If I fall, will my Apple Watch catch me?

Image by pch.vector on Freepik

The teacher’s schedule is admirable in many ways. The school day is technically over at 3:45 p.m., at least by our union contract. I don’t know many teachers who make it out of the building on the dot every day. I seldom do, but I’m not a veteran yet.

We get nice breaks around the end-of-the-year holidays, a week for spring break, and, of course, summer vacation.

One way a teacher’s schedule is unenviable: There are no errands done during the day. I have a half-hour for lunch, during which I conduct all personal business including my lone bathroom break of the day.

So, the perceived rapture of spring break is blunted by the backlog of doctor appointments and tasks delayed during the session.

My spring break highlight was a trip to the McFarland Clinic in Ames to get cortisone shots in both of my arthritic knees. My previous shots had worn off and I moved powered by grunts and groans for the last month before the break.

My doctor’s needle hit the spot and my knees are now tolerable for walking. Make no mistake, I am not taking long strides down the hallway unassisted. I’m still using a walker. It just doesn’t hurt as bad.

The steroid treatment comes with its risks. The biggest, I think, is that eventually, it will stop working.

That will be a truly sad day because I will either need surgery or a wheelchair.

I’m not a good candidate for surgery. I live with diabetes, and I am morbidly obese. I also have high blood pressure and probably a few other problems I’ve forgotten.

I know physical therapy and exercise are potential remedies, but that will have to wait until summer break.

The limitations to my mobility come with their own form of existential dread. There are a lot of open-ended worries. If my legs fail, how will I take care of myself? My parents are elderly and, really, they’ve done enough.

Likewise, most of my close friends either have families of their own to tend to or are older than me.

I never married and have no prospects, let alone desire.

This kind of thinking makes a toxic mix with my longstanding anxiety. I started an ambitious — and larger than I thought it was — spring cleaning project in my apartment.

Part of it involved me getting on the floor to stack some books on a shelf.

The worst pain I get from my knees is when I put my full body weight on my knees to stand up. Even with fresh cortisone shots, the struggle to get off the floor left my joints screaming in agony.

I bought an Apple Watch a year or so ago. I hated to set aside my lovely Drake University watch, a graduation present. However, the Apple Watch has a feature that senses if you’ve fallen and calls 911 if you don’t tell it to stop.

I recall the “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” commercials from my youth. We laughed at those then. Now I know the true terror.

I got up, of course. This column was typed from my easy chair.

The spring-cleaning project was completed, albeit with an overly generous assist from a dear friend.

The frustration and self-loathing that builds up inside me when I can’t do something on my own is something I need to work on in behavioral therapy. I don’t like the overused phrase “new normal.” I am reminded of the line from a Bruce Cockburn song: “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.”

However, limited mobility is, for now, my new normal.

I need to be thinking about ways to change my life to fit that rather than being peeved that things are not the way they used to be.

To quote another song, this one by Fleetwood Mac, “Yesterday’s gone. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney is a Marion County Express columnist.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.


  1. Joseph Toubes says:

    I too have diabetes, bad knees, high blood pressure. My biggest fear is being down on the floor and can’t find something to pull myself up on. Getting off the toilet is a chore. ok I am 75. I wear my apple watch like you do, but when the wife is on campus, it lets her,daughter and help know I have issue. When I taught at North, I too had the bathroom moment, I swore my bladder had thickness and so on. I left at the end of the day, after 4 pm often from waiting for a parent to show up for an IEP meeting that never happened, then go down the hall to my car and grumble all the way. I once knew a biology teacher who used to pass our house around 2 pm everyday when I was out sick for a week. He taught at Roosevelt. Seems he and others were leaving after their last class. They eventually got caught. Anyway, hang in there Dan, keep good notes for your retirement book , “Teaching middle school .” or ” Nerds I have known.”


  2. Joseph Toubes says:

    Oh, I never had 30 min lunch break. Some administrator was always putting a student in my room who couldn’t behave in the lunchroom. I was on the 2nd floor west side, lunch room is 1st floor East side. I swear I was targeted. Often I would share or even give the kid my lunch. It was processed turkey on white with miracle whip and an apple. No kid got my thermos of coffee. Bathroom, I was across the hall, a few steps to relieving myself. One time I really needed to go bad. I called the office and told them I needed a helper to watch my BD class while I went. No one came. I called again, this time I said that if someone doesn’t show up I will use the waste basket in the back of the room. No one came. Then I had the answer, ” I called the office saying a student was throwing chairs and punching girls. I had the campus monitor and building cop show . I walked to the door and said, “Finally, one of you sit in my chair, don’t touch my computer I will be inthe bathroom.” Kids were amazed, one asked ifI would have really used the wastebasket in the back of the room. I replied, “I guess we will never know.”

    I retired after 20 years that June. Everytime I got the chance I would go off into the bathroom just in case. The best time I had was not teaching at North, but at PACE. There one could go to the bathroom, use the elevator and always had classroom supervision.

    Good luck Dan, some doctors will schedule a late in the day appointments if you tell them you are a teacher and have to have that.


  3. Stephany Harvey says:

    I could only manage to do one year before I realized I did not like children enough. I do have a bucket of stories from my mother in law’s days of teaching when teachers were expected to go downtown to the lunch counter for a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Then, it was the days of lunch ladies making real food, for all students at once. Good to hear from you, Daniel. I’m still trying to find a good pain doc with a needle.


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