For several decades now, my lovely wife and I have had this continuing debate. She claims that people can do two things at once, of course!! All women can do two things at once, thank you, and can do them both very well. For her, it is a given, and little has happened over the decades to persuade her otherwise. By contrast, I have claimed that folks can, of course, do two things at once, but one of the things will often come out badly. It is like patting your head and rubbing your belly simultaneously, or driving a car while talking on a cell phone. Recent research suggests that using cell phones while driving is as dangerous as drunken driving, – or worse. How dangerous it is depends entirely upon which of the two things turns sour.
A few days ago, after 51 years of marriage, I discovered evidence that is both convincing and irrefutable that my lovely wife, at least, is no longer able to do two things at once, safely. While I am sure she would not agree with this analysis, the following is the situation I witnessed:
Around 9:30 at night, after another grueling day of Florida retirement, I walked around the corner of our living room into the family room, where my wife was talking on the phone. It is understood that she spends many hours talking to brothers, sisters, kids, grandkids, friends, and serial callers, some of whom she is unable to identify. The relevance of this is that she has surely developed talking on the phone into a deeply ingrained habit, requiring little, if any monitoring by her conscious state. Indeed she talks on the phone and walks around the house almost as in a trance.
As I rounded the corner I noticed that she was still talking on the phone, but was seated directly on the floor next to the table. This peculiar destination for her, on the floor, is not one she normally selects from among her usual choices. As a 70+ year-old, she abhors floors, and avoids sitting on them at all costs. They are hard to sit on, and it is tough, if not impossible to get up from them, once you get there. So she avoids sitting on the floor, even with her grandchildren.
You can imagine my dismay when rounding the corner to find my wife sitting on the floor, talking on the phone, as if nothing had happened. There were no grandkids within fifty miles. I worried that some strange metamorphosis had overtaken her. Not knowing exactly how to respond to this strange phenomenon, I simply passed by the other side and went into my office, leaving her conversation on the phone uninterrupted, as indeed it seemed to be. She was attending to the phone conversation with her full attentiveness, and her floor sitting was surprisingly an afterthought.
Returning later from the office, I sat in my usual reclining couch seat, turned on the television, and relaxed. She was still engaged in her conversation from the floor, and continued for some time until its natural end. At that point, her other natural end started giving her signals that she was, indeed, seated on the floor, and needed to terminate that status. She said she might need help to get up from the floor! By the time I was un-reclined and mobile, she was perpendicular, standing fully erect. Then she explained that she had intended to sit down in her office chair, but that it had not worked out as she had planned, and she wound up on the floor, phone in hand continuing her conversation. In her slip to the floor, she had not uttered any exclamation, or otherwise indicated that anything unexpectedly had happened. It was not until the following day that one additional relevant fact surrounding her slipping to the floor was revealed.
I had visions of the elderly lady calling 911 who declared “I have fallen and I can’t get up”. With that vision, I suggested to my wife that I did not feel it prudent for her to wrestle with her office chair any more. She had obviously engaged in some sort of wrestling match with her chair, and the chair had won. The chair was upright, on all fours, and was pushed a considerable distance from the table. The hapless victim was seated squarely on the floor next to the table where the chair normally sits. I must admit that the chair, unlike grandma, has castors on all fours, and swivels freely. It will also recline for comfort as needed. I repeated that I preferred that she not wrestle with the chair any more, and that whatever she had done to end up on the floor, she should modify that behavior. Imagine, wrestling with a chair and losing.
She promptly responded that the chair had only won the first round, and that there would probably be more to follow. This, of course, was what I hoped to avoid. I had previously known her to stumble over shoes on the floor, and over a vacuum cleaner on one occasion, fracturing her ankle. Most of these occasions were while talking on a cell phone or a portable home phone.
Then she added that she was talking on the telephone, and had intended to sit on her chair, which swivels and rolls. On trying to mount the chair, she noticed, somewhat unexpectedly, that her purse was occupying much of the seat. With this impediment, she tried to share the seat with her purse. Unfortunately, in wrestling with the purse, too, the purse won. Imagine the indignity of wrestling with a purse, and losing. She was, of course, talking on the phone throughout this episode, and probably did not miss a syllable. She was trying to manage these second things with the hand that was not holding the telephone.
Then I suggested that she should not engage in wrestling with her purse, or the chair. She was quick to point out that she had never lost a wrestling bout with her purse, although I have witnessed her missing dozens of phone calls because she could not locate her ringing phone within the purse in time to answer. Imagine wrestling with a cell phone and losing. It happens at my house all the time!
For all those who insist on believing that it is possible to do two things at once, the fault, of course, lies with the chair that swivels and rolls, the purse which is perverse and has too many compartments, or the cell phone which has too many buttons, even when you can get your hands on it.
It is perfectly clear to me that it is far better to do only one thing at a time, and do it very well. Following this simple strategy has lead thousands to riches. Grandma, by contrast, remains recalcitrant in her insistence that doing two things at once is better. One of those things, talking on the phone, she performs magnificently. Watching her wrestle with the second thing, with the chair, or her purse, or her cell phone is like a hammerlock on grandma, and she is destined to end up on the floor every time. She would rather go down for the count than admit that grandpa is right. Humbug!!