Off North Road

Misery loves company

By Russell Hoxsie - June 15, 2006

It's a rare time for most of us to stay indoors with the approach of warmer sun and spring flowers but right now there are places to avoid. I mean particularly shaded country roads, even paved streets in the towns where trees also abound. Recent heavy rains have kept me indoors. Outside the fog and humidity are not good walking companions either; at least light rain is restful. This year a veritable plague has descended upon us for the second consecutive year. Clouds of suspended critters, an inch long, black with an indistinct stripe of red or orange permeate the air. Their color is blurred when they are smashed against the car windshield or after a swat of my hand on a gray sweatshirt. Tender threads of silk secreted by their nether ends suspend them in thin air by the thousands and allow them to descend from tree top to earth in a smooth vertical line or to wave in the wind or travel horizontally on brief currents of air. While walking, my face breaks through a sticky cross word puzzle grid-work and prompts a thrashing and wiping and urge to run for the nearest cover. My pup, Ticker, seems unconcerned as she trots and sniffs along the road poking her head into every breach in the dense roadside shrubbery.

The world, in fact, appears upside down this week. Not only are the national and international newscasts depressing but everyone we know seems to be complaining about the weather or this inchworm invasion or the advance of season to frantic summer. Perhaps, the greater catastrophes at home have been the failure of our television satellite receiver box and the arrival of a new computer. Ms. TV Panasonic has been subject to increasing hiccups and lapses into black windows and now is afflicted with a nervous disorder due to her new and unfamiliar connections. The computer, although receiving the best of care and accommodations has become cranky, moving suddenly in odd directions and producing irregular patterns at his window. With all of this disorder, civil conversation has broken down and put our nerves on edge. Both newcomers seem to be pushing all our buttons of anxiety and irritation and she holds our attention as if life is waiting upon it. There was a time when I was perfectly happy with my erstwhile companion Royal Typewriter who served me well through high school, college, and medical school. We have had the doctor and he makes little of it. Just an adjustment until you all get used to each other, he says, which is mysterious because we thought all that had been accomplished long ago. Our relationships with these newcomers and generations of their extended families go back years. We brought them into our home with all good intentions; they helped or hindered us, whichever viewpoint you took, but on balance were deemed friendly if not almost essential to our peace and serenity. After all, we were living in the electronic age and but for them all things now familiar would have passed us by. Many of our newcomers have come of age and departed, not only from our home but also from the good earth. They seemed to have possessed a genetic or manufactured tendency for obsolescence, if not early demise.

I became so attached to one of the more sophisticated and clever of this extended family that she became my custodian of finance and confidential papers, even the few stories I was able to write down and put in publishable form. Thank goodness outside forces had some influence so that we were saved in the instance of money matters from bankruptcy. My fingers have been worn to the bone with every stroke of kindness or attachment I could master. To make matters much worse, our closest companion among them has come in for extensive rehabilitation of certain degenerative changes in her central control system. It has required the services of several specialists, technicians and phone advice from their confreres. We have been alternately encouraged or depressed by turns of events. One of us at least has threatened to call in a mystic to see if progress in an improved direction could be made.

I am of the opinion always to seek help in the standard fashion, that is, within the mainstream of professional work. To succumb to mysticism would be a stunning defeat to my self-confidence and pride. We sit in an armed camp, so to speak, wishing with every advancing day that some element of optimism will prevail and we can be restored to our previous state of sanity and calm. Perhaps the inchworm invasion again this spring has been at the base of all this unusual household difficulty. If this is true, we shall have to consider a turn from our present electronic advisors to some with more ecologic and entomological expertise. We may be forced to apply to our national government for a state of emergency here at home and apply for federal aid, even the calling out of troops. What a shame we have not cultivated a deeper understanding of our two problem housemates and been more cautious about trying to run their lives so completely with no formal training ourselves. To be perfectly honest I shall take the burden of blame. I admit to having placed too much pleasure altogether in Ms. TV Panasonic who took up residence in our living room two years ago. In addition I was over-confidant in the magical performance of several generations of computers, which I have ensconced, in the expanding clutter of my previously Spartan study. The old and clumsy but nerveless Royal Typewriter has long outlived his manufactured longevity and awaits the end under special care.