Monday, April 15, 2013

Neglected Disabilities

It was about four PM. I was home alone. I was sitting on the bed that used to belong to my son before he got married and moved to another state. Three of my five cats were looking out the window, and I was watching them as they stalked a bougainvillea leaf as it was being moved by a breeze.

I am easily entertained. Some have referred to me as a cheap date.

I had opened the window so the cats could smell “spring.” They like how "spring" smells. Then the bougainvillea leaf started moving in the breeze and the entertainment began. The cats were darting back and forth in front of the window as the thin red leaf caught bursts of air. I was tempted to go outside, retrieve the leaf, and bring it inside for them to tear to shreds, but I knew my cats were having more fun watching and chasing the leaf, and giving them the leaf would simply end the game too soon.

Suddenly, the cats stopped short and assumed the position of fear and distress. Their hair stuck up. Their ears were alert. Then they scooted under the bed.

I then heard the source of their fear and distress as well. Clackity clackity clackity clackity. (That is my best attempt at onomatopoeia.) A young boy was coming down the hill on his skateboard. Each time the wheels hit a sidewalk seam, the board went clackity clackity clackity clackity.

What made the occurrence significant was the fact that the boy on the board was simultaneously talking on his cell phone while navigating the hill. I know the kid because I used to tutor him. He had been labeled ADD, and his mom had come to me for help. He was a very nice kid and well behaved, but he tended to prefer watching bougainvillea leaves float in the breeze rather than watching his math teacher create math magic on the white board.

It made me think. Since I am unable to drive my car and talk on my cell phone at the same time, I found it interesting that my ex-student with a documented disability could balance on a skateboard going downhill fast -- occasionally jumping a curb -; while simultaneously talking on his phone. Yet, despite all the hours of quality one-on-one tutoring he had, he probably is still counting on his fingers and toes. I also know in my heart that he will go through life unable to deal with fractions, despite my best efforts.

We all have things we can't do. I could never climb the ropes in PE class. No matter how I tried, I couldn't get my arms and legs to work together well enough to conquer the task. There was no disability I could find to get me out of rope climbing in PE, and the best I could do was feign a sprained ankle -- complete with a doctor's note. I was stumped by calculus but the best I could do was major in English because I couldn't claim a calculus disability. Though I could memorize the Gettysburg Address in third grade, memorizing the correct lyrics to songs has always been a burden. Yet, there is no disability that keeps me from being embarrassed at karaoke bars.

I have a million of these undiagnosed but very real (to me) disabilities. We all have them. The difference is that we only hear about the ones written about in books. Call them whatever you want -- disabilities, gaps, shorts. We may all have them; some of us just deal with them better than others, I suppose.

I am now going to reveal a handful of my undiagnosed disabilities just to prove my point. The important thing to remember is that I, Felice Prager, am a survivor. Despite my shortcomings, I am choosing to see success despite my deficiencies. You probably are, too. You just don't know it yet.

CLWEAS – aka Can't Leave Well Enough Alone Syndrome. Those who have CLWEAS don't know when to stop. They tend to pick the scab until it is infected. They tend to want to get to the root of something even if it means the need for a plumber or electrician in the end. They nag their kids to the point of insanity. They say things like, "Do you want more?" and fill a dish despite a negative response. They call too often and when the calls aren't answered, they write letters and send gifts. When they help their sons move into an apartment, they buy enough tea and chicken soup mix to last several decades just in case of flu of epidemic proportions. Tea bags and chicken soup have indefinite shelf lives. When it comes to education, a person with CLWEAS will check answers obsessively and possibly not hand in the exam fearing there is an error that was missed. As a writer, proofreading becomes an activity that never ends. Rewriting is inevitable.

CPITWS – aka Can't Pee in the Woods Syndrome. Those who have CPITWS avoid camping trips, exploring the wilderness, and car trips on roads that post signs like "Next Stop: 50 miles."

WDIPTDTS – aka Where Did I Put That Damn Thing Syndrome. Also Known as WDIPTDTAS -- Where Did I Put That Damn Thing Again Syndrome. This condition tends to eat up a lot of time and is one of the most frustrating disabilities. A person puts something down in a very logical place and then it disappears. It happens with earring backs, notes, lists, bills, credit cards, homework, documents of major importance, $50 bills, and eyebrow tweezers. People with WDIPTDTS and WDIPTDTAS are firm believers in conspiracy theories and know that the physics theory that matter cannot be created or destroyed blah blah blah is a fallacy – and have dozens of backless earrings to prove it.

