Originally Published: Dec. 14, 2001
He walked right in front of the car. His arms were raised and he strode into the crosswalk, turning his body to stop traffic in both directions of the busy intersection. I had the impression he was commanding us all to wake up. His white beard was trim, his turban neat over his sienna face, the loose clothing looking inadequate against the cold. His deep-set eyes never wavered as he kept his hands raised to all of us, the drivers behind the wheels.
Granted I was fragile and distracted that morning. I’d just learned that George Harrison had died the previous night. Our bombs were falling in a country of which I had only the most cartoonish, 17 square-inch mental picture – turbans and robes, rocks and caves, US issued weaponry, muffled snatches of a guttural language that falls harsh and fearsome on western ears. I had Abby Road turned up loud in the empty car, and had been fighting tears, unsuccessfully, since Here Comes the Sun. So it was through a watery blur, I’d first seen this man with his raised arms and his turban.
Four lanes came to a halt in front of him, nothing stopping us but his very presence, his body between our thousands of pounds of steel and fiberglass and an empty stretch of pavement. Waiting on the curb, looking to the man in the crosswalk for a sign was a lone, redheaded schoolboy clutching the handle of a rolling backpack.
Only when all the cars were fully stopped, and others coming up or down the hill behind and in front of us had slowed to a crawl, did the man signal the boy with a gentle motion of his gnarled hand. Then his bright eyes returned to us, blocking our bumpers with his small, erect body until the boy was half way across. The man then turned his attention on the row of oncoming cars waiting across the broad intersection. He strode to face them, standing now between them and the boy wheeling his backpack. I knew at that moment all of us were watching this man who, with his life, was protecting a young American child who could have belonged to any one of us.
Only when the redheaded boy had stepped onto the curb and hauled his backpack up behind him, did the old man walk back across the street. He signaled with a wave of his arm, first to the oncoming traffic, and then to us – continue on your way and go back to sleep! I watched the old man reach the far curb, and saw him wait patiently for his next charge to arrive. The traffic moved off, sweeping my car along with it, crisscrossing the intersection, drivers pushing their feet to the floor once again.
It was a slow day at the Apple Store at Tyson’s Corner mall. Even though Christmas was right around the corner, it was a Wednesday morning, and the serious customers hadn’t started arriving yet. The big geeky guy behind the counter seemed delighted to have something to do. I’m convinced guys like that will do anything to talk shop. For them, landing a job at the Apple Store must seem like manna from heaven, the paycheck just a nice perk for what they’d be doing anyway – talking about, messing with, and tirelessly fondling Macs.
I’d gone into the vast savanna-like store with a question – a couple of questions, actually, and the Mac guy had ushered me over to a spiffy little iMac to show me a thing or two. I had the impression he didn’t often get to show women a thing, let alone two. He was tall and spectacled and pudgy, bright, and had definitely found his niche at the Apple Store, a true Mecca for such man-boys. His fingers flew nimbly over the keyboard while the rapidly changing screen reflected brilliantly in his black-framed glasses.
“See? All you need to do is (click click) log on and it’ll find your play list for you. Just go (click click) to Preferences, then download before you put it in your library (click). C’mon, c’mon!” he whined impatiently to the computer as it delayed two nanoseconds before complying. He made a big show of pretending to whack it on its side, knowing full well, as I knew that Macs have the fastest processors around. I chuckled dutifully. I was betting not too many women chuckled at his special brand of Macgeek humor. I sure as hell didn’t understand much of what he said, but he had a rumpled charm about him, an almost adorable fanaticism, like all Mac enthusiasts. I enjoyed watching him speed through the menus and commands, hip-checking error messages along the way, and arriving, fully composed – if a little breathless - at his destination. Which would be, of course, the resolution of my query. If he’d had a cigarette, he would have smoked it.
Suddenly, from a floor below, down the mall, as if on cue, came a huge swell of applause and cheering. The Mac guy straightened up, and, punching the return key deftly, said rather cockily, “Sounds like Santa’s just arrived.” He then turned to me, smiling with a surprising suaveness, and handed me his card.
