Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Car Is Preventing Me From Exercising

“In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
– Benjamin Franklin

Well, Mr. Franklin, I would like to add something to your line of certainty.

I think it should read:

“In this world nothing is certain but death, taxes and the ridiculous coincidence of something going terribly wrong with your car the minute you potentially start to pay off your credit card debt and even begin to entertain the idea of buying yourself a treadmill.”

I was driving to work a few weeks ago on one of those chilly autumn mornings that I love so much when I realized that the heat in my car had turned to air conditioning. It was 43 degrees out and my car was blowing cold air.

The next day – a balmy 47 degrees – 27 minutes into my commute the same thing happened. I turned the heat off and cranked my heated seat up as high as possible (High maintenance? Who, me?).

After it happened for the third day in a row, I made a car appointment.

MONDAY, 7:45am

Standing at the Service Desk, I’m crossing my fingers, hoping I get the competent woman down the end with whom I always deal. But I don’t. I get Jesse.

Jesse: “What are we diagnosing today?”

Me: “My heat isn’t working. The air starts out warm, then after a little while the system decides it’s time for air-conditioning, so it blows freezing cold air on me, even when it’s set at like 85.”

Jesse jots down some notes.

Me: “Oh, and can you please replace the top brake light on the driver’s side? And can you replace my windshield wipers? I can’t see anything when it rains, especially at night. Oh, and I got a notice about a brake recall in the mail, can you check that out, too?”

Jesse scribbles furiously, asks me the milage, and sends me on my way.

MONDAY, 11:30am

Jesse calls.

Jesse: “I have some bad news.”


Jesse launches into a long story using big words describing what’s wrong with my car.

Just bottom-line it for me, Jesse.

Jesse: “We need to replace your water pump and timing belt. And also reconfigure the heating and cooling system.”

I don’t know much about cars (and by “much”, I mean “nothing”), but that sounds like a lot of work.

Jesse (punching buttons on a calculator): “Looks like it’s going to be 1100 if my math is right.”

Eleven hundred? Dollars? WTF?

Jesse (still crunching numbers): “Oh no wait (heh heh) my math was wrong.” I would certainly hope so. “All told it’s going to be $1230.”

Me: “Seriously?”

Jesse: “It’s a lot of work. It takes a long time. But there’s good news!”

Me: “You’re not going to charge me for my brake light?”

((awkward silence))

Jesse: “Um, no. The good news is, this could have been a lot worse. You brought it in at the right time.”

No, the right time would be when I had $1230. Now is definitely NOT the right time, Jesse.

MONDAY, 3:04pm

Jesse: “We’ve run into a problem with your car. The water pump we put in had a crack in it, so we have to get a new one. We won’t get it today. We have to keep your car overnight and work on it tomorrow. Oh, and we don’t have a loaner for you.”


MONDAY, 5:05pm

On the phone with Mom.

Me: “The heat wasn’t working in my car so I brought it in to be looked at. Turns out it’s going to be like $1200 to fix it.” (Insert compassion from Mom here.)

Mom: “That much? Where did you bring it? Too bad you didn’t know someone cheaper. Well listen to what happened to me. Last night I set the thermostat at 66 degrees, and in the middle of the night I woke up sweating to death. Turns out the thermostat jumped up to 70 degrees by itself. It’s like it has a mind of its own.”

Is she kidding me?

TUESDAY, 2:45pm

Jesse: “Turns out we ran into another problem with your car.”

Me: “Like, you found something else wrong with my car, or you put in another faulty part?”

Jesse: “We put in another faulty part. We’re having another one sent here, it should be here tomorrow. So we’re going to have to keep your car overnight again.”

Where are they getting these parts? The salvage yard?

I’ve wanted a treadmill for YEARS. And I haven’t worked out in, like, MONTHS. I finally get close enough to getting one (I was standing on it in the store! Albeit, I was wearing stiletto-heeled boots, but I WAS standing on it) and it's not going to happen.

So basically, it’s my car’s fault that I’m once again putting off exercising.

Oh well. Maybe next year.


Pilates Update For Week 3

Number of minutes I was late to class due to traffic: 15

Class attendance: 6

Number of farts emitted from the old geezer in the back during the single leg stretch: 1

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Monday's Conversation With Mom

So Monday was class number two of pilates.

