Chapter One: Personal Wearable Device

There was no need to make a fuss about it.  The police were very understanding once the situation was explained. Throughout the whole trying incident I behaved wisely and responsibly.  I hope you’ll mention that to my children if you happen to be talking to them. I hate to let the kids find out about these inevitable little kerfuffles. Next thing you know, they’ll be saying, “Hmmm, looks like Mom has trouble traveling these days.” It’s not true. I didn’t have any trouble at all.

Everything went well during a wonderful visit with the Minnesota branch of the family. When it was over, I said a tearful goodbye to the grandchildren, as grandmas will do.  They took the parting in stride. “It’s all right,” said the younger boy, with a coolness developed over long hours spent playing LEGO Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. video games. “I’ll just see you at another time”

The trouble began at the airport as I waited for my return flight. It was all because of my Personal Wearable Device.  This does not refer to my bra. I’ve mentioned the Personal Wearable Device before. You wear it somewhere on your body and It calls for help if you fall or feel dizzy or need other assistance. The Centers for Disease Control says that over 36 million of these devices will be in use by 2017. That’s because more than one in three adults 65 and older will fall this year. Two-thirds will fall again within six months, says geriatrician and associate professor Bruce Kinosian, of the University of Pennsylvania. So far, I’ve made that list several times and frankly, I’m getting tired of it. So it has seems wise to have a PWD that I can depend on to call for help if the worst should happen. I must admit the memory of the thirteen staples I carried around in my head a couple of years ago after a fall at my son’s home ago prompted my decision.

I’ve now spent two years with this gadget, which I obtained from my cellular phone dealer. On the plus side, it is very versatile. It uses a GPS system to go anywhere I go, and response is immediate.

The challenging part has been that the emergency button is so easy to depress that even a passing breeze seems to do it. I’ve gotten used to being called with a loud “Are you all right?” at funerals and theater performances and other surprising places where the flush doesn’t quite cover the voice. It’s sort of like having an over-anxious aunt constantly checking on me.

One of my PWD’s ’s little quirks is that the battery runs down pretty fast, so going out of town requires a travel charger.  I remembered to take mine, but I couldn’t get it to work. This was because I didn’t have the essential clip that is supposed to be on the PWD before it’s inserted into the charging unit.  Of course not. I lost that clip the first week I had the thing. So I couldn’t recharge the battery. Once the battery runs out, the unit will bravely, with its last breath, report itself to the care center and start calling around trying to find me.  So there I was at the Humphrey terminal of the Minneapolis Airport when the call came. “Dorothy, are you all right?” Before I could speak, the PWD died. Right in my hand. While I was staring at it in anxious disbelief, I begin to hear messages from the public address systems all over the airport repeating over and over, “Dorothy Wilhelm, are you all right?”

Telling my oldest son about the adventure, he said, “I would have just looked disinterested and pretended I didn’t know who that person was.” I didn’t do that.

I finally found a courtesy phone and was connected with the airport police. “We had a call from your monitoring service. They said you need help. Where can we come get you?” the officer asked. He seemed quite disappointed when I said no help was needed. “We could send an ambulance, or at least a wheelchair,” he offered hopefully.

In times like this, personal cool is required and I’ve learned from experts.

I didn’t even try to explain.  “It’s all right,” I said. “I’ll just see you at another time,”


This column was first printed on July 2, 2015

Dorothy Wilhelm is a speaker and humorist and is the author of  True Tales of Puget Sound., Reach her at PO Box 881, DuPont, WA 98327, email,  phone 800-548-9264

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