In the Palm of My Hand

Hello, my name is Chris Bohjalian, and I am a Palm-a-holic.
It’s true. I am addicted to PDAs — not public displays of affection, though much to my daughter’s horror I have locked lips with my wife at the shopping mall. No, I am addicted to my personal digital assistant. My Palm Treo.
A Palm is similar to a Blackberry. If I used a Blackberry, it would be my — to use the popular expression — crackberry. That is an indication of both how addictive these handheld devices are and how common is my dependence.
For those of you who do not use a Palm or a Blackberry (Hi, Dad!), a PDA is a cell phone, Web browser, means to receive your e-mail, camera, camcorder, alarm clock, calendar, calculator, MP3 player, and large animal veterinarian. OK, I am kidding about that last thing. A PDA is not going to help you impregnate a mare. But you get my point. A PDA is an extremely resourceful little device.
Like all addicts, I told myself for months that I was not addicted to mine. I didn’t need to have it with me whenever I was away from home, I didn’t need to feel its reassuring weight on the side of my belt. (Yes, I am one of those fashion-challenged geeks who hooks a PDA to his belt.)
The other morning, however, I forgot it when I was leaving for Burlington for meetings. I remembered it as I was pulling out of my driveway, but decided I would not stop and run inside the house and get it. I was only going to be gone for six hours. Surely I could survive a half-day without e-mail and incoming cell calls.
Wrong. Far be it from me to exaggerate in this column, but it wasn’t pretty. Sure, the tremors were manageable and I wasn’t vomiting. My pupils weren’t dilated and the muscle cramping was bearable. But I was nonetheless filled with anxiety: I was convinced that people — editors, my wife, my daughter — were trying to reach me. I was sure that profoundly important events were occurring in my professional and personal life, and because I was oblivious to the digital dialogue, I was out of the decision-making loop. Twice I borrowed people’s cell phones and called mine, just to make sure there wasn’t a message waiting for me. I had to force myself to keep walking at the corner of Main Street and South Winooski because every cell in my body was screaming for me to march into the FedEx Kinko’s store with its computers and Internet access.
I don’t normally have an overwhelming desire to use my PDA when I’m driving, since driving and texting (or talking) is a pretty good recipe for disaster. But the fact that I did not have my PDA with me had me actually ruing the wasted minutes as I drove from Burlington back to Lincoln.
When I got home, the first things I did were to check the phone messages on the PDA and scan my e-mail on my computer. Number of phone messages? Zip. Zero. Nada. Number of important missed e-mails? Again, zilch — unless I wanted to count the sales information and online coupons I received from United Airlines, Staples and Free People. Oh, wait: There was also a reminder that that evening’s episode of “The Office” on NBC was going to be a rerun.
Now, if I were a reasonable person, I would have sat back in my library chair after reading the e-mails and realized that I was a self-important moron. The world had spun just fine without my digital participation, thank you very much. Moreover, I have to believe that if I hadn’t been pining for my Palm while in Burlington, I would have paid much better attention to the flesh and blood people around me.
But I am not a reasonable person. Instead I sat back in my library chair and took a deep breath. “That was a close one,” I thought, “I am never again going to forget my PDA.”
Hence, I am Chris Bohjalian. A Palm-a-holic.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on December 16, 2007.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

2 thoughts on “In the Palm of My Hand

  1. It's Only An Addiction If You Aren't Any Having Fun! says:

    Okay, you admitted you are “powerless”. Good, *first step*, Chris! Now, my excellent advice for you is to just relax into the pleasurable aspects of your addiction. After all, there will be probably be Plenty of time for you to be ruminating, regretting and despairing! It’s also known as being too old and ill to dress or bathe yourself. (Never mind doing the PDA thing – of Either version, come to think of it). Hey, so look on the bright side! It’s my motto and it’s always worked for *me*. (Not really, but oh well;)!

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