Otus the Head Cat
Walk, talk and chew a challenge to many.
I witnessed a student walking across campus last week chewing gum and texting on his cellphone. He smacked right into a light pole. It would have been funny except EMS had to be called to cart him off to the emergency room with nonlifethreatening injuries.
This was never a problem when I was a kid (I’m 57). Is there anything being done about this growing concern? — Walter Diemer,
It was wholly a pleasure to hear from you and to join you in lamenting this ancillary bane of the digital age that has been on the increase since baseball card bubble gum faded from the national scene as the companies shifted to smartphone apps and children lost the ability to master the skill.
Recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on “distracted walking” indicate an astonishing 12 percent to 15 percent of Americans over the age of 15 are “inutile dysfunctional” when it comes to walking, talking (or texting) and chewing gum at the same time.
These poor wretches, known in medical circles as victims of DAMS (dysfunctional ambulatory mastication syndrome), usually suffer in silence (or walk into poles), shamed by an insensitive public into hiding their condition.
June 24 was the third annual Walk for DAMS Parade. Initial indications are that the turnout was poor. Organizers were disappointed, but not discouraged.
“It was another small step, a beginning,” said Arlo Reinhardt of Eureka Springs, Arkansas chairman of Adopt-ADAMS Day. “If we were able to save even one person from a life of shame and degradation, then we succeeded.”
It’s the victims’ embarrassment and silence that serve to compound the magnitude of the situation. The pitiful sight of thousands of sufferers lurching down our city streets and country roads is enough to tug at the heartstrings of even the most callous observer.
Sometimes the ataxia is attributed to other causes. It often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed by even the most well-meaning physicians, who look to some sort of vestibular disease as the cause that results in dysmetria or hypermetria. Those who live their lives under the shadow of DAMS will never know the simple pleasures of walking, talking and chewing gum at the same time. They can — and do — walk quite well. Many spend hours each day in the pastime.
And they can chat or text and chew gum while remaining stationary. However, once they attempt all three while mobile, they stumble, crash into objects, trip over their own feet and, yes, some have been known to actually fall down.
Heretofore, a solution has eluded researchers. Millions in federal grants have been spent in a forlorn hope to enable the afflicted to live normal lives. Millions more have been raised in the annual DAMS telethons hosted nationally by Marie Osmond.
But now, through physical therapy and hard work, DAMS victims can shed their mantle of shame and move into the light of a new day. It turns out the key is mastering the bubble gum, which normally taxes the cerebellum portion of the brain, which controls balance, movement and coordination.
Add a smartphone and you can have a serious case of cerebellar hypoplasia. Walking into light poles would be the least of your worries.
For those who want to see the 12-step guidelines for walking and chewing at the same time and try the solution in the privacy of their own homes, go to the website at cdc.gov and click on the little smiley bubble gum emoji.
I would recommend that you start out with plain stick chewing gum. Spearmint would probably be best. Do not attempt the more advanced bubble gum until you have mastered stick gum.
Whether you succeed or not, the most important thing to remember is that there should be no shame in your condition. This is America. There is room for all types of people here. Americans are noted for their tolerance and understanding of anyone who is “different.”
As for those who would belittle you, joke about your affliction, hold you up to public ridicule or park in your DAMS-afflicted parking spaces, these mental eunuchs are not worth the trouble to answer.
Until next time, when I’ll give a complete guide to telling assorted body parts from holes in the ground, Kalaka reminds you to never text, chew and drive at the same time.
This poor man is so distracted by walking, talking and chewing gum that he has not even noticed he didn’t completely put on his jacket. There is help available.