Doing Nothing

bayouI am in an Alice-in-Wonderland B&B at Cedar Key, Florida, in a private guest room —an aerie, really. The home is built on stilts at the water’s edge overlooking a bayou. I’m getting hungry but don’t want to move from my chair on the porch.

Why is it hard to sit here and do nothing? The view over the bayou is calm, serene. White birds fly over the water. Silk-screen scarves flutter on the porch rail in front of me—blue, green, yellow, red, orange—all the primary colors. Only cars in the distance break the silence. A cool breeze blows across my body. The sky is a perfect blue, with no clouds in sight. The tide is out, uncovering islets of shell mounds and naked bayou floor. Emma, my dog, is sleeping on a bunched up down cover, settled in a warm, soft place. She snores now and then.

I don’t want to leave, but this inactivity makes me restless. I’ll wait until Emma stirs and I’ll chew nicotine gum until I can’t deny my hungry stomach any longer. Then I’ll put her service dog harness on and we’ll look for a restaurant.emma-ck

Still Trucking at 81

Today, one of my DrawSomething partners online didn’t believe me when I told her I was 81. She said I wouldn’t be on DrawSomething if I were that old.

She must not know many 81-year-olds. When I’m at my computer (about 4 hours a day) I play DrawSomething with several partners, sing on Smule (badly), and am addicted to the game BlocksAway. DrawSomething helps me dust off my sketching skills. In the 1950s I was an art major at the University of Wisconsin.

I move, too. I swim several times a week and walk my dog Trudy every morning. I have an electric scooter that I ride around the neighborhood in good weather and take on camping trips. About once a month, Trudy and I travel in my 21-foot camper to the beach and state parks in north Florida. It has everything–a microwave, gas stove, refrigerator, bathroom, running water,  and AC. It has a TV, but I never use it. I camp to get away from civilization. I also travel outside the U.S. frequently. Since my 70th birthday, I’ve been to Alaska (once alone, once with my daughter), Antarctica, Ecuador, and Vietnam.

Before retirement, I was a science writer. Now I write self-help articles and books, and publications about animals. I am finishing “Wild Dogs of the World” and “Great Animal Escape Stories” for middle school readers as e-books. Another book, “The EZ Big Book,” has been selling well as a paperback and e-book for over 3 years. I have graduate degrees in social sciences research (MS) and counseling (EdS). Graduate school was an experiment. After a year of listening to clients, I decided to become a mole again and returned to writing. I attend concerts regularly and read about three books a week.

I play the guitar and keyboard, but not very well. I’ve been playing the piano accordion since I was a 10-year-old kid in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I still pick that up when my fingering isn’t too stiff.

I laugh a lot and my friends think I’m funny. The above photo was taken in Antarctica 3 years ago. I’m well preserved, and the illusion is supported by regular hair coloring at the beauty salon.

To be 81 isn’t the same as being dead. That will come soon enough.

Blind Dog–Happy Dog after SARDS

In 2011, my 7-year-old dog Trudy lost her sight from SARDS (sudden acute retinal degeneration syndrome). I took her to veterinary specialists frantically seeking a cure for her blindness but there was none.

At first, Trudy bumped into walls trying to find her way around the house. She got anxious and confused easily. I thought our good life was over. I forgot that dogs don’t feel sorry for themselves. They don’t think about the future. They figure things out the best they can and get on with it.

Online experts agree that blind dogs shouldn’t be treated with pity. This makes them think that something really bad is happening. The experts say, “Don’t rush to help your dog because his blindness makes you sad.”

I followed their advice even though it was hard. When Trudy couldn’t find the door, I’d stand there and say in a cheerful voice, “Over here, Trudy,” until she found her way. If she missed a treat I’d thrown her, I’d let her sniff around until she found it. Like dogs everywhere, she has a great sense of smell.

Over the last two years, Trudy and I have grown closer and happier. Strange as it sounds, Trudy is more full of life than ever. She’s become more obedient, probably because I take more time with her. I never thought I could teach this crazy dog to “sit” and “stay,” but I did.

Since she became blind, Trudy—an escape artist—has found her way out of the yard at least four times. Her sight may be gone, but her love of adventure isn’t. After she ran off six months ago, I decided to paint the words “I am blind” on her harness. Since then, neighbors have either called or brought her home within an hour or two.

