The unexpected dangers of sleeping with your smart phone.

“She who goes to sleep with a smart phone at night allows the smart phone to control her life by morning.” ~~ Abraham Lincoln

This really happened. Or most of it did. I can’t speak to the facts vis-à-vis the coin toss. I wasn’t there, unless DNA counts.

Over the past several days, an informal détente seems to have settled into place and now that cooler heads prevail, it’s a good time to share the lesson I have learned, in the hope of helping even one lost soul understand the dangers of sleeping with one’s smart phone too close to the bed.

While I’m not what you’d call an “app” person, I do like my phone’s alarm clock as the solution to a lifelong aversion to the inhumanity of that early morning BUZZZZZ. Instead, I can awaken to pleasant musical tones of my choosing. So, I sleep with the phone on my nightstand. Therein lie certain social dangers.

And so my tale begins.

In an effort to remain relevant, I have adapted to new means of communicating — and therefore  validating my existence–  in the 21st century. I have a Twitter presence, a Facebook presence, and a LinkedIn account* that I remember to check every couple of months, usually after I get an email that “people are checking out (my) profile,” which, quite frankly, freaks me out. But it’s necessary. Because, you know, relevance and validation.

In addition, after a year and a half of learning how to text message, I realized that it might be the solution to another lifelong aversion: to telephone conversation. When I reached my goal of typing “Hell no, would you’re live kumquats four dime store?”  in under 30 minutes, I treated myself to a phone with a QWERTY keyboard, a so-called smart phone, in the hopes that I might eventually communicate, “Hello, would you like to come for dinner?” As we all know by the plethora of failed auto-corrects posted on the Internet, that was but a sod pipeline sad pipe dream.

Not if you use it while you sleep.

Not if you write it while you sleep.

Text-messaging isn’t always convenient, so I had every reason to believe that my new car’s BlueTooth would come in handy on occasion. Sadly, this is not the case.  BlueTooth and I (we’ll call her “Hedy,” for reasons that later become obvious) don’t have what you would call a “healthy” relationship.

While she doesn’t seem to care for me very much, Hedy does tend to favor one of my children.  Specifically, my son.  Often, but not all the time, I’ll say, “Call Daughter.” Hedy’s firm, no-nonsense, female voice confirms, “Calling Son.”

I say “Correction. Call Daughter.”

She says, “Calling Son.”

We argue like that until she says (in a huff, I might add),  “I’m sorry. I can’t understand your command.” Not only do I think she’s not really sorry, I think she can understand my command perfectly well.

Sometimes her judgmental passive-aggression is more succinct.  I say, “Call Chinese Takeout.” She says, “I’m sorry. I can’t understand your command.” Click.

I suppose maybe if you were reading her side of the story, she’d say that just once in a while she’d like Mexican.  Maybe if she had her way, we’d be chowing down on chimichangas and swilling margaritas on a regular basis, but only with my son, never my daughter.  Which might be why I do not have a Mexican takeout number in my contacts. I will not have her choosing favorites.

You might say things have been strained between us for a while.

Lately signs have surfaced that her passive-aggression has turned to outright aggression, with a sinister Single White Female vibe.  And my smart phone is her accomplice.  Whether this is by coercion or persuasion is as yet undetermined.

The first occasion was ok. Weird, but ok. Out of the blue, my son texted, “Hey, mom. Why don’t I come over Saturday and we can watch the game together. I’ll come early and we can go to the store for snacks. It’ll be fun.” Like I said: weird, but ok.

We were somewhere in the chip aisle when I couldn’t hold back my curiosity any longer. “So, did you lose a coin toss with your sister over who was going to watch the game with me?”

“Yeah, but it was also that bizarre text you sent us at 3:30 in the morning.  What was that all about?”

First, I might have been hurt, but honestly, I’m kind of proud that my son is twenty-something and does not know  how to lie to a woman.

Points me.

But then. . . .

“What text?”

“About how proud you are of us and how much you love us. . . .”

