In the Dark… by Steve Safran

For the past two weeks, I have been living in a Hell that feels especially designed for me. The staff at Dante’s Fitting Punishments were inspired when they green-lit this one for Stevie: I can’t look at a screen without getting sick. Yes, your faithful computer-addicted correspondent, status updater, and occasional blogger is writing this on a 1936 Royal Portable typewriter, fitted with an ancient ribbon that makes this draft a bit of a challenge to read, and more than a pain in the ass for Britt to transcribe.

A fortnight without screens has been—forgive me, for “fortnight” and this pun—an eye-opener. Make no mistake, this isn’t one of those Author Unplugs and Discovers Life essays. No, I’m way behind on a lot of important work. Among other pressing tasks like taxes, kid graduation, and wedding planning, there is a softball team to organize. Not that there’s any danger we’ll ever play, with incessant nor-easters making fools of our Opening Day.

I have, however, rediscovered books—the bound and print kind!

Side note, on the 1936 Royal Portable, typing that exclamation point required period, backspace, apostrophe. With an economy of keys, a capital “I” subs in for a number one. And though this trusty, 30lb “word processor” inside of its carrying case was the war correspondent laptop of its day, it would easily topple a tippy Starbucks table. If I want to write, I’m stuck right here at home.

Luckily, I can tolerate sound and I’m searching through the free audio plays at archive.com, though I need to have my faithful fiancée or son Simon queue up “Henry V” for me. Any more than a quick glance at a screen makes me dizzy and initiates instant, blinding headaches. I can only use them briefly, in the dark, with the “Night Shift” setting that takes out the blue light.

Part of the reason I’m sharing (typing) this is to query others about similar experiences. This is scary. I’m worried. The doctors I’ve consulted have ruled out the terrifying possibilities I might find on WebMD if I could look at a damn screen, but they have no diagnosis yet. Until they do, I feel like an outcast, alone in the dark, bumbling through a non-screen life in an all-screen world. And as much as I love my loyal 1936 Royal Portable, I really miss my Mac.

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My “laptop,” the I936 Royal Portable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facebook, the healer… by Steve Safran

Shhh… Steve has a headache. He doesn’t need chicken soup. But a pithy status update complaint has us rushing to his virtual, darkened room.

Here’s what it’s like to be sick in 2013: you hear from dozens of friends who wish you well, hope you get better, pray for you (well, if that’s your thing), and send you advice. All thanks to Facebook.

Here’s what it was like to be sick in 2003: A few get-well cards, emails and phone calls you didn’t want to answer.

For all the crap Facebook takes, it’s fantastic when you need it. I had a series of migraines this past week, and turned to my Facebook friends for help. I wasn’t getting the treatment I needed. My friends stepped up. And that’s the really cool part. People don’t just wish you well, they can actually have a conversation with you and others about different ways you can get help and heal.

It’s real-time health advice. Not all of it is my style, but it is sincere and based on experience. And while I’m in with the doc, I can check it to see what questions friends remind me to ask. Thankfully, I have a doctor who knows I’m a social media freak and so he indulges friends who ask such questions as “What about injecting botulism into his face?” After several of these questions he gave up and recommended it to me, just not in the form of Botox.

Of course, my little headaches don’t compare to Britt’s Boobie Disease on the severity scale. But we have this much in common– we use social media to let our friends know we’re OK. And we use it to let them know we’re not OK too, and that we could use a little help. All the days when we post jokes and silly things, aspects of our lives trivial and trite– those are warm-ups. People see you as the real person you are. So that when you need real, serious help, they are there for you as well.

For Migraine Boy, the only drawback is the computer light. Facebook really ought to read to you. And in a soothing voice, too.