If you have a blind dog, here are some suggestions:

• Teach your dog to recognize words and phrases such as “Watch it!” or “Over here!” and important commands such as “Sit” and “Stay.” Trainers say that dogs can understand over 20 words and phrases.  One blind border collie has been reported to understand more than 200 words.

• Spend more time walking your dog, going places, and playing games. Trudy likes to hunt for her supper outdoors. I make a ball of dry and wet dog food and throw it across the backyard. Her tail wags until she’s found the last crumb. Dogs love scent games.

• Buy a Kong and other toys that hold treats. Dogs enjoy working for their food. It keeps them busy and happy for long periods.

• Be sure your dog has plenty of water. Dogs with SARDS-related adrenal problems tend to be abnormally thirsty. They pee often and their urine is dilute.

• Install at least one doggie door in your house. Many dogs get upset when they can’t wait and have an accident in the house.

• If your dog has trouble getting to the doggie door in time, put down carpet runners or other cues that lead to the door.

• If your dog has an accident in the house, don’t scold. Just clean it up.

• Don’t leave your dog in places where it’s too warm. When dogs with adrenal problems get hot, they pant more than healthy dogs and are more prone to heat exhaustion.

• Don’t move furniture around or leave large objects on the floor that might confuse your dog. Blind dogs make mental maps of their environment and depend on them.

• Keep a collar or harness with an ID tag on your dog at all times. A microchip is a good idea, too. Many owners find harnesses more effective than collars, because they offer better support and give the owner more control in tricky situations.

• Label the harness “I am blind.” People will treat your dog with understanding without your having to explain. Also, it almost guarantees that some dog lover will bring your dog back if she wanders off.

• If your dog is older and can’t get around easily, use a sturdy harness with a handle when you’re going someplace he’s not familiar with. You can give him a lift when needed.  These harnesses are made for dogs with arthritis and other mobility problems.

• Keep a short hand leash—12 to18 inches—attached to the dog’s collar to help guide her in confusing or upsetting situations when she’s too anxious to obey commands.

• When walking your dog, look for grates in the pavement or other things that might make him stumble. Get him used to words of warning such as “Watch it.”.

• When you approach a strange dog, take a slight detour. Your dog can’t see the stranger and doesn’t respond like a sighted dog. The other dog doesn’t understand why yours is acting funny. Dogs meeting each other send signals about who’s going to be dominant, and misunderstandings can cause trouble.

• If you have a pool, put a fence around it. Trudy fell in my pool twice until I put a barrier up. Luckily I was there to fish her out.

• Buy a pet gate and/or collapsible exercise pen to keep your dog away from dangerous areas.

• If your dog spends time outside in a fenced yard, be sure it’s escape-proof. Inspect it carefully for loose boards, gaps, and tempting openings between the fence and ground. If your dog likes to dig, install chicken wire from the bottom of the fence into the ground. This requires digging a trench for anchoring the chicken wire.

• Keep an eye on your cat, if you have one. Some cats take advantage of a blind dog and swat its face with sharp claws, causing painful damage to the cornea.  (My cat has tried.)

• When your dog has to stay at a kennel or with a friend for a few days, leave her bed or blanket and perhaps an unwashed personal garment for comfort.

Two excellent internet forums for owners of blind dogs are http://www.blinddog.info and http://www.blinddogs.net. The highly rated book Living with Blind Dogs by Caryn Levin RN gives owners detailed practical advice about helping blind dogs adjust (2004, 188 pages).

BeaconStreetUSA.com blogs from 2011 describing Trudy’s and my early experience with SARDS appear at https://beaconstreetusa.com/wp/?s=sards&submit=Go.

If your dog has lost his or her vision from SARDS, you might be as heartbroken as I was. Hang in there. You and your dog can have a happy life together again. It will just be a little different. Blind dogs take advantage of their sharp senses and smell and hearing to make up for their lost sight. You’ll be amazed.

World War II planes lead a civilian life

In 1952, I married a college sweetheart who joined ROTC and became an Air Force officer after graduation.  After qualifying for pilot training, he started flight lessons in the Piper Cub, then graduated to a retired fighter plane, the Mustang. After that he learned to fly the famous B-17 bomber.

Training began at Gilbert Field in Bartow, Florida, where a class of twenty fresh young lieutenants had their first experience as pilots.

The little J3 Piper Cubs had tandem seats in the cockpit with dual controls, one set for the student and the other for the flight instructor. The plane was easy to pull out of spins and stalls because of its lightness. If the engine couldn’t be restarted, the plane continued to glide downward to a landing in the hands of a skilled pilot.