I remember dreaming that I was telling them that, but texting it?  Nope. However, evidence suggests that such texts were indeed sent . . .  from my phone . . . at about 3:30 a.m..

Hmmm. I haven’t figured out how, but I’m convinced Hedy is behind this.

Not long after that, Hedy went unhinged. Maybe we should’ve invited her to join us for nachos. Anyway.  First she refused to call anyone, not even my son, employing her flimsy pretense, “I’m (not really) sorry. I can’t understand your command. Please try again.”

I would try again. She would repeat herself.

I admit to eventually losing my own temper and shouting, “Oh . . . JUST. . . NEVER MIND!” Click.

After a few days of this, things went from bad to worse.

I’d start my car and Hedy would yell, “NO PHONE CONNECTED! YOU ALREADY HAVE FIVE PHONES CONNECTED. PLEASE DELETE A PHONE!”

(I do not have five phones. I have had a lifelong aversion to phones. Owning five would be a personal nightmare. But not my worst personal nightmare. That was yet to come.**)

I’d say, “Whatever,” and would just keep driving, but she kept repeating herself.  It was madness. Madness, I tell you.

Eventually, I turned off my phone whenever I drove and Hedy and I  stopped communicating altogether. It was sad, but these things happen. I was over it and I thought Hedy was, too.

Apparently, she wasn’t. I awoke one morning a few weeks ago to a troubling mix of pleasant musical tones and absolute panic.

Please let that be a dream. It was just a dream, right?  Just a dream. Please, please, PLEASE!!

I had dreamed, as I occasionally do, of a boy I dated in high school. But this time, instead of driving in his car or walking along the boardwalk, I was sending him a LinkedIn connection request. To my surprise, he accepted.

I rushed to my desktop and logged in, desperate for it to be just a dream.

It was not a dream.

“Name Deleted is now a connection.”

I — or “someone on my behalf”– sent a LinkedIn connection request to someone I haven’t seen or talked to in decades. . . .while I was sleeping.

Points Hedy.

* Real Me has a LinkedIn account. Hippie Cahier does not. Regretfully, Hippie Cahier cannot accept LinkedIn connection requests, because, like Relationship George and Independent George, Real Me and Hippie Cahier cannot co-exist. A hippie divided against herself cannot stand.

** Hey, foreshadowing!

*******************************

This video  is not at all funny. Au contraire. It is R-rated and raw, but it (a) provides some context for those who haven’t seen Birdman  and (b) demonstrates why Emma Stone deserved an Oscar:

Famous Abraham Lincoln quotes

(Not really.)

For a little context, read the long version here. For some fun, add your own in the comments section.

"Happy birthday, Mr. President." -- Abraham Lincoln

“Happy birthday, Mr. President.” — Abraham Lincoln

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

“Where’s the beef?”

“I was for the war before I was against it.”

“Suppose you were a member of Congress and suppose you were an idiot. But I repeat myself.”

“I am not a crook.”

“Yes we can.”

“Don’t cry for me Argentina.”

“It depends on what your meaning of ‘is’ is.”

“Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

“The Eagle has landed.”

“Don’t make that face. It’ll freeze like that.”

“I believe you have my stapler. ”

“A penny saved is a penny . . . hey, that’s me!”

“Bygones.” *

“You can’t start a fire without a spark.”

“Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!”

 

*”That was Richard Fish on Ally McBeal. You’re going to need to know that if we’re going to be friends.” — Hippie Cahier.

What Abraham Lincoln did not tell us about happiness

Four score and a lot of years ago, give or take, the 16th President of the United States was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. (To be historically accurate, he wasn’t president when he was born. That happened later.)

Here in the U.S., we’re about to kick off a three-day weekend honoring Abe and other notable presidents with hearts full of chocolates and red roses and mattress sales.  I didn’t get around to baking him a cake or buying him a lousy card or writing something new. I had a fun idea, but I was at work, where they don’t pay me to have fun ideas. Something has to replace my downer from yesterday, so here is a  re-run about  a quote on happiness  frequently misattributed to Lincoln.

