Jackie and Ter

While at our daughter’s recent wedding, my wife Theresa became fast friends with Jackie, the mother of the groom. This is a vast improvement over our marriage as my mother referred to my bride-to-be as “The Princess”, but not in a good or regal way. They shared stories, recipes (even though my princess doesn’t cook), a mani/pedi, and all manner of other “mother” things.

In between giggles, Jackie would frequently check what appeared to be a rubber bracelet and report on the number of steps she had walked or the number of calories she had burned. The fact that this report came during the sharing of a milkshake did not seem to impact her enthusiasm. It seems that the bracelet was a device called a Fitbit.

Theresa, whose birthday was coincidently coming up, decided that she too, needed a constant flow of data regarding her bodily functions. Sensing my lack of interest, she began plotting to suggest that our three children chip in to get her one. She began doing research on the various versions and functions while I asked supportive questions like “Why would you need that?” and “How much does this thing cost?”

It all turned out to be unnecessary, because a few days later, she received a package containing the Fit Bit, and it contained exactly the features she wanted. It seems that Jackie had sold her new daughter-in-law Lilly on the idea and Lilly immediately involved her siblings. I know that they didn’t come up with it on their own since they ignore their mother even more than I do.

Theresa could not have been happier. She immediately opened her computer and began setting up the device. Yes, we still have a VCR and yes, it still blinks 12:00. This device, however, will change EVERYTHING! I imagined Captain Kirk saying,     “Mr. Spock, send a probe into that nebula.”

“Yes, Captain, we will be receiving telemetry in a moment. The planetary cluster has taken 3700 steps today burning 675 earth calories or roughly the equivalent 3.5 liters of Vulcan plomeek soup.”

Every day, she finds a new bit of data.

“It has a GPS tracker.”

“So you can get lost, but your bracelet knows where it is?”

“It keeps my heart rate and my BMI.”

“So, do you think if I put on your Fitbit, will it automatically contact 911?”

“Fitbit says I woke up twice last night”

“Wait, aren’t you aware when you’re awake? And if you’re not, are you indeed awake? Is this thing just counting toilet flushes?”

I also mentioned that I was surprised that she wore it to sleep.

“I use the silent alarm to wake myself up,” she says.

The most disturbing feature of the Fitbit is that she can link it to Jackie’s and they can share their data.

“That’s the best part,” says Theresa.

“Are you nuts? It’s rare enough when in-laws are friends. You already have to deal with sharing Thanksgiving and Christmas, and there aren’t even any grandchildren, yet. What’s going to happen when Jackie and Earle decide to have a night of passion? You are going to be asking me why Jackie is doing wind sprints at 10:30 at night when it’s 37 degrees and raining in North Carolina.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Are you telling me that you aren’t going to be sending her a key lime pie as a ‘friend’ gift if she loses five more pounds than you at the end of the month? Actually, that’s not a bad idea for a side business, Fitbit Spite Gifts with automatic ordering.”

“You are completely insane.”

“Maybe, but I don’t need an electronic device to prove it.”

© Copyright 2014 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Tyrone was Right!

Tyrone was Right

My daughter was married recently and the wedding provided an opportunity to reunite with some life-long friends that I met in college. Three of these friends, Dwight, Joe, and Tyrone were groomsmen at my wedding over 32 years ago. It was amazing having them together with me at my daughter’s affair since they were there for the entirety of her life and more.

Joe moved to Boston for Grad School and settled in Massachusetts, so I saw less of him over the years. Dwight, Tyrone, and I lived close together in New Jersey until my family moved to Florida a dozen years ago. They were and are brothers to me in every sense of the word. The funny thing is that we spent nearly all of our time together arguing for over 35 years.

Dwight and I are of a very similar mindset. We have similar views on politics, child rearing, personal responsibility, you name it. Unfortunately, we have always been argumentative as well as highly principled. We would find any nuance to debate about. We have even come to blows on occasion. Our wives would roll their eyes and drag us home, knowing that we would be at it again soon enough. I can’t remember either of us ever admitting defeat.

Tyrone, on the other hand, was frequently wrong. He’d take up any argument, usually based on some extremist nonsensical position, and just dive in. Even more galling was his politically conservative bent. This was unusual, to say the least, from someone growing up in the projects of Newark. Dwight and I would dismiss his harebrained ideas and debunk them in seconds, but Tyrone had a way of keeping us in the fight. Eventually, Dwight and I would break into an argument about the nuances of why Tyrone was wrong.

It’s been decades since all of us have been together. Dwight and his wife, Sue picked up Tyrone and his girlfriend Annette and left New Jersey on Saturday morning. They stopped in Washington, D.C. to pick up Dwight and Sue’s daughter Rachel. Tyrone later told me that Rachel was his new favorite person. It seems that she has the ability to do something neither of us could accomplish in nearly a half century. She shut her father up. Tyrone said that less than two minutes after she got in the car, she shut him down with a series of snappy comebacks. I have to assume that she learned it from her Uncle Bobby.

Several people at the wedding have read my novel and were looking forward to meeting Dwight and Tyrone, as three of the major characters are slightly better versions of the three of us. That leads me to the one disturbing part of the reunion. As much as Dwight and I are loath to admit it, it turns out that Tyrone may have been right about a few things after all.

To be fair, Dwight and I had some rather large fish to fry. We were going to eliminate racism, make the world safe for children, fix the education system, and possibly bring peace to the Middle East if we had time. Tyrone, on the other hand, was more interested on domestic issues…basically his own personal comfort.

Tyrone refers to himself as “America’s Guest”. Although he drives a limo for a living, he seems to think he is riding in the back seat. He seems to get invited to a lot of high-class events, most on someone else’s dime. He demonstrably tips the server at any open bar to keep the drinks strong and flowing. He’ll pay $45 extra on an airplane for eight inches of extra legroom while Dwight and I would sit folded in an overhead bin if it made a statement for the “people”.

The problem is that we now live in a world of reality TV, social media noise, Fox News, and slanted journalism. We still have racism, abused children, a significantly worse education system, and more hate than ever in the Middle East. Yet, at the same time, Tyrone has changed for the better. He is no longer a homophobe or a misogynist. He regularly participates in Toastmasters for self-improvement. Frighteningly, he has increasingly become the voice of reason.

Dwight and I agree that we don’t want to live in any world where Tyrone can be considered right. Still, it hasn’t changed our loyalty to one another. I hope there are more weddings, and we have many more opportunities to be together before the inevitable. Someday, two of us will attend a funeral and that will be a sad, sad day. Until then, we plan to keep each other honest, and keep pushing each other. We know about all of the skeletons and all of the laughter. It’s what brothers share.

Please check out my new book, Cruise Mob, the sequel to Flash Mob. It is available through Amazon and for the Kindle. Find out more at

© Copyright 2014 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.