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I speak of those little call buttons forever memorialized in, “help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” There are perhaps half a dozen of these companies selling safety, security, comfort. If you are in distress, you can’t always reach a phone….or remember who you are supposed to call anyway. It’s a panic button.

They work pretty well, I don’t wish to disparage the annoying little things, but they have a whole lot more to do with providing comfort to the family, than the client. Perhaps 70% of the people I know toss them in a drawer or throw them under the bed. They don’t work so good if you don’t know where the thing even is.

The other day I sucked one up in the vacuum cleaner, its little string all entwined in those rollers, the  button whacking itself a good dozen times before I managed to pull the plug. These things have a machine that goes with them, often hidden under the bed, and it will talk to you, very loudly, just in case you are three rooms away.

I have an issue with disembodied voices, spying devices, and people yelling at me, but this particular company makes it all the more special by making sure all their operators are wise guys from New Jersey. So it is as if the entire mafia is now hiding under the bed yelling at you. They always startle me so the first thing I usually do is shriek….. and then I laugh, partially relief when I realize I am not actually hearing voices and partially because these tough guys with their heavy accents trying to sound so gentle and solicitous is downright comical.

I don’t have to say a word, I just start laughing and they already know who they are dealing with. So they have to make sure everything is okay before I can push the button and make them go away, so they ask about my client. I really have no idea how my client is, I am in another room trying to untangle her panic button from the vacuum.

And the guy actually says with much concern, “was she wearing it at the time?”

I really don’t know what to say at this point. Is that common? Do caregivers often vacuum up people’s life alert buttons while they are wearing them? I mean all incompetence aside, I am somewhat proud of the fact that I have never actually strangled anyone while vacuuming.

I can’t even imagine how much paperwork I’d have to fill out if that happened, but knowing the red tape happiness engineers as I do, there’s probably already a form for that sort of thing.