The Unexpected Joy Emanating From Detective-watching

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by Rick Jobus |

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“Cellophane shrink-wrapped, so correct

Red dogs under illegal legs …

She is watching the detectives

‘Ooh, it’s so cute.'”

Elvis Costello’s homage to film noir crime drama, “Watching the Detectives,” inadvertently became a musical tipping point as 2021 bled into 2022. On Dec. 30, my pastor — and dear friend — dropped by for one of our regular get-togethers. This time, anticipating that a nip or two may be appropriate, we eschewed the daylight hours for the more adult beverage-friendly dusk.

During our “nerd fraternity” visits we meander over a brew of stream-of-consciousness topics, including current events, family matters, and foundational memories. Of course, God’s role is always liberally interwoven. Any occasional profundity is balanced by our detours to the inane. Always refreshingly diversionary, our meetings serve as tonic to, and pressure relief from, life.

Sometime during our first finger of whiskey that evening, Pastor K said he wanted another crack at stumping me with a song that I couldn’t work into a column. On the drive over he heard the Costello tune, and thought he’d best me with that. Inwardly I chuckled. Elvis is one of my favorites. I have committed many of his compositions to memory. Pastor’s challenge choice happens to be one of my fondest. Immediately the two lines I opened with came to mind.

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Ironically, ALS demands flexibility and creativity in response to its paralytic advances. Currently I’m prohibited from getting my leg wounds wet between dressing changes. Thus my interim, “correct,” daily routine involves a watertight “cellophane wrapping” of my bandaged legs prior to showering. The constriction of the dressings exacerbates the preexisting risk of edema, casting my “dogs” — colloquial for feet — in a reddish hue. My inert legs should be “illegal.” Game, set, match, Pastor K.

Wait. There’s more. Costello goes on to sing, “You think you’re alone until you realize you’re in it.” Of late, owing to my verbal limitations, our summits have taken on an emphatic monologue-like quality. Pastor is “alone” on stage. I am an isolated audience of one.

That would have again been the case on the 30th had it not been for the receipt of my new eye gaze-controlled speech generation device the day prior. I was able to secure a setup and rudimentary training appointment hours before Pastor’s arrival. While still a fumbling novice with the Tobii Dynavox technology, I was able to participate while Pastor was here. We both realized we were “in it” — that is, a bilateral conversation.

Although still experimenting with gaze capture dwell time, voice volume, and the audible cues confirming image selection, a delayed interaction — which a few times approached spontaneity — was made possible. I shared thoughts. I answered questions. I made him laugh. It was joyous!

Beyond the delight of fellowship, the evening served as a timely reminder of my three New Year’s resolutions. The mental dissection of Costello’s song brought both my pledge to vigilantly wage war against pressure sores, and my aspiration to master the lively art of augmented communication, into sharp focus. Oddly enough, my second sampling of whiskey, from a bottle of Angel’s Envy, was a mnemonic for my third pledge to double down on God.

Proving that life is constantly appending itself, an epilogue circumstance manifested itself last night. Yesterday was session two of Tobii training. My gracious instructor intrepidly guided me, hither and yon, inside the world of eye-commanded internet exploration. She also enabled many common applications, and a few specific to my needs and usage.

The desktop portal is accessed, literally with the blink of an eye, from the power-up screen. Once in, eye gaze and scanning control of the cursor is availed. Mouse actions — such as single- or double-clicking, scrolling, and copying and pasting — may thereby be directed via adjustable vision fixation. When necessary, a keyboard can be superimposed and accessed from a page set.

It will take some time to acclimate myself to this newfangled manner of internet navigation. Practice will be paramount. Thankfully, a few of the apps are entertainment-oriented, so the time spent needn’t be tedious.

With that in mind, after my tutoring concluded, I decided to attempt to stream something from HBO. I figured the network’s plethora of programming options would afford ample opportunity for mouse manipulation. Plus, I could check out the audio and video quality of the unit.

After perusing HBO’s extensive library, I deemed my maiden set of scrolling and clicking reps sufficient. From my newfound expanded content awareness, I chose a series in honor of Pastor K. I began watching “True Detectives.” Season 1 stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. I have to admit that with those two heading the cast, “It’s so cute.”


Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


Debra Kaufman avatar

Debra Kaufman

Hi Rick: I love reading your columns. They are entertaining and very real at the same time. I'm glad you're embracing the gaze-controlled speech and wish you well with acing it. Enjoy True Detectives - it's a fun ride. All the best.


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