Despite the safety of the aircraft, one or two of each class of twenty fledgling pilots crashed due to pilot error, generally caused by panic. It was easy to get scared during training stalls, dives, and other death-defying maneuvers.

In 1954, the young lieutenants who survived the first phase of training packed off to West Palm Beach, Florida, where they learned to fly P-51 Mustangs, the fighter planes that shot down German Messerschmidts and Jap Zeroes in World War II. While flying Mustangs wasn’t for the faint of heart, fewer young pilots crashed because were more skilled aviators by this time.

Their flight instructors were old warriors from dogfights over Germany and Japan a few years earlier. By the mid-1950s, many were family men who missed the adrenaline rush of their youth.  When they soloed for leisure or practice, some pulled forbidden acrobatic stunts when they could avoid identification.  Since air-to-ground communications were still primitive in those days, former aces sometimes buzzed the tower, then climbed into the clouds before anyone could catch the ID on their fuselage. Or they did tight barrel rolls for friends on the ground away from the eyes of tale-tellers.

The last phase of training prepared pilots for the airplanes they would fly for the rest of their enlistment. My husband flew a former B-17 bomber—the Flying Fortress.   During WW II,  formations of twenty-five or more bombers flew missions over the Pacific, Japan and Europe. The B-17 stood as high as a two-story building and had a wingspan the length of three city school buses.

Enemy fighter planes had to inflict serious harm on a B-17 to bring it down. Even when one suffered extensive damage, it could usually limp home.  As the war advanced, the Flying Fortress became even more impervious to enemy fire because Air Force strategists found a way to protect formations.  They assigned P-51 Mustangs (“Red Tails”) to drive off enemy fighter planes.  Called “Little Friends,” one squadron of Mustangs was flown by African-American pilots known as the Tuskeegee Airmen, whose story is told in the film “Red Tails.”

With a flight range of almost 2000 miles, B-17s were retired from their bombing missions after the war and served as transport planes, carrying servicemen and cargo to U.S. military bases around the globe.

Granny Buys an RV

A few years ago when I was in my mid-seventies, I bought an RV—a 32-foot Class C Dodge that had been driven all over the U.S. by missionaries for 35 years.  After having the vehicle repaired and restored to good working condition, I planned to camp in Florida state parks with my dog.  For my maiden trip, I went to Manatee Springs State Park, an hour from home.

Arriving at the ranger station, I pull up to a stop sign and walk across the road to sign in. That done, I return to the vehicle to drive to my campsite. But there’s a problem. The passenger door scrapes against the stop sign as I try to move forward, making the screeching sound of metal on metal. Putting the engine in reverse, I attempt to back up.  Unfortunately, the vehicle has engaged itself with the stop sign and will not move.  I can’t proceed in either direction.

Figuring that the ranger may fare better, I call her over.  She slips behind the wheel and puts the RV in first.  Then she tries reverse. Same result.  The RV and stop sign have merged to become one.

The ranger says we’ll have to dismantle the sign.  Getting tools from the office, she starts removing screws. I’m doing my best to be witty and apologetic.  When the sign is in pieces on the ground and the RV is set free, I thank her profusely.  I drive to my assigned campsite.

As I’m backing in, the gravel entry looks clear in the rear view mirrors.  However, before the RV moves very far, I feel resistance.  How can this be? There’s nothing back there! I push on the accelerator a little more.  Now I’m sure there’s resistance.

Getting out to investigate, I see that I’ve backed into the electrical outlet, uprooting it from the ground.  Red and black wires dangle from the box. How mortifying.  I return to the ranger station where the ranger is still putting the stop sign back together.  When I tell her what happened, she laughs patiently an says, “Don’t worry. Happens all the time. Just pick out another site.”  I can feel myself blushing.

At the new site, I back in with my eyes glued on the electrical outlet in the rear view mirror.  I feel resistance again.  Impossible. I’ve got the goddam electrical box right in my line of sight.  So I put more pressure on the accelerator. The RV still doesn’t want to move.  Time to get out once more. This time I’ve uprooted the faucet, which is poking out of the ground and spraying water everywhere.

There are no words for what I’m feeling.  I’d like to sink into the earth and keep going until I reach China. But I know I must return to the ranger and confess.  What the hell will I say?  I decide that I’ll offer a substantial donation to Manatee Springs State Park—say, one hundred dollars.

This time the ranger’s not smiling anymore.  Luckily, when I reach the part of my story that includes the donation, her sense of humor returns.  She sends me off to a third campsite.

