“How can you tell?”
“See... no arm swing...and he's shuffling.”
“Okay, how about that one over there?”
“Hmm... not sure. We'll have to move in closer.”
We're Parkie spotting at a local shopping mall. It's a new sport and today it's a close race to see which team can correctly identify the highest number of people with Parkinson's disease. So far, Team #1, the Shakers and Bakers, a group of chefs who all have PD and are known for their creative overuse of spices, have three people on their list:
a customer who stopped in the doorway of the store and couldn't seem to pick up his feet
an older man shuffling his feet and not swinging his arms as he walked by
a clerk who didn't blink for a full 4 minutes, even when she was startled
Didn't blink? That was a good call and should score well for the Shakers and Bakers. That's right folks, people with PD often don't blink much. It means the “non blinking Senator” in the youtube videos might NOT actually be an alien.
While we're waiting to check in with Team #2, the Dopamine Dozen, we'll take a few minutes to discuss the origin of the sport. In 1987, a group of friends met at a local fern bar for lunch. One of their group arrived late, looked slightly disheveled, and was slurring his words. The hostess refused to seat him, saying he was obviously drunk. Of course, he wasn't drunk. He had PD. The incident was resolved with a minimum of yelling, swearing, and threatening, and the group spent the next hour discussing how many supposedly drunk people actually had Parkinson's.
After this, they were always on the lookout for people who shuffled their feet, spoke quietly, didn't blink, didn't happen to notice that their dog had been sprayed by a skunk, or appeared to be drunk. Each time they saw someone, they were smile and nod and say, “Probably Parkinson's”.
In 1990, their activities came to the attention of Really Weird Sports production company, producer of Who can Snore the Loudest and Diaper Change Champions, among others, and they promptly stole the idea and developed it into a competition. Today's teams observe a controlled group of everyday people mixed in with an unnamed number of PWPs (People With Parkinson's) who are released into the shopping mall at the beginning of round one. The teams receive points for correctly spotting the Parkies.
The second round will be celebrity Parkie spotting. This one is more difficult as not all the celebrity PWPs have come out of the closet. Points are awarded according to how well each team presents their observations and argues their case. Due to confidentiality laws, the results are considered pure speculation and are not to be taken for fact.
The most recent possible celebrity Parkie sighting is Former President Bill Clinton. With a noticeable tremor in his left hand, and a gravely voice, many are quietly smiling and nodding their heads, indicating they are privately convinced he is one of them. The former president is denying this diagnosis, saying, while he does have a tremor, it is definitely not Parkinson's disease. This led one competitor to remark, “It's not that we don't believe Mr. Clinton, we're just wondering whether this is an I-didn't-inhale-that-joint type of definitely-not-Parkinson's-disease.”
Back to today's competition: Round one is over and it looks like the Dopamine Dozen has a longer list then the Shakers and Bakers. The judges are going through each spotting and awarding points. The Dopamine Dozen look confident, but what's this? Two of their spottings have been crossed off the list. Seems those people really were drunk. The Bakers and Shakers fans are going crazy.
It's going to be close.