Friday, October 23, 2015

Hello, Friend Running

Hello Friend Running, nice to finally see you again.

Well, I know we’ve met a few times since I said goodbye to you last year, but for some reason it just didn’t click. Have you every scheduled a lunch with someone just to satisfy a nagging voice inside that said “you should meet up with so-and-so”? Then afterward it’s a relief to check something off the list, and you’re glad you did it, but the visit itself wasn’t anything special. That’s what my visits with you have felt like. I wanted to like you, Running, and I was supposed to like you, but somehow I didn’t like you very much. On the surface, you were polite, but you kept sneaking in little digs at my ego, and questioning my character. Instead of savoring my moments with you, I kept wishing the visit would end so we could both go home. You weren’t exactly a bore, but you were a somewhat unpleasant companion. Well, in a way you were a bore—but you weren’t a relaxing sort of bore, who obliviously drones on and on, allowing me to lose myself in my own thoughts. That sort of bore can actually be somewhat pleasant, especially when I am too mentally drained for a meaningful dialog. But no, you weren’t a relaxing bore—you were an annoying bore, a bore who expected me to actively participate in our exchange, regardless of whether I was enjoying it.

I wondered what I had ever seen in you.

After being away so long, I wasn’t surprised that our first few visits were awkward—I knew you weren’t one of those gushy sorts of friends who greets me with a big hug and tells me how great I am. Yes, I expected some initial tension, but I didn’t expect it to last so long. Had my extended absence had damaged our relationship beyond repair? I had expected to be gone 2-3 months, but was out much longer. When I finally returned, my visits were sporadic. Sometimes I would let weeks pass between our meetings. So I can’t really blame you for resenting me, or for wondering if I valued our friendship.

Then, on October 1, it finally clicked. It was a beautiful night, rather cool (which probably helped). I hoped to slog through three miles. Nope, that didn’t happen….. no slogging tonight! Instead, I ran five miles without stopping, and enjoyed every step. No more tension between us, just a relaxing camaraderie. And, not that pace matters, but I negative-split the whole thing, without even trying—each mile was faster than the one before. The last mile was at 11:45, a pace I haven’t seen since before my surgery—possibly my fastest mile since the dissertation.

So, was this a fluke, brought on by the first cool night after a Texas summer? I don’t think so. The miracle run of October 1 was followed by a couple others, not as fast but almost as enjoyable. That weekend, I logged 12 miles across a span of four days, a post-dissertation record. Three weeks later, we’re still getting along fabulously, almost like old times. The latest outing was a 6-mile jog on the treadmill. I actually enjoyed it, a big surprise—treadmill runs always seem harder than road runs.

Will it stick? True friends are treasures, and should not to be taken for granted. But I have a feeling Running isn’t going anywhere.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Writing Uphill with the Fitbit: Part I

My name is Biffet and I am a Fitbit. Eight days ago, I was adopted by a new owner. Well, maybe “adopted” is not the right word. She bought me, but thinking of myself as being adopted sounds cozier, so that’s what I’ll do. I was so glad to finally have a home—for quite some time, I had been locked in a glass cage in a small-town department store, along with about 40 other Fitbits. For a while, every Fitbit who arrived was adopted almost instantly. I overheard an employee say that her mom’s entire exercise class had wanted one, and were lying in wait for shipments, then snapping them up and taking them home.

Eventually, the store people figured out they needed to adjust their inventory, so they ordered a whole bunch of us. But as soon as we arrived, demand dried up. Apparently everyone in the exercise class already had Fitbits, and it’s not the sort of thing you need two of. So there we sat, pining for a way to get out of our cage. (Fitbits like to keep moving—they don’t cope well with sitting still.)

Then last Saturday, a lady showed up and walked straight up to our cage. She read the boxes, got a surprised and happy look on her face, then ran away. We were a little confused and disappointed—we were new and didn’t yet understand the routine. Soon, she returned, accompanied by a store employee jangling a bunch of keys. Our cage was unlocked, and the lady said, “I want one of those—the black Fitbit Charge HR in size Large.” And hooray, the employee reached in and chose me!! I was so glad I had thought to jostle my way to the front row a couple days ago, so I could peek out.