Now I am top of things! My eyes are trained on both the electric outlet and the water faucet in the rear view mirrors. Yay! I’ve cleared them. Life is good again.  I keep backing up until the front end of the RV is well out of the road.

Then…you guessed it.  Resistance.  Now I am getting angry. This is ridiculous.  Absolutely nothing can be back there this time.  Reason has left me.  I’m a bulldog.

Suddenly I realize that I forgot about the picnic able.  I have pushed a massive hardwood table about five feet deeper into the campsite.  I’ve dented the back of the RV.

This time I don’t tell anyone.

*   *   *

My Pet Memorial Garden

A pet memorial garden sits among the trees in my yard.  A sculpture of three happy old women on a wooden fence overlooks the gravestones of pets who have lived with me over the last thirty years.  The “Grandmothers” were created by Kirsten Engstrom, an artist from Hawthorne, Florida. She also made the monk that guards one of the graves.  I made polymer clay flowers and a Shambhala flag for the other memorial stones.

Prounce, a Siamese cat who came with me to Gainesville thirty years ago, got the first memorial in the garden. She’d been a birthday gift for my 6-year-old daughter Amy when we lived in Rochester, Minnesota.   When I started living alone in 1981, she became my shadow, seldom leaving my side. If I worked after eleven at night in my office, she complained in the doorway.   I turned off the lights and followed her to the bedroom.

Rosie, a Corgi mix, was my heart.  My daughter Amy rescued Rosie in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where she was a senior at Oklahoma State vet school.  Knowing Rosie and I were probably a good match, she sent her to Gainesville by airplane. I had a cat, Charlie, at the time.  The minute Rosie walked in the back door, they were friends—taking turns chasing each other around the house.  Rosie went everywhere with me—on camping trips, on errands in town, and to meetings.  When she died unexpectedly at age fourteen, I felt as though the fabric of my life had been torn and I didn’t know how to put it back together.

My cat Charlie was one of a litter of six-week-old kittens offered for adoption by Gainesville Pet Rescue.  A vet friend suggested I get a yellow male tabby.  They were the best, she said.  Charlie did turn out to be the best.  He liked to watch nature specials on TV, especially documentaries about birds.  He sat at the foot of my bed with his full attention to the screen.  When birds flew out of camera range, he ran behind the TV looking for them.  Charlie taught himself to ring the front doorbell when he wanted to be let in.  He sat on the kitchen counter and pressed the lever on the electric can opener to tell me he was hungry. Once Rosie escaped from the yard and wandered off.  I panicked and stood in the drive yelling “Rosie! Rosie!”  In the distance I heard Charlie’s loud call.  He’d found her two blocks from home and was telling where to find her.

Tiny was a Boston Terrier I inherited from my daughter Julie who’d just had a baby and couldn’t handle the dog’s frenetic energy.  Julie’s husband didn’t like dogs anyhow, so Tiny moved in with Rosie and me. Soon she calmed down and assigned herself the role of protector.  Any unfamiliar men who entered the house or yard were at risk.  Over the three years I had her, she bit seven men who came to make household repairs or do landscaping.  Her preferred target was the butt (sneak attack), but she would settle for a thigh, arm, or hand.  At each incident, I apologized profusely and stuffed a twenty-dollar bill into the victim’s pocket.  I was never sued.

Tiny got a brain tumor when she was five.  A veterinary neurosurgeon in Jacksonville implanted a stent in her brain to drain off fluid that was collecting and causing symptoms.  The operation gave her five more months of normal life. At the end, she went quickly.

Savannah, an Australian shepherd, was ten when I adopted her from Gainesville Pet Rescue.  She had a genetic problem with her eyes that made her appear blind and unattractive to adopters.  She also had early signs of progressive arthritis.  Every time I visited Pet Rescue, there she was in a cage, waiting for a home.  I worried that no one would adopt her, so I did.

Savannah was a headstrong alpha dog—not mean, but clear about what she wanted.  As her arthritis got worse, I became her servant.  When she could no longer walk, she barked to summon me.  It was my job to figure out what she wanted.  Near the end, I had to carry her outdoors to relieve herself.  When her joint pain flared up badly, I lay next to her on the floor and massaged her back and hips—sometimes over an hour.  Finally, when she was fourteen, I took her to the vet to be euthanized.  I held her through the procedure, and she was brave and gracious as always.