I am about to wire my kids in an attempt to get them to stay dry at night. It sounds pretty easy, really. You see, you just attach the little electrodes to their underwear, right in front of where the penis is (StarChild/Labs, inventors of the SleepDry Program, promise your child won’t be electrocuted, although I notice they do warn against too much in the way of liquids at bedtime). StarChild also strongly recommends that your child wear 2 pairs of underwear so the electrode (they have the sensitivity to call it a “sensor”) won’t rest on sensitive skin and cause a rash. They point out that; “…some children are VERY sensitive to metal against the skin.” Manacles, nipple clips, shackles and such, I assume they mean.
Anyway, you have to snap the elec-, uh, sensor onto the outer underpants, then thread the wire under the pjs and up to the shoulder. There, you snap on “Starry”, their cute little stay-dry winking star mascot. Starry is actually a horrid little alarm that narcs on your child with a loud, mind-searing buzzing the moment it senses wetness. The multi-decibel buzzing does not stop until the parent either unsnaps the elec- uh, sensor from in front of the now moistened penis area, or throws the child out the window.
I foresee a few problems with this program.
In the first place, I just spent $110 to wire my two 7 year-olds to battery packs. After perusing the instructions, I feel I might have acted rashly and that this program might be somewhat extreme. You’d really have to hear the buzzing of little “Starry” to understand just how brain-cleaving it is. Now, I understand that the point here is to wake the child, to get them to recognize their body’s own signals when their bladder is full, to gain control and attend to their needs in the appropriate place, in this case, in the bathroom, hopefully in the toilet.
Quite frankly, if little Starry went off in my ear in the dead of night, I would be much more likely, in that moment, to lose control over my bladder.
Could it be that I will forever damage my children’s fairly healthy relationship with their bladders? Might it not come to pass that, years from now, sitting with tightly cross-legs and red-eyes in front of their analysts, they will be jumpy, jittery nervous wrecks, afraid to go to sleep lest the Big Bad Buzzer return to haunt their dreams?
Here’s another worry - the instructions clearly state that, for the first few weeks, a parent must get up with the child when the buzzer goes off.
“Let the alarm keep sounding until the child looks fully awake. This may take up to 5 to 10 minutes! – Hang-in-there! Turn on the lights, and nudge the child’s shoulder if necessary. Repeat in a calm voice “Wake up, you wet the bed.””
Uh, right. They also recommend keeping a bowl of ice water near the bed, so you can dab the child’s face with a damp cloth. They urge you walk the child around the room until they look fully awake. Then comes the most frightening part of the manual:
“We now come to the issue that sometimes makes or breaks the success of a bedwetting program – child grumpiness! It is normal for a child awakened suddenly in the night to complain some! It is the parents that will just kindly persist at this point that really get the results. Be creative, you know what your child responds to best. Assure them you will be right up to help them when the alarm rings, and help them to the bathroom.”
OK. Here’s how I imagine things could work out in the real world:
I am asleep. Deeply. My dream is very good indeed. I am warm. A bomb goes off in my head. No, it isn’t a bomb. It’s Starry. Again. Little Starry. Stupid little Starry. Againagainagain. StarryStarryStarryarryarryarryzzzzzzzzzzz. God! Stop the buzzing! Stop it!! Must stop! Must stomp!! StompCrush! StompCrushStarry!!! (Sound of bare feet stumbling down the stairs, of wet sheets being flung back, of a child crying in fright, of plastic being smashed and pounded into a hardwood floor, of a buzz weakening, fading, and finally, stopping. Ringing silence. The boy stops crying as his mother flings him a clean pull-up. Her bare feet ascend, and there is only the muffled sound of a still-warm comforter being replaced.
My plan is to begin the experi- uh, treatment, on the first day of winter break. Within a few weeks, we should be trained, in jail, or institutionalized. Progress reports to follow as applicable.
Meanwhile, best not to sneak up behind any of us – we might be a little on edge.