(The quote is frequently misattributed to Lincoln. Happiness, not so much.)

Misattributed quotes on the Internet is one of my pet peeves, along with subject-verb ambiguity, so you might imagine how painful this sentence was for me to write. Anyway. I once saw some deep thought about airplanes attributed to Epictetus. Ridiculous.

But it’s not Epictetus’s birthday, despite what Mark Twain might have said that one time. It’s Lincoln’s birthday. To the Archives we go.  .  .

********************************

Several weeks ago I set out to write  about my Saturday at the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”). The theme was to be,  “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,” a quote  I’d heard attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

I wasn’t sure, though.  It could have been Winston Churchill or Mark Twain or Maya Angelou.  Maybe Confucius or Buddha or Gandhi or Dale Carnegie. All good sources of inspirational quotes. I couldn’t in good conscience cite Lincoln as the speaker, since I didn’t actually hear him myself, so I did what responsible bloggers do: I asked Google.   I spent the rest of my Saturday sifting through link after link after link citing Lincoln as the speaker without finding one that I considered authoritative.

In fact, the more that I saw that Lincoln had said it, the less I believed that Lincoln had said it. I became obsessed with proving he didn’t.

I’ll take a break here and tell you a little about that Saturday. Anyone so inclined is welcome to wander out of the room to see if you can find the source of the quote.  I’ll give you a hint: it was probably not the 16th President of the United States. When you’re ready, meet us back here on the other side of the italics where I’ll explain how I came to that conclusion.

"I'm an excellent driver." -- Abe Lincoln

“I’m an excellent driver.” — Abe Lincoln

Meantime, queue up the harp music and fade to italics while I reminisce about that fine day. . . . .

Harp music / fade to italics

In this day and age, when one can do almost anything electronically, why would anyone need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, much less on a Saturday?  I’ll confess right up front:  it was my own fault.

It was time for my driver’s license renewal and they sent me a helpful mail-in form months ago.  It seemed straightforward and convenient but I made the mistake of sticking it in my work bag and — you guessed it — I ended up carrying it around for a couple of months until just before my birthday, also expiration day, when I remembered that I needed to mail in the form.  That’s when I noticed that there was a BACK of the form, requiring an eye doctor’s certification. 

At this point I had a choice: 

A. spending Saturday in line at the LensCrafters, hoping someone would fill out my form without charging me for another appointment or

B. taking a chance on the eye exam at the DMV. 

I went with B and here’s why:

  • LensCrafters is at the mall.
  • The mall is the place where parents dump their teenagers on Saturday.
  • I still suffer flashbacks due to post-teacher stress syndrome.  
  • Teenagers at the DMV are usually on their best behavior, hoping that the driving test administrator will go easy on them.

 I knew that spending Saturday at the DMV would be about as much fun as, oh, spending Saturday at the DMV. I had no one to blame but myself, so I prepared for the experience.  I’ve been wanting to block out some time for reading, so I packed a book.I knew there would be a line of fellow procrastinators, so I did my part to speed things along by filling out the form and having all my documentation ready. 

Sure enough, there were about 50 people ahead of me in the triage line, where they ask what you’re in for and give you the appropriate alpha-numerical wait slip according to your vehicular and /or licensing needs. Then you go sit with the other hundred or more people in the next round.  My only wish was not to get B-17.  I worried that they might not call B-17, at Olivia Newton John’s request.

This is just about the only up side to living so much inside my own head: I can entertain myself in just about any situation, especially public places. People are fascinating and / or amusing.

So there I was, laughing (on the inside) at my own B-17 joke, running my own Muzak through my head (“Please Mister, please. . .”), when THEY arrived. 

I  didn’t see them coming, but I heard them once they arrived. Before they even came to a dead stop behind me, their fearless leader Andrew Dice Clay started the swear-fest, complaining about how effing  long the effing line always is  at the gosh-darned effing DMV and how effing incompetent the effing employees were and how much effing time this was going to take out of his effing day.  The others joined in, wholeheartedly agreeing with ADC about what a ridiculous effing situation they were in.  They’d been there all of  thirty seconds.

