I asked her what her plans for the day were and she said that first on her agenda was dusting the the leaves of the umbrella plant sitting in a corner of the the lobby of the Y.
"Two years' worth," she said, showing me the plant's leaves which were, I had to admit, filthy.
"Plants take in air through their leaves and this one can barely breath for all the dust."
So my friend was intending to wet-wipe each of the plant's small leaves so that it would be able to breath again.
"I'll wipe down the leaves and, you'll see, it'll perk right back up."
I pointed out to my friend that there were hundreds of leaves on that plant and that cleaning each one would take her forever. But she was undaunted as she headed to the bathroom to get some wet paper towels for the job.
"All right," I called after her, "get a couple of towels for me, too."
So the two of us set to work wet-wiping down each dusty little leaf.
After we'd been working for a few minutes an elderly gent on his way out of the Y stopped to see what we were doing.
My friend explained how we were cleaning the plant's leaves to help it to breath. The man studied the leaves a moment then commented that the plant reminded him of the trees he'd seen on a trip to Hawaii. While he recounted the details of his happy vacation another older man stopped by to see what of interest was going on in this corner.
"We're dusting the plant," I said.
"What, is this an artificial plant?" The man asked.
My friend explained about the dust and the plant's breathing.
"You work here?" He asked.
No, we told him, we just cared about the plant.
Soon after he'd moved on a lady came by and asked what we were doing with the plant.
"Plants take in air through their leaves and this one's leaves are so covered with dust that it can't breath," I, by now an expert on plant pulmonology, explained.
"Oh dear," said the lady, "can I have one of those paper towels, too?"
Now we were three.
And a few minutes later, four.
Many people learned that day that plants breath through their leaves and that a dust-covered plant is a plant in distress.
Finally the desk receptionist came over.
When we explained to her what we were doing a look of concern came to her face. "Oh dear, we've got two plants in the office that are just as dusty."
But our work was done for then.
We weren't able to rescue every plant in the Y that day.
But we rescued that one.