Column: Old writers never die, they just lose their batteries

Artist’s impression of The Outsidah trying out different hearing aids

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by The Outsidah, Doug Brendel

One morning a long time ago, when I was hiring writers to help me write whatever my clients wanted me to write, one of my fellow writers walked into our very informal office with a strange air. For no apparent reason, he was wearing a bow tie.

“If I dress better,” he explained, “I’ll write better.

It did not work.

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But I was fascinated by the idea that something unrelated to writing could help a writer write better. Superstition, yes, but hey, if that can make higher fees easier, I’ll give it a try.

Fast forward decades. I would like my column “Outsidah” ​​to be better. I would like less hate mail. So my brilliant brother-in-law, a master carpenter, builds me a little writing corner – because I’m sure writing in a corner will make me a better writer, as opposed to, say, writing hunched over. the kitchen table. You can certainly see how much better to seclude yourself in a small space designed exclusively for the performance of your trade – eliminating distractions, allowing full focus – than trying to replicate Updike just inches from packed cupboards. wonderful treats, not to mention the remaining pot. roasted in the refrigerator.

My little writer’s corner, just big enough for me, my standing desk and narrow wall shelves, is completely closed except for a window overlooking the beautiful Ipswich. Well 20 square feet of beautiful Ipswich, behind the garage. But too bad. I don’t have to look out the window. I can shut myself off from the world, just me and my laptop, and be brilliant.

I call my writer’s corner “Art Room” – because my brother-in-law, the builder, is called Art – and I look forward to not only writing better, but also feeling younger, more vital, cooler, more attractive. I imagine coming out of a hard day’s work in the art room and my wife’s eyes shining with admiration, maybe even floating a bit, like a cartoon from the 50s.

Then I try it.

After significant experience in the art room, I can say that it is about as effective as wearing a bow tie.

The problem is not the corner. The area is beautiful. The problem are the young, vital, fresh, and attractive parts of the equation.

I’m in the art room, shining bright, when my hearing aid beeps in my ear. It means my batteries are low. It also means that I’m probably not young, vital, cool, and attractive – but that detail can be overlooked, as I’m all alone in my corner. Who will ever know? All I have to do is replace the battery. No problem. I keep spare batteries in my pocket at all times during such a time. (It’s not something I stream all the time – as it’s not quite in keeping with my young, vital, cool and attractive personality – but getting caught without spare batteries when you need them will learn. quickly to an old dog the new trick of carrying spare parts home every time.)

In the privacy of my own corner, I close the laptop over the standing desk, pull out my hearing aid, put it on the laptop sleeve, and pull the battery pack out of my pocket. It’s in there somewhere. No, it’s the nail clipper. Okay there. I get it.

Then just take the hearing aid out of my ear, open the battery compartment, take out the old battery – well, sorry. Wait. I can’t see it clearly enough without my glasses. Okay, I put on the glasses. There well.

I remove the new battery from the packaging, replacing the old one with the new… oh, damn. I have a little bit of arthritis in my thumb joints which makes it difficult to handle these little piles. The old battery slips away from me, bounces on the ground, somewhere behind the standing desk. Hey, I’ll get it later.

Now I put the new battery in the hearing aid – careful, careful – close the battery compartment, then put the hearing aid back behind my ear. Well, actually my glasses earpiece bothers me. I can’t quite put the hearing aid back on without removing my glasses. Yeah, they’re bifocal. So what?

So I remove the bifocals, locate the hearing aid and replace the bifocals. Just like any young, vital, cool and attractive man would.

Now is the time to find that dead battery. I crouch down, reach behind the standing desk, work my way along the floor. Something twists in the lower back.

Dang, that hurts. I don’t think I can straighten up.

Hope I miss my wife and come and get me because the art room is beautiful, but I don’t want to die here.

Plus, someone else will write my obituary, probably brilliantly – and for a hefty fee.


Doug Brendel is alive and well on the Outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Oh, wait; check this part “alive and well”. Pending further notice, follow Doug at DougBrendel.com.

Jeff Poirier for the school committee


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