Class attendance: 6

We actually did pilates – lots of breathing and stretching and silly poses. When I left the class my muscles were a little sore, and I felt totally relaxed.

Then I called my mother.

As soon as she answered the phone, all of the tranquility drained from my body.

(To fully understand my anxiety, we have to jump in my time machine and travel back to Friday night.)

Friday night:

In an effort to spend some QT with my parents (read: score a free meal) I joined them for dinner.

On my way to their house I stopped at Homegoods. Upon telling my mother I was going, she asked me to look for something to hang in her newly painted bathroom.

Mom: “You remember the picture I had hanging in the bathroom?”

Me: “Not really.”

Mom: “Yes you do. The one with the little girl?”

Me: “No, Mom, I don’t remember it. I don’t even remember what’s hanging in my bathroom.”

Mom: “Ugh. Well, anyway, I’m not sure if it will go with my new paint. Can you look for something new for me to hang in there?”

Me: “What size? 16x20? 18x24?”

Mom: “Yes, that sounds about right.”

Now, I definitely don’t remember the old picture, and I can barely remember the new bathroom color (some sort of lightish greenish color) but I tell Mom that I’m on the case.

As luck would have it, I find a really nice black and white (with the slightest hint of a green tint) picture that would go perfectly (I think).

I’m so proud of myself that I don’t walk into my parents’ house, I strut in – carrying the bag like a captured prey.

Me: “I found you the perfect picture!” I hold up the bag. I can’t wait to unveil it and see the excitement and sheer gratitude in her eyes.

My mother stares at the bag.

Mom: “It’s too big.”

Excuse me?

Me (in a feeble attempt to hide my utter disappointment): “What do you mean it’s too big? You haven’t even seen it yet. And I asked you what size on the phone.”

Mom: “Oh, well I didn’t actually measure anything.”

I take the picture out of the bag and hold it up to the wall.

Me: “Well?”

Mom (sheer joy): “Oooh! I LOVE it! How much do I owe you?”

(I'm not even going to get into my mother trying to calculate how much the tax was so she could give it to me. I mean, seriously, Mother – the tax?)

This conversation was followed by a VERY rough dinner; my mother was in rare form. She didn’t stop talking for a second, jumping from topic to topic, driving me and my father crazy. I couldn’t get back in my car fast enough at the end of the night.

(Back in the time machine. Fast forward to present day.)

Monday night:

My mother always sounds slightly out of breath when she answers the phone, like she’s either just run a mile or is auditioning for a pornographic B movie.

Me: “Hi Mom.”

Mom: “Oh, hi. Are you in the car?”

Me: “I’m on my way home from pilates.”

Mom: “Oh. I would like to take a class like that. What do you do? Stretching? Is it very aerobic? What muscles do you work? Does it make you tired? Are there a lot of people in the class? I heard you dropped curtains off for your grandmother to shorten. I also heard their door wasn’t locked, and they weren’t even home.”

Yikes. I haven’t spoken to my mother since Friday night dinner because I needed a break. I think I came back too soon.

Mom: “Why don’t they lock their door? They have keys. Your grandmother has a key on this nice lanyard that I got her that she could wear around her neck. I mean, they could come back from Bingo one night to find out that they’ve been robbed. Or worse, someone can be waiting for them in the apartment to assault them.”

Assault them? Who? The guy down the hall in the wheelchair? That nice lady with the oxygen tank? The woman with the walker?

Mom (who hasn’t taken a breath, btw): “What do they think? That they still live in California?”


Me: "What does that have to do with anything?”

Mom: “Well, that was California. It’s different here.”

Yes, here they live on the 4th floor of a secure apartment complex in a small town in which you need a key or to be buzzed in to enter. There, they lived in a condo in an open complex, facing a busy city street, across from a high school and college filled with hoodlums. Yes, MUCH safer on West Coast, Mother. Whatever.

Mom: “They’ll never learn their lesson. You know what needs to happen? They either need to be robbed or be assaulted in their own apartment. THEN maybe they’ll start locking their door.”

