to declare my birthday a state holiday? Would the neighbors in my condo community have gone to the Sacramento City Council to demand the final street I lived on, American River Drive, be renamed El Camino Edward or Bruce Boulevard—and would my neighborhood, Campus Commons, be rechristened Goldman Groves?

Well, since I can’t talk you into joining me on my ego trip, let’s talk about ESGs: What are they? Can they hurt us? Is it safe to approach one unarmed?

As aforementioned, “ESG” is the once-hot but possibly luke-warming philosophy of corporate and individual investing in which the investor thinks as much about social good as potential profits. Not long ago, we called this “social investing.” It meant you didn’t invest in the resources of a country like South Africa, for example, until it cleared up that pesky thing called “apartheid,” which compared (and not favorably) with our own country’s record on slavery.

Yet, just as we’ve had to codify decent human behavior as DEI—diversity, equity and inclusion—in our hiring, we evidently can’t just go and do the right thing without giving it an acronym. When we do that, we take essential morality and fairness and start—oh, what’s the word?—toileting them.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).