Gratuitously inserted image to lure in those who skipped the italics.

Shocked and appalled, Olivia Newton John clammed up and ran for cover, clearing my mind to ponder the following question:  Who comes to the DMV in a group?

I can understand that perhaps one of them was there for an effing driver’s test and s/he needed another em-effing licensed driver along, but this seemed to be a family outing. Why?

I didn’t have time to form a hypothesis because the triage line moved rather quickly.  Before I knew it, the Head Triage Person pleasantly inquired as to my reason for being there. I copped to general incompetence further exacerbated by the onset of age-related feeble-mindedness.  She kindly handed me my ticket ( F-43, whew!)   and invited me to have a seat while I waited.  Off I went  in search of a quiet bench to get in a little recreational reading. 

I was a page or two into my book when I realized that the man two rows behind me had not stopped talking. When I realize something like that, I find it extremely hard to unrealize. 

On and on he went, the topic of choice of course being how horrible the DMV is. How every time he has to come here they mess something up. Story after story of the time when he came without this document or that document and they stubbornly refused to help him. How rude they were when he insisted they use their stupid common sense and give him a break.  He reminisced about the time he saw them skip right over someone’s number and call the next one (That one I believe. I just knew B-17 was bad luck). 

And then, then he said, I swear to you I am not making this up. It may be paraphrased, but it’s what he said. He said. . .

 “It’s one of my favorite things to do. Just come sit here and watch how these idiots mess things up.” 

 And I believe him.

Thankfully, my reprieve from the Frequent Flyer’s tirade came when F-43 was called and off I went to visit with another pleasant woman who allowed me to take the vision test without my glasses (I passed, which should frighten us all) and allowed me to keep the weight I listed ten years ago, although we both clearly knew it was slightly inaccurate.  She even took a halfway decent picture of me. No one takes a half-decent picture of me.  I am completely unphotogenic.

I was at the DMV for about an hour and a half that day. Considering all the people they had to take care of, I left pretty darned impressed, with a driver’s license I’d feel comfortable presenting to any officer of the law. The only disappointment was that I didn’t have time to sink into my book.

On the way home, I reviewed the experience and decided that most people are indeed just about as happy as they make up their minds to be. 

If you go to the DMV expecting it to be a miserable experience, you can make it one. . . for yourself and everyone around you. Or you can block out the profanity and whiners and get in a little reading. 

Whatever makes you as happy as you make up your mind to be.

The other side of the italics

That’s where my story would have ended, except for the nagging feeling that I hadn’t confirmed that Lincoln is the one who offered that insight about happiness.  Eventually, I started getting hungry and needed to move on with my life, so I decided to let someone else wrestle with this for a while.

I sent a question to the fine folks at the Internet Public Library   .

Although I still haven’t  learned where the quote originated, the diligent librarian checked with about as reliable a source as one could find (except for Abe, who was unavailable for comment).  Here is the answer she received and passed along to me:

Thank you for writing to us; your query has reached my desk.This is one of the 5 or so Hallmark-style inventions, or perhaps it is from Jonathan Livingston Seagull or some other late 20th century advice book, that is regularly hung on Lincoln’s neck. There is no record that he said it, and certainly no chance that he wrote it.

In general, we recommend to people that they never believe the stuff they find on the Internet in the way of ‘famous quotations’ by anyone.

James M. Cornelius, Ph.D.
Curator, Lincoln Collection
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

Thank you, IPL.

Thank you, Dr. Cornelius.

Thank you, nice folks at the DMV.

And a very special  thank you, Olivia Newton John.

There might be unicorns among us.

The other day I read a bold and intriguing theory, pithily encapsulated in 140 characters or fewer. Regretfully, I can’t give credit where credit is due, because I don’t know the identity of its source.