Is my mother really wishing larceny or a violent attack upon my grandparents? Really? I mean, really?

Mom: “So, did you call for a reason?”

To be reminded that I take after my father.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hive Ya Been?

Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the crisp weather, breaking out my cashmere sweaters and how the pretty leaves make my traffic-filled commute a little easier on the eyes.

But most of all, I love apple picking. There's something about picking the apples right off the trees, shining them up on your shirt and taking a big, crunchy bite.

I think I started going apple picking after college (my apologies, Mom, if you took me as a young child and I don’t remember). My roommates and I would go every year and pick out our pumpkins, take hay rides and gorge ourselves on cider donuts (um, there is NOTHING more delicious that a warm cider donut at an apple orchard. You can’t get more New England than that).

We’d return with bags and bags of apples and I’d make pies and apple crisp, but mostly the bags would sit on the kitchen floor until we all went home for Thanksgiving, then we’d throw them out.

One Fall – about six or seven years ago – I broke out in crazy hives. They were on my face, my arms and my back. They soon developed into huge welts (maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was scratching them like crazy. Hey, they were itchy. Don’t judge me.).

My super-smart biology-major roommate said to me, “I think you’re having an allergic reaction to something." Gee, ya think? "You should see an allergist before it gets any worse.” (Who says twenty-somethings are completely clueless and can’t fend for themselves?)

So two days later I’m sitting in the doctor’s office explaining my symptoms. He’s on the younger side, and completely bored with me.

“Well, I have these hives,” and I show him my back. Of course the hives have settled down, probably due to the overdose of Benadryl. “And my throat and the insides of ears are itchy.”

The doctor stares at me. I stare back. Hey, I’m paying you, buddy. Fix me.

He clears his throat. “Have you eaten anything out of the ordinary in the last few days?”

“Well, there was that live bat's head, but that was Sunday, and it’s definitely out of my system,” I give him the ‘if you know what I mean’ look.

((Blank stare from the medical professional))

“Oh, and I went apple picking, so I guess I ate lots of apples.”

Dr. Boredom perks up. “Apples, you say? Itchy ears and throat? I’ll be right back.” He zooms out of the room. I hope he was this excited on his honeymoon.

He comes back with another doctor. He nods eagerly at me. “Tell him what you just told me. Go ahead!”

“Um, well...I ate lots of apples...and, uh...and my ears are, like, sort of itchy....” Yes, I DID go to college. And yes, I was a communications major, I swear.

Dr. Boredom raises his eyebrows at his colleague. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

I’m thinking someone better tell me what the f is wrong with me.

“You have Oral Allergy Syndrome!” they exclaim in unison.

Great. Basically I have a weird allergy that sounds like an X-rated movie.

Oral Allergy Syndrome – or OAS, as the people with MD after their names call it – is a reaction between proteins in fresh fruits and pollens. Basically, I have an allergy to birch (like the tree) or ragweed, and it acts up when I eat certain things.

So, here’s what gives me hives and itchy inner ears: almonds, apples, apricots, carrots, celery, cherries, coriander, fennel, hazelnuts, kiwi, nectarines, parsley, parsnips, peach, pears, peppers, plums, potatoes, prunes, walnuts.

The funny thing is, those foods only cause a reaction when eaten raw. I can eat them cooked (something happens with the heat that breaks down the enzymes or something), so I don’t have to give up pear tarts or French fries (diet staples, obviously).

I’m a bit of a risk-taker, so there are those times when I’ll throw hives and caution to the wind, and give in to my craving for a granny smith apple. Of course I only do this at home, because my lip hives make me look like a monster.

So, apple picking has fallen to the bottom of my list of all the things I love about Fall. And I miss biting into fresh summer peaches, and popping ripe bing cherries into my mouth. But is it really a bad thing to have to pass up a piece of fresh fruit for a slice of apple pie a la mode?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Respecting My Elders (not really)

The other day someone asked me my age and I had to stop and think. For a minute, I thought I was going to be 33 on my next birthday (which is on tax day, I am not above accepting gifts from strangers). After some quick math, I realized that I’m already 33. On the brink of 34. On the brink of 40. On the brink of…okay, I’ll stop.