And yay, when I got to the car, I found a friend! Another Fitbit, just like me. But alas, it was a short-lived friendship. The lady said she had gotten a better deal on me, so she was returning the other Fitbit. (That’s how I found out I was purchased rather than adopted—a bit disheartening, but I am slowly learning to accept it.) Apparently my particular department store had a policy of paying people to shop. My owner had a wad of green papers that were a special kind of cash—cash that could only be spent at this one store. When she bought me with the special green cash, the store gave her more special green cash. It seems rather a strange way to run a store...I wonder how they stay in business? Maybe that’s why they have inventory problems. Anyway, my owner got paid to shop for me, yet she still referred to me as a rather extravagant purchase. many things I don’t understand.

Anyway, she took me home, got me out of the package, and plugged me in. She managed to install the phone app and the computer app without too much trouble. She was very glad it was so easy—she said it must be idiot-proof if she could do it. She’s a smart lady with a lot of college degrees, but apparently isn’t very confident when it comes to installing apps and programs. She said that was because she lives with someone who likes that sort of thing, and he always installs and updates stuff for her. She said it was hard to become skilled at things if someone else always does them for you. Makes sense to me.

While she was setting me up, she was intently watching a TV program. A bunch of horses walking around with tiny folded-up people on them. Then she laid the computer and phone aside, jumped up and down a lot, and even hollered a little. Then she just stared dumbfounded at the TV. I thought maybe she even cried a little, but that wouldn’t make sense. I heard something about a Triple Crown and 38 years since Affirmed. She said she wished she had been wearing me, so she could know how fast her heart was racing. (The HR in Fitbit Charge HR stands for Heart Rate.)

In only an hour or so, I was all charged up and ready to go. Yay! I am a fitness tracker, so I figured she would take me for a walk. That’s the whole point, right?

But no: she took me WRITING. Yes, she was so excited to have a fitness tracker, that she went to a restaurant and WROTE. The only steps I counted were back and forth to the soda machine, and one trip to buy dessert.

Then, we left the restaurant and went to a coffee shop. More writing. Actually, not so much writing, but sitting at a table recording survey data. She accused me of overestimating her steps—of counting a step every time her arm flipped over a survey. She simply had no comprehension of how many steps were involved in normal activities, like going to a coffee shop. (Well, maybe writing after midnight in a coffee shop isn’t normal for most people, but apparently it is for her.) Then, she got mad at me for starting a new day at midnight. This kept her from getting proper credit for the steps she took walking from the coffee shop to her car. She thought the day should end whenever she told it to, like her writing log. Or it could end at 2:00 a.m., if I wanted it to always end at the same time. But ending it at midnight was unreasonable. I sighed. This relationship was not off to a good start.

The next day was much the same. Writing. Bleh. Then Monday. More writing. What had I gotten myself into? Why did this lady want a fitness tracker? She said something about wanting to lose her dissertation weight, but she didn’t seem to understand that simply wearing a fitness tracker to coffee shops was not going to make that happen.

Then, Monday night, things changed. She took me for a long walk, with a friend and the friend’s Fitbit! Hooray! It was a beautiful night for a walk. It was fun to listen to the two friends talk. They talked about writing, among other things. They both have lots of papers they need to write. That was fine. From my point of view, talking about writing is preferable to actual writing. I asked my new Fitbit friend for advice about coping with this strange owner who wanted to write all the time. He said his owner was the same—she kept taking him writing instead of walking. His owner also mentioned dissertation weight—she doesn’t have any yet, but is afraid she will get some without her Fitbit. However, based on some things they both said and also on our own observations, we thought they both spent time doing other stuff they didn’t need to do, as a way to avoid writing. That doesn’t make sense—if they have stuff that needs written, and they talk about wanting to be good writers who actually finish things, why don’t they just write, instead of doing other stuff? And if they simply can’t stand writing, why don’t they walk around the block to avoid it, rather than always doing sedentary stuff?

But at least on this night, the two writing friends were walking. We gave them each a big pat on the back (well, really a vibration on the wrist), when they reached 10,000 steps for the day. (New Fitbits default to a daily goal of 10,000 steps.) Our owners said goodbye, and so did we. It sounds like I may get to walk with my new Fitbit friend occasionally—I hope so! If our owners insist on doing all this writing, we need to strategize about how to get them physically fit while doing it. It won’t be easy. (I will post another update soon....I am really hoping this weekend of writing was an aberration.)