By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Wasted time, and unnecessary facts

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I took a seat quietly in the meeting hall, not making eye contact with the 14 strangers sitting in a semi-circle around a group leader.

He spotted me right away. “We have a new member tonight,” he said, with body language indicating that I should stand and be recognized. I rose slowly, looking down at my feet for a moment before gathering my courage to address the group.

“My name is Jeb,” I said, “and I’m a Crossaholic.”

They all nodded and said, “Hello, Jeb,” as if I were an old friend. I knew, to a person, they were addicts, like me. But they also were regular people with friends and families and dreams of their own. We all were there to help one another stop spending an hour every day doing the crossword puzzle.

That morning, a friend called me at home to ask if I had read the big story on Page One. “Oh, no, but let me take a look,” I said, rustling a few papers on my desk.

“Jeb, there was no morning paper delivered today,” he said disapprovingly, followed by a long pause. “Are you on the computer? Were you printing out the crossword puzzle from the E-edition? Are you trying to get high using copy paper because it isn’t available today on newsprint?”

The jig was up. I found a link to Crossaholics Anonymous and decided to attend the next support group meeting.

Looking around the group that day, I saw people who needed help to stop wasting precious time and learning unnecessary information. But every glance generated more of the crossaholic mental domino effect.

That man’s ring is shaped like a “torus,” I thought. Is he from Belize, maybe even from its capital, “Belmopan”? The woman on my left looked like a hard worker — she must have “travailed” for many years. Should I say something funny, I asked myself — “interlard” the conversation with witty remarks?

I wondered whether any of them knew who Samson’s mother was. But this is a trick question, since the Bible refers to her only as “Manoah’s Wife.”

But wait a minute, I thought; there’s nothing wrong with some occasionally mindless diversion from real life. Is my addiction actually any worse than the thousands of other types?

As I left the meeting, someone bade me a fond goodbye. “He means ‘Tchau,’” said the guy from Portugal.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news or 503-687-1223.

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