Working Around My Workarounds

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by Dagmar Munn |

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Living with ALS certainly has its challenges, which lead many of us to rely on workarounds. These are creative, temporary solutions that solve an everyday problem; I first wrote about mine in “The ALS Workaround Dilemma.” But the key word here is “temporary,” because workarounds run the risk of failing or breaking down — usually when we least expect it.

And that’s exactly what happened to me!

First, a little review

In “When ALS Becomes a Hard Act to Swallow“, I described my dysphagia; I can chew and swallow normal foods, but I have to add a powdered thickener to all my liquids.

When on car trips or in meetings, I take my premixed drink in a small sports bottle that has a built-in straw. I can blend right in with others who’ve brought along their own bottles of water. But a sports bottle feels out of place at a restaurant. I don’t want to attract attention; I mean, what would people think?

My workaround is to order a cup of coffee and stir in the powder from a repurposed pill bottle that I carry in my purse.

What happened?

On this particular evening, a light rain began to fall as our group pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot. A handy umbrella kept me mostly dry as I rode my scooter in; only my shoes and the scooter’s floorboard got a little wet.

We settled at our table and our drinks arrived. I dug the pill bottle out of my purse, poured some powder into my cup, stirred it, and added my straw.

Blame it on the distracting conversation or my lack of vigilance, but as I returned the bottle to my purse, I didn’t notice the lid was still sitting on the table.

The remaining powder poured out of the open bottle, scoring a direct hit on my scooter’s wet floorboard.

To my horror, each granule of powder immediately absorbed the pools of rainwater, swelling into mounds of what I can only describe as mutant couscous!

Remaining as calm as possible, I looked up and was relieved to note that my tablemates had no idea of the sci-fi movie unfolding below.

Casually, I placed an elbow on the table and pretended to listen to the conversation while my other hand slowly slid the cloth napkin off my lap. Swinging the arm holding the napkin as if giving it a stretch, I intermittently swatted the sticky white mess off the scooter.

By dinner’s end, I had successfully relocated the offending mess to the floor and well under the table.

Carefully folding my napkin origami-style to hide the residual evidence, I placed it on the table and breathed a sigh of relief.

During the drive home, my husband and I shared a chuckle as I told him about the near catastrophe. I finished the story with, “You know, I’ve decided it’s OK in restaurants for me to bring my drink in that nifty sport bottle. It’ll be easier all around.”

He raised an eyebrow and said with a smile, “I agree.”


  • Workarounds are good, but they are temporary solutions.
  • Always be ready to move on to the next option.
  • And when all is said and done, allow yourself to laugh.

Because I know we can learn to live well while living with ALS.


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.


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