Home Erectus wrecked us

    A funny thing happened on the evolutionary way.

    In the great scheme of things it was decided that humans shouldn't crawl around on all fours unless they were babies, had had too many alcoholic beverages, or were looking for a dropped contact lens. Perhaps caves suddenly came with higher ceilings caused by climate change, making it necessary for occupants to have to reach up to keep the cobwebs under control.

    Whatever, suddenly there were all these hairy creatures running around on two legs, using their arms to hold clubs. What a wonderful world! Things could only get better.

    However, didn't the Powers That Be realize there would come a time when being supported by two legs would become a terrible handicap? Obviously not.

    In those very early days, upright man — Homo Erectus I believe is the name — lived a very short life. Gray hair hadn't even been invented. Thus those legs held up quite well.

    There is a parallel of sorts to the original vision of Social Security. People were expected to die before the system went broke. In prehistoric times, people were supposed to die before their body parts became obsolete, if not by natural causes then at the jaws, paws and claws of animals.

    I took for granted that I'd always be able to walk unaided, maybe just a little slower with age. Suddenly, after walking at least three miles a day — down from six — I found my right leg not wanting to go that far ... in fact not wanting to accompany me at all.

    Just to be a good sport, though, it did stay with me for a mile at best. No pain, just a weakness I'd never known before.

    After three months of realizing things weren't going to improve (I'm a slow learner), I went to the doctor who had replaced my right hip several years earlier. The hip was fine, but X-rays and an MRI of my back revealed a problem, fixable if I wanted to undergo surgery. I didn't.

    Anyway, had we humans not gone upright, I could be happily crawling around on all fours, pretty much at eye level with everyone else. Even with my leg acting up I could maneuver quite well, just as a dog or other four-legged creature can manage to do with a non-functioning leg.

    So, now that my leg is reluctant to do what it's supposed to, especially after I've been sitting or standing too long, I have to plan trips to the ladies' room at least 15 minutes ahead of the time I believe I'll have to be there. Of course, I never plan to go to a theater again unless I have a reserved seat — next to or in the ladies' room.

    So much for evolution!

    — Mary Ann Johnson lives in Jacksonville.


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