IJHTHAFFD – aka I Just Have to Have Another Furry Friend Disorder. This condition is best detected in the home. Just count the pets. If it goes beyond two or three, IJHTHAFFD may be at the root.

(An aside: Yesterday, while planting a few cacti in my backyard, I found a hole under our mesquite tree. From experience, I knew the hole was either the home of a snake, a rodent, or a rabbit. I thought: "Six foot rattler!" since we have had those in the past, so I ran like the wind for the garden hose, attached the power nozzle, and got close enough to spray into the hole but not close enough to get eaten. I also had my cell phone ready so I could call the snake police. The snake police are number one on my speed dial. Then a baby bunny popped out. It was two inches -- newborn, probably. And it was sopping wet. I felt so bad. I ran to get lettuce and carrots while the baby bunny dried off in the sun. When I got back, another baby bunny had joined it. I named them Jack and Jennifer. I scattered the lettuce and carrots and kept saying things like, "I’m so sorry! Now go back in your hole so your mommy can find you." I took a picture with my cell phone and sent it to my son -- the one who used to take scorpions and centipedes outside instead of killing them because "they are beneficial, mom." He wrote back and said, "Since you almost killed them, you should keep them." I didn’t respond since I like furry faces but I know jackrabbits don't make good pets -- we've done bunnies before and the only thing I remember is that they create a lot of poop and then they eat it. I went outside this morning to inspect the bunny hole, and it seems that Jennifer and Jack Rabbit have two other siblings: Jillian and Bob. All is well. They like lettuce but prefer what falls off the mesquite tree. ANYWAY, I looked up Sonoran Desert bunnies online and it said that 80% of them are dead within a year -- their life expectancy being two years -- because they get eaten by almost everything. Sometimes, people who think bunnies are snakes tend to drown them. End of aside.)

TTMS – aka Talk To Machines Syndrome. Those who have TTMS tend to see inanimate objects as audiences. They think what they say to machines will change things. They tend to personify. They are often not aware that they are doing this and have been known to say things like, "Come on, finish perking!" to coffee machines and "Please don't freeze!" to computers. Some suffering from TTMS have said that the inanimate objects have menacing personalities and tend to be vindictive.

DCFBD – aka Diet Coke for Breakfast Disability. This is sometimes referred to as "Do as I say, not what I drink." People with DCFBD know it is not healthy. They don't care. They are even known to finish off the warm, flat can of Diet Coke that was left on their desk the night before.

SATDS – aka Share All The Details Syndrome. People who have SATDS tend to tell a story, include all the details, and leave nothing out -- even when they are not asked. The syndrome tends to waste time, keep a person from staying on task, and alienates friends and relatives.

OMGOMGOMGS – aka as Oh, My God! Oh, My God! Oh My God! Syndrome. This occurs when a large insect or arachnid is in the vicinity of the person afflicted. They get up on furniture and scream, "Oh, My God! Oh, My God! Oh My God!" until a brave person comes in and smashes the creature. These people often suffer from SATDS, with a twist. When they Share all the Details, the insects and arachnids get larger with each telling of the tale. In the end, the insect or arachnid takes on the appearance of the supernatural and develop menacing personalities similar to those in TTMS.

IIDWIDIWFIS – aka If I Don’t Write It Down, I Will Forget It Syndrome. These people have very good memories. The problem is that they can't remember what they need to know when they need it. They function well with lists but tend to also suffer from WDIPTDTS -- so they cannot remember where they put the list.

CRWTISFD – aka Can't Remember What The Initials Stood For Disability. Those who have CRWTISFD can spout off initials like ADD, ADHD, SCUBA, and MRSA, but cannot remember what the initials represent. In fact, they often ask those using the initials what they stand for, but they have known to become indignant when others ask them to translate initials into real words.

There are many other syndromes, deficiencies, and disabilities. Some are mild and some are severe. With all of them, it depends on the degree to which a person has it and how well they learn to cope. I am doing well with mine. I just take it a day at a time. I inhale and exhale and always have my trusty hose by my side along with my cell phone. But don’t ask me to use both of them at the same time. I'm having a tough time with CDTTAONMHHITS -- aka Can't Do Two Things At Once No Matter How Hard I Try Syndrome.

© 2002 by Felice Prager. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This essay, any part of this essay, or any item on this blog may not be used in any form without the author's express written permission.

(This essay originally appeared at The Irascible Professor -