There I was, minding my own business—which is usually the way when something life-altering happens, isn’t it?  You very rarely hear, “There I was, minding my neighbor’s business . . .”—when something along these lines scrolled across my screen:

“I don’t know, guys. I just saw a BMW with its turn signal on. Maybe unicorns do exist!” 

I’m paraphrasing there. If you counted the characters and came up with more than 140, this might be a good time to remind you that the best things happen when you’re minding your own business.

My first thought in response to this turn signal-based evidence of magical creatures among us, a thought that I had the sense not to express out loud, was to wonder if unicorns are known for their polite and courteous driving. It was a thought that would come back to me, sometime during rush hour this morning.

"I'm an excellent driver." (Photo of My Little Pony Glory,  by PoniesofDooom on etsy. Glory has been sold.)

“I’m an excellent driver.” (Photo of My Little Pony Glory, by PoniesofDooom on etsy. Glory has been sold.)

The timeline is fuzzy because I wasn’t paying attention, which is also usually the case when something life-altering happens to me. Perhaps it was in the hours before that notion scrolled across my screen, perhaps in the hours after. There I was—minding my own business again—when what was probably a rhetorical question crossed my screen:

“What is up with this whole Brony thing?”

This time I could not restrain my cluelessness, which I shared aloud. I was invited to Google the term, whereupon I was reminded that there are a lot of people on the Internet with entirely too much time on their hands. Twenty minutes or more into my “research,” I realized I was becoming one of those people.

I went back to minding my own business. And then it happened. Or maybe it happened before then. The timeline is still fuzzy, and magical stuff is going down. Who’s to say these events aren’t shifting in the time-space continuum even as I type this?

Anyway, there I was, looking for Latino-blend corn and beans on what I thought was a routine trip to the grocery store.  I turned my shopping cart into the frozen foods aisle and there she was, running through the pole beans, a vision of wonder, coming from the opposite end, adorned in her lavender coat, with her lavender and purple-streaked hair, followed by a little girl about six years old carrying a giant, stuffed, orange My Little Pony.

Bronies? Unicorns in disguise?  What is going on here? What. Is. Going. On?!?!?!

I wish I could tell you what’s going on, but the truth of it is, some things are better left a mystery. I decided it was probably best to go back to minding my own business, which eventually meant pretending not to read the headlines on the tabloids in the check-out line, and pretending not to wonder if Jennifer Aniston’s twins might turn out to be unicorns.

This part of the timeline is clear because it happened most recently, which is usually the case with timelines: I managed to put all this behind me until this morning’s commute.

There  I was—minding my own business—driving along at 66 miles per hour,  when I came upon a BMW in the left lane, driving at the posted speed limit. And then, as if being stirred to action by a sprinkling of magical fairy dust, the turn signal went on and the driver moved to the slower lane to let those of us in the left lane pass.

I wanted to look. I wanted the driver to be lavender-haired lady, this time no disguise. Just cruising along in all her horned, purple-maned unicorn glory.

But I didn’t. I went back to minding my own business. Because some things are better left a mystery.

Just between you and me, though, all signs point to unicorns among us. Grocery-shopping, BMW-driving, purple-haired unicorns.

On heat indexes, windchill factors, and Starbucks: the relativity of weather

Hippie Cahier:

Originally posted during a heat wave in 2012. Change hot to cold, lather and rinse. This is a repeat. Stay warm, Chicago (and everywhere else).

Originally posted on Hippie Cahier:

You may have heard a little about this. Many of you are experiencing it along with me: it’s hot.

In fact, yes indeed, it’s hot enough for me. Thank you very much for yourthoughtful inquiry.

Not only is it hot, we here in the mid-Atlantic experienced an out-of-the blue storm a little over a week ago that brought little rain but more wind than . . . something.

Curiously, the weather folks have not compared those winds to anything. Maybe it’s because this was an anonymous storm, not a celebrity storm, the kind that will get a name this year.

Maybe if this storm had a name, the weather folks would have had time to pull their hair into ponytails, fashionably looped through the back of a baseball cap, and headed out to reportfrom the street corner or the front of the panicked Home Depot while the interns back at…

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