Powerless in Baltimore

by MISSY BEATTIE

His sign said: HOMELESS. I pulled the Lesbaru to the curb.  When I handed him two dollars, he said, “Remember, no textin’ and drivin’.”

I said, “Oh, I’ll never drive in Texas.” He laughed.

Should’ve given him another dollar for not saying, “God bless you.”

Cellphone in my lap and his words in my head, I smiled—at the timing. I’ve been confronted recently, almost like an intervention, about my addiction.

I wonder how I’d have survived almost five years of widow world without the link to authentic news, e-pals, and the search engine. I enter my apartment and open the laptop just as I used to power on the TV. Immediately.

In other words, it’s an obsession.

“Mom, get off the computer. Come in here and talk with us.”

And Laura, on the phone with one of our brothers: “She’s on the computer. What else? When we’re out, she’s checking her phone.”

Dr. Mercola recommends tapping my way to equanimity.

The genius children say, “Move to Chapel Hill.”

A reader and e-friend sent this gift. From another: the laugh of the day.

Everybody has a suggestion.

Sunday, I held the New York Times in my hands. It had been a long time.

When we lived in Manhattan, I’d separate the sections, handing Charles the Book Review. I’d squirrel away the Magazine, for its crossword.

We cancelled delivery after moving to Baltimore.

Last Saturday during the daily phone call with Laura, she said, “Watch a movie tonight, a comedy. And, Sunday, the ballgame.”

“What ballgame?”

“Louisville and Duke.”

The TV hadn’t been tested since the children were here last. (I watch movies via Netflix on my… yes, computer.)

Considering Laura’s advice, I searched my queue for a comedy. And when I found nothing appealing, I checked Facebook, the thread, and saw a link to a BBC video, about WikiLeaks and all that damage to the Empire, including Hillary Clinton’s apology performance and John Bolton’s demand that if found guilty, Bradley Manning be……. “KILLED.”

Sunday’s call with Laura: “Did you watch a movie?”

“Yeah.”

“A comedy?”

“Nope.”

I knew she was shaking her head. Because sometimes—okay—almost always, when we’re talking, I take the topic too seriously. Like the narrative about her tree removal. The climber with the saw. Waayy up there in the treetop, sawing, moving, sawing. He unexpectedly walked off the job (after 15 years as a tree climber), saying he’d never climb another tree.

I started in on low wages and insurance.

“Shut up.”

So, after I told Laura I’d seen the BBC film, she secured a promise. That I’d watch Louisville beat the University of Kentucky’s nemesis, Duke. Yes, many Wildcats fans cheer the Cardinals, if the Cats have been eliminated.

Needing ballgame food, I headed to the grocery. That’s when I decided to buy the NYT. And make a rule: On Sundays, no computer-ing.

Leaving, I encountered the homeless man.

Drove home. Okay, just one little email check before (?) the decree’s in place.

After that, I placed the paper on the coffee table. Began to separate the sections. Put the Magazine aside and read op-eds. And tuned to the game. Went in the kitchen and when I returned to the family room, I saw Rick Pitino, wiping his eyes. Kevin Ware. I called Laura. She said CBS probably would replay it. I didn’t say what I was thinking:  “The mainstream media should show war images.”

Instead I put down the phone and parallel processed, turning the pages of the newspaper, thinking about Ware, war, looking through Arts & Leisure, then Sunday Styles with that photo-rama titled “On the Streets.” This week—all men, head turners, many in fabuloso hats, NYC fashion, that NYC WOW, the center of the universe. Maybe I should move back.

But there was no real estate section. Because this paper is the “Washington Edition.”

Not a problem. I could access listings online, the next day, Monday, because of the edict. And the crossword was nearby—a replacement for the obsession, so I wouldn’t read anything political, watch anything political, on the computer. Or check email.

But my friends, my e-pals? A little flip of the lid and I could spend a few minutes with one of them. One who probably had sent (while I was watching that ballgame) a couple of articles.

One more email check. It wouldn’t be a huge infraction, unless, like a drink in the hands of an alcoholic, one led to another and another and another.

“Hello, my name’s Missy and I am powerless over my computer habit. My life has become unmanageable.”

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com   

 

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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