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AAADD or a runaway train?

Food For Thought

Being one of those people they refer to when they say someone can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, I used to think that implied a lack of physical coordination, but I’m more inclined to believe it’s a matter of having a one-track mind. There may be people who can drive a car and talk on a cellphone simultaneously, but I know myself well enough to know I’m not one of them. I can’t even read the newspaper and drink coffee at the same time. Sip. Read. Sip. Read. Throw in a doughnut and watch me short-circuit.
A friend sent me a humorous article she got off the Internet about an “ailment” called Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder, or AAADD. Although it was tongue-in-cheek, it dealt with the very real problem lots of us seniors have when it comes to remembering, or forgetting, things. I suppose it can happen to almost anybody at any age, but the closer we get to 100, the more apt it is to be a problem.
Having long suffered from the inconveniences of a one-track mind, where I have trouble letting go of a train of thought and switching to something else, I wonder if I might be suffering from a reverse version of this problem. It was brought to my attention recently by a call from my insurance agent who wanted to review my policies and see if I have any new issues that might require some changes. At the time, my mind was deep in a project I was working on and I couldn’t focus on this other subject that suddenly intruded into my brain. At such times, it’s exceedingly difficult to let go of what I’m doing and concentrate on even the simplest new topic. I’m not kidding when I say, if she asked me what year it is, I’d have to stop and search my memory for the right answer.
I don’t know how many checks I’ve ruined during my lifetime because somebody talked to me while I was writing a check. This happens frequently at the grocery store. Once the check-out person has finished recording all my groceries and is waiting for me to write a check, it is not unusual for them to ask if I’m enjoying the nice weather, or make some other friendly remark. I’m very likely to write the words I’m hearing– and nothing to do with dollars and cents.
Yes, there are times when I can’t find my car keys. It’s not so much I can’t remember where I put them as I can’t stop thinking about where I’m going or what I’ll be doing there. That is certainly more important than where I put the keys the last time I used the car. The keys are only important in that I need them in order to get there, but they’re hardly the main issue.
Then there’s what I think of as The Runaway Train. It’s a train of thoughts made up of a series of things that each lead to something else. This sequence always leads me far astray from my original intent and sometimes I never manage to find my way back to the beginning.
Here’s an example:
I go to the kitchen to start supper. I’m thirsty, so I stop to mix up a glass of instant iced tea. I spill tea crystals on the clean kitchen counter and stop to wipe it up before I put that little paper freshness seal in the wastebasket and notice the wastebasket is full and I tie up the bag and put in a new one. My sponge is greasy from having wiped up the stove-top earlier, so I go to the drawer to get a new sponge. There seems to have been a mouse in the drawer since I opened it the last time and I pull out all the towels and clean the drawer. While I have my arms full of towels, I decide to wash them right now and discover someone left a load of clothes in the washer– and another in the dryer. I remove the clothes from the dryer and find I need more hangers. So, I go to the bedroom closet for hangers. The telephone rings and someone wants to know a mutual friend’s cell phone number. I put down the phone and go to look up the number on my computer. I pick up the extension in my study and give him the number. Then go back to the kitchen. I stand in the kitchen, scratching my head and wondering what I’m going to fix for supper. I sip the tea while wiping up the counter. There’s a bag of trash sitting in the middle of the room, the towels are still waiting to go in the washer – which is full of wet clothes, the dryer is full of wrinkled clothes and I still don’t have any hangers. I do have the luxury of fixing supper without interruption though, because down the hall in the bedroom, the telephone is still off the hook– no telemarketers can get at me!