Monday, April 4, 2016


Ground Control to Joe, you are not alone.

I’ve never piloted an airplane.  I know many people who have and I admire their ability to do so but I’m okay with having someone else in the cockpit.  In fact, I’d really rather not fly at all, and if possible, I don’t.  To me being on a commercial airplane is a bit like sitting on a lawn chair in a drain pipe with 200 slightly uncomfortable people whom you’ve never met.

When I was still working I flew often, I had to.  Driving to London or Tokyo from Oregon would have required some high speed amphibious vehicle not yet invented.  My dislike for flying had nothing to do with the 9/11 tragedy but several years after that event on a return flight from the Caribbean, I lost it. I had a good old fashioned breathe-into-a-paper-bag panic attack and wound up in a Dallas hospital.  It only happened that one time, but I can tell you since then I only fly medicated.

I’ve heard Air Traffic Control described as the brain center of the airways, providing pilots critical information required to navigate air space, prevent collisions, organize and expedite landings and takeoffs, and manage a host of other things related to keeping things moving and on time.  That sounds a lot like the brain’s function in the human body. 

Now let’s say Al goes to work as a controller for Joe’s brain. 

During his first few years on the job things go pretty well and he manages to keep things on track just as he was trained to do.  Oh, he pushes the wrong buttons from time to time but only little things are affected in Joe’s brain, not much to worry about.

Over the next year or two Al occasionally dozes off on the job and Joe starts forgetting words and misplacing things.  Al spills something on a control panel and Joe begins making errors in judgment.  Then one day, Al steps on a power cord and the part of Joe’s brain that controls emotions goes haywire. Joe starts getting angry and saying things no one else understands.

About this phase on the job, Al gets bored and starts flipping switches just to see how Joe reacts.  Joe starts sleeping in the middle of the day but can’t sleep at night.  He can’t remember where we parked the car or find his way to places he’s been many times.  There are days he’s just stuck in a dense fog, unable to tell the time of day.

It’s become clear that Al needs to be fired.  He’s creating major problems in Joe’s everyday life and there is no question who’s to blame.  But by now Al has tenure; he’s a union guy, which gives him the right to keep the job for as long as he wants.  There isn’t anything we can do.  We can’t even negotiate.

Al has put Joe on an unnavigable course without hope of a correction.   There are no tools to fix what Al has sabotaged and he’s emboldened by our inability stop him. He’s triggering the hatch door and readying to send Joe on a journey with no return.

“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do
Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much she knows”

Lyrics from Space Oddity, song by Dave Bowie in 1969. 

It might be too late to stop Al this time, but we’ve got to take him out before he destroys others.

Please join me in the fight to stop Al.  Take the Purple Pledge at:

Each time you talk about Alzheimer’s disease, you raise awareness and inspire action.

Ground control to Joe, you are not alone.