Now I have a 9-year-old Chihuahua-Beagle mix, Trudy.  I’m 80 years old.  I don’t want to add a gravestone for her to the memorial garden.  It would please me to think we could both pass to the next level of existence at the same time.

*   *   *

When Dogs Go Blind

The good life isn’t over for dogs who go blind.  If they don’t have eye pain—which most don’t—and the disease that caused the blindness is treatable, they can lead happy lives.  For example, my blind dog Trudy has underlying Cushing’s disease, which can be controlled with drugs, although she’ll never get her sight back.  She lost her vision over a period of weeks from SARDS (sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome). Like most owners, I suffered from her rapid loss of eyesight more than she did.

Dogs don’t rely on their vision as much as we do. Even healthy dogs’ eyes don’t focus well on close objects. They’re color-blind compared with humans.  They don’t see details as well.  The one thing they do better is detect moving objects in dim light.  Nature gave them this ability to help them hunt at night.

The people who think it’s humane to put a blind dog to sleep don’t know much about dogs.  If you watch sightless dogs who have gotten used to their loss, you see happy, functional pets. They still have their wonderful noses and ears, which become their main sense organs. However, the adjustment may take a little while. Some dogs get depressed when they first lose their vision, acting listless and droopy.  They carry their heads low and seldom wag their tails. If this is true of your pet, resist sharing your sadness. Indulge in it  only when your dog’s not around.  When you’re together, stay upbeat. Find things to do that you both enjoy.

Other dogs get irritable.  They growl easily and may snap.  While you should discourage this behavior, stay calm when you correct the dog.  There’s no point in getting everyone more upset. Approach the dog gently and stroke his or her neck and back. You’ll both feel better when you enjoy close, loving contact.

Above all, don’t overdo the help you give. Avoid taking over your dog’s life. People with blind dogs agree that coddling is the worst thing an owner can do.  Instead of carrying a dog upstairs, for example, help the dog learn to do it alone.  He or she will take pride in the new skill.

When my dog Trudy recently lost her vision, I was devastated.  I worried that she’d no longer enjoy life.  Little did I know. Trudy still barks at the UPS man and tries to chase his truck down the street, her hackles raised.  She gets around the house without trouble as long as furniture hasn’t been moved or large objects aren’t left in her path.  She still delights in jumping up on kitchen counters when I’m not around and and running off with any tasty items she finds.  How she does it, I don’t know. Recently she started playing with her toys again, grabbing her hemp rope in her mouth and thrashing it around—going for the kill.

A friend has a blind dog named Radar—a Chinese crested.  Radar is a good name for him.  He’s so talented that, even without eyesight, he can jump up and catch a fly in his mouth.  Like Trudy, Radar is a happy camper.

*   *   *

Dogs with SARDS & Cushing’s Disease

Sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS) is a disease that causes rapid blindness in dogs–usually, within a few days to a couple of months. For some unexplained reason, the cells in the dog’s retina start breaking down.

The disease can be diagnosed with electroretinography—a test similar to an EKG. While the dog is under anesthesia, electrodes are placed on the cornea to detect activity in the retina.  A normal eye produces tracings with peaks and valleys. In dogs with SARDS, the tracings are flat.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that about 75% of the dogs with SARDS also have Cushing’s disease.  The symptoms include increased thirst, accidents in the house, an unusually big appetite, pot-bellied appearance, and excess panting. The condition is due to excess production of the hormone cortisol by the dog’s adrenal glands, two small organs that sit on top of the kidneys. While brain or adrenal gland tumors are the most common cause of canine Cushing’s disease, dogs with SARDS don’t have them.

Veterinarians use blood tests to diagnose Cushing’s disease.  The most common, the dexamethasone suppression test, takes a full day.  First, a blood sample as taken as a baseline measure.  Then a synthetic cortisone drug—dexamethasone–is injected and follow-up samples are taken throughout the day.  If the dog has normal adrenal function, cortisol production drops.  A dog with Cushing’s disease continues to make high levels of the hormone.

Drug treatment can regulate a dog’s cortisol production, keeping the hormone at normal levels. However, it’s important that a veterinarian follow the dog closely because it’s easy to over- or underdose an animal, causing added health problems.  Serious side effects are possible, too, and require careful monitoring. The drugs must be given daily and can be costly.

The good news for owners of dogs with SARDS and Cushing’s disease is that treatment of the adrenal problem can offer a dog a longer life of higher quality.

