Monday, June 11, 2012

Rat Race

“Your assignment, should you choose to accept it…” my Experimental Psychology professor said solemnly as he placed the rat into my hands.
What a joker. There was no “choosing” in this assignment. The rat was the course’s final exam.
My job was to recreate this rodent into a lever-pressing dynamo. So I dubbed him “E.B.” – he was a White rat, after all – and set to work.
Well, it turned out that the gods were smiling on me that day. I had hit the rodent jackpot – E.B. was a GENIUS!
By the end of day two he was hitting the lever like a champ and living the good life – fat and happy on food pellets. He was AMAZING!
Trust me, his lever-pressing success had nothing whatsoever to do with my animal training skills. Just ask my dog to perform any of the basic canine commands and you’ll get only an eye roll. I am THAT bad.
Anyway, my professor tested E.B., and “we” aced the final exam. However, since “we” had accomplished our task so early, the professor suggested that I challenge my charge.
So I added a small light with a pull chain. E.B.’s task was to pull the chain with his teeth to turn on the light, and then press the lever for the pellet.
No Sweat!
E. RAT-of-the-YEAR B. mastered that in a few days.
“Add another challenge,” said Dr. Professor.
So AWESOME RAT NINJA E.B. sniffed the back corner of the cage, turned on the light, and then pressed the lever.
Again and again and AGAIN.
And you can probably guess what my professor said after that.
So the next plan was this – sniff the back corner, turn in a complete circle, switch on the light, press the lever, and rejoice in pellet rapture.
But things did not go according to plan.
E.B. sniffed the back corner like a champ. Then he spun in a beautiful circle worthy of the Nutcracker’s Rat King. The pull chain part was a different story, however.
Instead of simply pulling the chain, he made a wild leap, latched his jaws onto the top of it, and would NOT let go.
E.B. swung around that cage like some demented rodent Tarzan.
Apparently, he had reached maximum rat brain capacity.
I gave him a handful of pellets, smoothed his soft fur,  and thanked him for the "A". Then I let him retire his ratty training shoes.

It’s funny how often my old lab rat comes to mind these days – especially when I am working on my laptop and pressing these little keys (levers).
Because sometimes when I press them – I get EMAIL! (pellet) WRITING ASSIGNMENTS! (pellet) FACEBOOK NOTIFICATIONS! (pellet) SKYPE! (pellet) BLOG COMMENTS! (pellet).
And then there’s the biggest pellet dispenser of all – Google hits for the insatiably curious. As in…
So what exactly was the conclusion of Julius Caesar’s autopsy report?
Wow (pellet).
Do frogs really use their eyeballs to swallow?
Whoa (pellet).
Exactly how do you neuter a billy goat?
Yikes (pellet).

So, for the past month I’ve been the subject of my own experiment.
In order to keep myself from reaching maximum rat brain capacity, I completely shut down the lever machine once a week from Friday night to Sunday morning.
And you know what?
I think I may have missed a Kardashian wedding or two.
It feels GREAT!

I haven’t swung from a light chain in weeks!

PROMPT: Don’t just take my word for it. There’s some evidence to suggest that we could all benefit from unplugging for a day or participating in a “digital detox” vacation. It’s worth a try. Free your mind… creative thinking is sure to follow!


  1. For the most part, Sundays have been technology free for me for a couple of years AND I LOVE IT! Someday I hope to take a whole week off from the electronic devices. Won't that be amazing?

    1. I'm with you, Angi -- a week sounds lovely!

  2. I've told you before, but I love your posts!

    By the way, you just won a book at my blog (pellet). :)

    1. Dawn, you crack me up!
      Thanks so much for the kind words and, of course...
      the Mega Mega PELLET!!