What’s with all these syndromes? You think maybe the pharmaceutical industry has figured out that if they name things they can prescribe things? Restless Leg Syndrome. Give me a break. Of course you’ve got restless legs. You’ve been sitting on your big butt all day. Your legs are restless, man. You don’t need a syndrome. Next we’ll have Horribly Coated Tongue Syndrome, for the affliction formerly known as “hangover.” There already is something called Gourmand Syndrome. I’m sorry. This is so embarrassing. But I . . . I love good food.
Understand—I have great respect for true syndromes. I’m talking about the sorts of impairments that steal up on you quietly enough, but that, once rooted in your consciousness, plunge you into a downward spiral of paranoia and despair. Mine, THS, we’ll return to.
Not all true syndromes are so devastating. Or they are, but boomer culture, as is its wont in the face of physical ruin, has transformed them into coffee-room gags. I’m thinking of CRS here—Can’t Remember Shit. You know what? I honestly cannot remember shit, and it’s about as funny as a two-headed chicken.
Throw vision loss in with memory loss you’ve got huge laughs.
Hey, Hon, seen my glasses?
Well, where’d you put them?
We wait a beat, then fall down in hysterics.
That’s how we are, we of a certain age. It’s happening, but let’s not get all bent up about it quite yet. My hearing loss has developed an interesting new twist. (Dede and I have already gotten burnt out on the game of semi-intentional misconstruing: “Did you take a nap?” “Did I eat a slab of what?”) Now I not only don’t know what I heard; I don’t know where the sound came from. I might be in the kitchen and think the ice maker dropped a cube into the tray when actually a throng of guests just barged through the front door.
But that’s not the one I’m talking about. Here’s the scene: You turn away from the bathroom sink to head into the bedroom when, behind you, the Old Spice topples over on the countertop. Or you’ve finished drying the dishes and begin to put them away when you look back to see one of the wine glasses teetering in a slow spin. Or maybe a dinner knife goes clattering to the floor.
You didn’t see any of these things as they happened because, of course, you weren’t looking. You didn’t used to have to watch your hands every goddamn second of the day. Now you do, because you have TRAILING HAND SYNDROME.
I’m the kind of guy who can’t pull a jar of pickles out of the refrigerator without tossing it up into a couple of slow 360s then catching it again just right. Know what I’m saying? I’m talking about my hands, my beautiful, adept, utterly dependable hands. Now they’re just trailing along behind me, knocking shit over. All loose items are at immediate risk.
Remember the scene in The Twilight Zone when the bookish, bespectacled old guy is in the library catacombs when the Rooskies drop the big one but he’s happy as a clam because all he ever wanted was to be left alone to read books but then he knocks his glasses on the floor and steps on them?