Tuesday, February 7, 2017


In an effort to forestall the ravages of old age, I have developed the practice of going to the fitness center maintained by the Birchwood Property Owners Association.

Nothing fancy. I just climb aboard the treadmill and mosey along for thirty minutes. The heart rate might get as high as 115, which is about where they wanted me during my last stress test.

The treadmill is equipped with a small television. On the rare occasions when it is functioning, the time passes quite easily and agreeably.


However, I am inexplicably unable to turn it on, or if it is on, to manipulate it to a desired TV station.

I push all the buttons. Nothing happens. Occasionally someone is using the treadmill next to me and they are kind enough to push the buttons for me.

Viola! The TV is on. Viola! It is tuned to Fox News. He or she pushed the same buttons I pushed. I saw it being done.

On those days, I harken back to the last century when Polly and I were building our home on Park Lake Road in East Lansing, Michigan. One of the chores with which we were tasked was to pick out the light fixtures. That involved driving to Detroit, to a large store with a vast show room.

Wandering about, I noticed a very handsome lamp. Despite close examination, I was unable to locate the on-off switch. Intrigued, I asked a saleslady how one was expected to turn it on and off. Was the switch to be located remotely? On the wall perhaps?

Oh no, said she. All you need to do is touch the base on the lamp. She reached out, touched the lamp base and Lo and Behold, the lamp went on. She touched it again and the lamp went off.

Then she invited me to try it. I did. Nothing happened.

So I asked the young lady if there was some trick. Was it necessary to press hard? Or to twist your finger on the surface of the base? Or to touch it with more than just the tip of your finger?

Your finger! Maybe that was it. Which finger did you have to use? Which hand?

None of that mattered, she insisted, giving me demonstrations to prove the point. Indeed, she insisted the lamp would respond to any touch of human skin. Your jaw. Your foot. Your elbow. Your nose.

You could, she insisted, without demonstrating, turn the lamp on or off with a kiss.

I did not contest her assertions, although I did try to turn the lamp on by using my whole hand. Actually both hands. Still, when I touched the lamp and no matter how I did it, nothing happened.

About this time the sales lady caught the eye of the manager and waved him over. “ What seems to be the problem here?” he asked. I think they learn that line in Biz Ad 101.

“I doesn’t work,” said I. He laughed, and touched the base of the lamp. It went on. He touched it again and it went of. He invited me to touch it. I did. Nothing happened.

We picked out our fixtures for the new house. Thankfully, they would all operate from wall switches. But that was the day I learned that I have an inherently, perhaps hereditary, hostile relationship with electricity and electronics.

You can well imagine the confrontations that disability triggers whenever I light up the Mac Book Pro. All I can do is hunt, peck and pray. 

My good friend Chuck Donnelly, the house-calling computer expert, can testify to my frequent frustrations, even when insulated by a keyboard and a mouse.

He has advised me against getting a touch-screen device.

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