Focus“Here’s your test,” says the young woman in jeans and gray sweatshirt.

I’m applying to be a machine operator at a manufacturing company. Miss Casey is the woman conducting aptitude tests to see whether I qualify for an initial interview.

“By the way,” she adds as she looks down at her watch, “you can’t use a calculator.”

Wait, what? But I thought I could –

“Thirty minutes staaaart … now!”

I scan the three pages in my hands. The papers are filled with math problems. Answers will help management decide whether I’m a potential employee.

My eyes feed my brain the various questions. Questions all requiring solutions. In a single whoooosh, air leaves my lungs and my head. I see the need for algebra and trigonometry; I must know range, random generation, progressives. I will even be working out measurement of Pi. (Pi? Why do I have to know about a guy and tiger lost at sea?)

Miss Casey, now turned away from me, does not see my left hand return the papers to her desk. Then I do not see my sneaky right hand pull the papers back. This is why I, a lifelong southpaw, never trust righties.

You can do this.

Miss Casey did not say that, pleasant though she may be. Rather, those four words are fed to me – live – via one of the six “movie screens” playing in my head at all times.

(This is how ADHD works … or doesn’t. When all the screens chatter away, it’s way tough to concentrate on the task at hand.)

Stop panicking, says one bold screen. Take a deep breath. Tackle the questions you know and, when you reach the end, come back to the others.

By page three’s finale, I’ve knocked off four of 33 problems.

“I’m dyin’ here,” I mutter in low tones I hope aren’t overheard. “Focus, focus! Aughhhh! Gotta concentrate!”

I quit tapping my pen. I stop looking around.  I settle into my seat. Ahhhhhh.

Chaos quiets. And all six tiny, noisy Youtube screens unite in one giant IMAX screen of brilliance.  Hyperfocus!


(To clarify, hyperfocus is not what happens when Han Solo blasts across the galaxies at top speed. But hyperfocus is that powerful. The high level of concentration – six screens all working together on the exact same problem/project/peril – rivals that of a teen girl texting her bff.)

(To further clarify, Solo can throw switches – most times – and hit hyperspace. But hyperfocus isn’t something we with ADHD turn on and off. This intense thinking strikes involuntarily any time we’re wildly interested in something. Anything. Catching a snake. Diving from cliffs. Launching a rocket.)

(Or, say, when we’re about to die.)

But back to the test …

Bubbly little brain cells by the billions burst into action, converging on the math problems before me. The No. 2 pencil, its graphite overheating, rapidly fills the once-blank test.

Just 15 minutes later, I hand in my work to Miss Casey. Wielding her red pen like a small sword, she bloodies my answers with quick markings, then looks up in pleasant surprise.

Um, 26 right. Out of 33. Pretty good, actually. We’ll call you Monday for the next interview.”

At least, I think that’s what she’s saying. Not sure, really … excited screens drown her out with their own comments:  You da man, Black! You’ve arrived. Show ’em your stuff. Best worker ever. They ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

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General Powell’s memorandum: Readers are still writing and declaring my youngest brother, two huge fish tied to his sides, could NOT possibly have swum through sharks and survived.

I hereby present to you, o scoffers and scufflers, the post-hammerhead human.

Let’s give a really big hand to our one, our only, Barry-cuda and the Groupers!