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Terry Talbert: Give me a pet you can pet

October 26, 1997

I was getting my hair done last week when I overheard a conversation between my stylist Cristy and her co-worker Emily, who was sitting in a chair staring at her cupped hands. I thought the fact she was staring intently at her hands rather strange, but then most hairstylists are a little weird, so I didn't think any more about it - until she started talking to her palms.

Before I go any further, I want to make something clear. I LOVE all the hair-doer persons at this particular shop. They don't do things like make you bald just because they're having a bad day. They don't cut floral designs in the back of your head just for the heck of it. They're just a little goofy. I figure it's because when they do all those permanents (which really aren't) they breathe in noxious fumes and in the process alter their brain cells.

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That said, I'll resume where I left off.

I was getting my hair blow-dried when I heard Emily talk to her palms. She said, "Are you hungry, or do you want to play, or what?"

She looked puzzled.

I was puzzled.

Cristy wasn't.

"I think he needs to go for a walk," Cristy said. "He hasn't been out lately. Try that."

Emily spoke again - this time to her index finger.

"No, that's not what he wants. He still doesn't look happy," she said.

Cristy asked Emily what time it was, which I thought strange since there is a clock on the shop wall. "He may need a nap," she said.

Emily gazed into her palms. "Yeah, that's what he wanted," she said. "He's asleep now."

That did it. They had succeeded in breaking through the meditative, totally relaxed and peaceful state I enter when being blow-dried.

"I hate to interrupt your conversation with your hands, Emily, but can you please tell me what's in them?" I asked.

"Ralphy," Cristy responded.

"Who's Ralphy?" I asked.

"My dog," Cristy said. "Actually, his name isn't Ralphy anymore. Adam named him Ralphy, but Dalton kept wiping out his name. Now he's 2M the Dalmation."

Adam is Cristy's 6-year-old son. Dalton is her 15-month-old boy.

"I know you have two cats. I didn't know you had a dog," I said. "It must be awfully small. I can't even see him."

"Yes, he's very tiny," Cristy said.

Cristy had pushed me over the edge. I glared at her. "IF YOU DON'T TELL ME WHAT'S GOING ON I'M GOING TO TAKE YOUR HOT LITTLE CURLING IRON AND WRAP IT AROUND YOUR NECK," I growled.

"OK, OK," Cristy said. "Geez, take it easy. 2M is my Cyber Pet."

At that point, Emily showed me the thin, square box she'd been holding in her hands. I could see on the screen that the dog was indeed asleep. Emily then proceeded to shove 2M in her pocket.

"God, don't do that!" I exclaimed. "You're going to wake him up."

"Stop yelling, or YOU will wake him up," Cristy said.

About a week later, I was at a bingo game when a women sitting near me said, "My dog's probably getting ready to go to bed."

I thought it wasn't very nice of her to refer to her husband like that. But then maybe the guy was an animal.

After making that rather crass statement, the woman reached into her pocket. Next thing I knew she was staring into her palms.

Another pocket pet, I thought.

I had been talking rather loudly to the lady sitting next to me. When I realized there was a sleeping pup nearby, I reduced it to a whisper.

These Cyber Pet things are all well and good, but if I was going to spend $15 for an animal, I'd make sure I got one I could pet.

Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.

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