^   ^   ^

My Friend Kari

Kari Bagnall began her whirlwind career as a primary sanctuary director when she opened Jungle Friends on 12 acres of land north of Gainesville, Florida, in 1999. Until her early forties, she was a successful interior designer in Las Vegas.

Kari’s love of monkeys began when her live-in boyfriend brought home a baby capuchin in 1993. Kari took little Samantha everywhere with her.  Unfortunately, her enthusiasm wasn’t shared by the managers of the grocery stores, movie theatres, and shops she visited. Before long, she was no longer welcome at their places of business.  With Samantha riding on her shoulder, Kari was also escorted out of the design showrooms where she made a living.

Putting one misguided foot in front of the other, Kari tried to solve the problem by getting a baby sister for Samantha. Charlotte only doubled Kari’s problems.

Kari turned her home upside down for the girls.  She installed monkey-friendly landscaping, including misting devices and an elephant fountain.  Indoors she built runways near the ceilings that extended into the yard. The monkeys’ room had a TV, rainforest wallpaper, matching curtains, and a four-poster bed draped with mosquito netting.

First, Samantha threw the TV across the room.  Then Charlotte tore down the wallpaper.  Together they ripped up the curtains, dismantled the bed, and nearly hung themselves on the mosquito netting. Outdoors they stuffed pebbles in the elephant’s trunk, blocking the fountain.  They also attacked Kari’s guests, requiring trips to the emergency room for monkey bites.

The result was that Kari gave up her lucrative career as a designer and bought land in Florida where the climate was better for monkeys. On rural acreage, she built spacious, escape-proof habitats, installed water and electric lines, and repaired an old house that came with the land.  That’s where she lived. By the time Kari opened the gates of Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary, she was almost broke.

Samantha, Charlotte and eleven other monkeys were the first residents at the sanctuary. As the word spread, more monkeys came and more construction was needed.  Within 10 years, Jungle Friends housed 120 capuchins, spider monkeys, marmosets, tamarinds, and squirrel monkeys. They came from unhappy lives in research laboratories, pet stores, and the entertainment industry. Many were brought to Kari by disenchanted owners who learned from painful experience that monkeys were born to be wild.

Now in her fifties, Kari works 16-hour days tending her huge complex and raising money to stay afloat.  Each morning, she and her volunteer staff chop fresh fruits and vegetables into bite-sized pieces and fill each of 120 personal bowls for the monkeys.  Food processors won’t do because they turn the food to mush, and monkeys like to inspect each morsel they eat.  Kari maintains a sanctuary clinic where she cares for sick monkeys. Sometimes she drives them to the University of Florida vet school. After sundown, she works on the Jungle Friends website, plans fund-raising projects, and corresponds with monkey sponsors.

For Kari Bagnall, nothing is impossible.  Once affluent, she now lives on a poverty-level income.  She is buoyant, beautiful, charismatic, and has a heart of gold.

Hats off to you, Kari.

To learn more about Jungle Friends, go to http://www.junglefriends.org

Droid Addiction

At an upscale restaurant with two women friends the other night, I watched one play with her android nonstop during dinner.  She showed us over 100 photos taken with several cameras on the device.  She pulled up Google Earth and other apps and played with them.  The conversation was never allowed to stray far from her ‘droid.

This woman is in her mid-forties; the other friend and I are 87 and 79, respectively.  The 87-year-old is sharp as a tack but knows nothing about electronic devices.  While I know my way around computers, I’m a tyro compared to the ‘droid addict.  Since all social interaction was dominated by her, my older friend and I could only listen and look at the photos.  I could excuse this rudeness if my younger friend were showing off a new toy that she was enchanted with. But she’s had it over a year.

Doesn’t it ever occur to ‘droid junkies that they’re being rude?  With their fingers dancing over their devices and their eyes focused on the images, they’re only half present at best.  They don’t make eye contact. Where in God’s name are they?  Would taking their ‘droids away leave them feeling helpless and naked?

In the 1990s, I was addicted to internet chat rooms.  Sometimes I sat at my computer 16 hours at a stretch, getting up only for bathroom breaks or food.  When my computer crashed one weekend, I was desolated.  Only then did it occur to me that I’d become a chat room junkie. Fortunately, around that time the rooms began to degenerate and I lost my taste for them.

Droid addicts seem to be under a spell, cut off from their physical environment and human intimacy.  After a few hours in their company, I feel unworthy and boring.  Soon I’ll have the nerve to say, “It’s me or the ‘droid.  Take your pick.”