By Hannah Reich Berman

The good news is that life offers so many different lessons. The bad news is that some lessons take longer to learn than others. I offer as an example the fact that only recently did I find the solution to a long-standing problem. A few weeks ago, I described a scenario in which I misplaced the remote control that is used to adjust the position of the mattress on my bed. It took several frustrating hours before I found that remote control, but before I did, I had to call the bed’s manufacturer for tech support. It is important to note that, aside from my family and friends, tech-support people are the ones I love most in the world. Come to think of it, I like them even better than some of my family members.

The call I made that day was productive. The woman I spoke with was able to help me. She informed me that her record of my original purchase indicated that I had bought two beds–hence there would have been two remote controls. One had been set up for my bed and the other was for my husband’s bed. Arnie (a.k.a. Hubby) passed away nearly six years ago, so his remote control had not been used since then and I had forgotten that it even existed. Now my techie helper taught me how to reprogram it so that I could use it for my bed.

At the time, I was unable to offer a reasonable explanation for why my remote control, which belongs exclusively in the bedroom, went missing. As with most misplaced items, it eventually turned up. I found it sitting on the mouse pad next to my computer monitor. So I now had two remote controls. What I had not bargained for was that when I used my original one, it moved only my mattress, but when I mistakenly picked up Hubby’s remote control, the one I had newly reprogrammed, it moved both beds simultaneously and scared the life out of me. I thought the earth was moving as I watched Hubby’s mattress rise along with my own. While that was the end of the saga, it was definitely not the end of my problems. Things that go missing seem to happen in pairs. A few days later, I misplaced something else that I also eventually located in a spot where it did not belong. But last week came the pièce de résistance!

I was talking on the phone and, as I was engrossed in the conversation, I continued talking as I left the house and got into my car. Still gabbing, I backed out of the driveway and drove away from the house. Suddenly, the line went dead. The person I was speaking to mysteriously disappeared. “Esther? Esther? Where are you?” I asked. Receiving no answer, I pressed the button marked “end” and then called her back. I dialed her number several times without any luck. The line was totally dead. In frustration, which is my usual state of mind, I tossed the phone on the passenger seat beside me and continued on to my destination. It was only when I arrived at that destination that I discovered the source of my telephone trouble. There, sitting on the seat, were both my cell phone and my cordless house phone. I had been talking on the house phone. Riddle solved! No wonder the connection was lost when I got about a hundred feet from my house.

It cannot be just me. No doubt there are others who frequently have similar things happen to them. But I believe that I have found the solution. And I have given it a name. I call it “hands-free.” Now, whenever I leave a room, and especially when I leave my house, I check my hands. They need to be empty. For some reason, I do not let go of things easily, so whatever I happen to be holding usually goes with me to another room. In this most recent telephone incident, it went with me right out of the house. But now I know better. I check my hands, and if I am leaving the house, I make sure I am holding only my handbag, my cell phone, and my keys.

This might seem like a simple solution. It is not. Old habits die hard (if at all), and retraining is necessary. As yet, I have not come up with the perfect retraining plan, but I am working on it. For the most part it has worked out pretty well, but there have been occasional lapses–times when I don’t let go. And it can be even worse: sometimes my hands-free program backfires.

Yesterday, I went to a closet to get a roll of paper towels to refill the towel-holder in the kitchen. But, following my new regimen, as I was exiting the closet, I looked at my hands and put the roll of paper towels right back on the shelf. Then I reentered the kitchen without the paper towels. It appears that my retraining program still has glitches and needs some updating. That’s the way it is. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.



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