I mean, I know that I’m going to GET older. But I don’t want to BE old.

When you’re old, you do strange things, develop weird habits, mutter odd phrases.

I am fortunate enough to have three of my four grandparents alive and living within five miles of me. Because of this, I have a first-hand look into the octogenarian lifestyle. And frankly, it scares the shit out of me.

Judging from the apartments and people I’ve seen in their “active adult community”, here are the things that seem to be elderly must-haves:

The Pill Organizer. I believe you get this in your AARP Welcome Basket. It’s the size of a TV remote control (huge old-lady handbag required for transporting it NOT INCLUDED). Don’t EVER mess with the P.O. Don’t question why Wednesday has three more pills than Thursday, or why there are no pills and just M&M’S on Sunday.

9 Boxes Of Lightbulbs. Or 15 boxes of aluminum foil, 3 containers of oregano or 11 umbrellas. Enough of each to get you through three more lifetimes.

1970’s Sofa That Looks Brand New. Bonus points if it has plastic on it. Extra credit if it’s gold or avocado green.

Housecoat. It’s sleeveless, snaps up the front, has a nice floral pattern. It’s worn to clean the house, get ready for bed or after a bath. Chances are, there are 17 more just like it in the closet.

Tissues. And you store them up your sleeve. Or in the pocket of your housecoat.

Father Time – if you're reading this – please stop the clock. I look awful in a housecoat.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Exercise Matters

I’ve been lying to myself for weeks, even months.

Every day I wake up and tell myself that I’m going to start exercising again. And every day I ignore myself. If I were me, I’d be so mad at myself for being rude to me, that I’d just stop talking to myself.

So in a feeble attempt to do something, I signed up for a pilates class through the continuing education program at my old high school.

In case you’ve never taken a continuing education class at my old high school, here’s what it’s like: retirees and older housewives who are bored, with teachers who (sort of) wish they were somewhere else.

Expectations and my motivation were both very low.

I’ve never taken pilates, but have heard so much about it, I felt really behind the times for just now taking my first class. I was skeptical of the pilates phenomenon – laying (lying? I never can keep those straight) on a mat was going to help me get in shape and maybe lose some weight? Hey, it worked for Jennifer Aniston, right? And Madonna. And tons of other skinny celebrities.

So I leave early from work to make it to a 5:45 class. I give myself extra time because I’m really excited to see the inside of the new high school. It was just built a few years ago, and like a million times better than the one I went to. It is massive; the cafeteria has cool booths and funky tables, and the gymnasium is twice the size than the one in which I used to celebrate homecoming.

Now that I think about it, I could’ve just walked around the hallways for the duration of the class and probably would have gotten more exercise.

The teacher arrives and she looks very familiar. She thinks the same thing about me.

“Where do I know you from?” she asks.

“Hmm…let me think. A gym, maybe?” I know exactly where I know her from, but I play hard to get so I don’t seem like an eager student.

“I taught at a lot of gyms…how long ago?” She asks.

She’s better at the hard-to-get game than I am.

“Elite gym. About 10 years ago.” When I was working out like crazy, trying to get over my exboyfriend and get in shape for my high school reunion.

She smiles at me and introduces herself as Melissa (of course I totally remember her name).

I’m a big in-the-front-of-the-room type of girl, so I lay my mat close to hers and wait for the rest of the class to show up.

We start when there are 9 of us sitting cross-legged on our mats. Melissa launches into the history of pilates and how it changed her life while I size-up the room. I’m tied for first for the youngest person there (the girl in the back could be younger…hard to tell since she’s not wearing any makeup). The two women behind me are probably in their late 40s early 50s and have been friends for a while. There are two girls a little older than I am, talking about their young children (“Well, he still likes his binky, so how can I say no? I mean, he’s only five.”). There’s one random woman who – like myself – came solo to the class (mental note to watch out for her, she might try and latch onto me). And the ladies over by the windows who probably got a senior citizen discount.

After about 20 minutes of learning the story of Joseph Pilates, Melissa teaches us how to breathe. After our first exercise I hear one of the geezers moan.

“I can’t get up!” she whispers to her friend (btw, a senior citizen whisper is much like a drunk whisper – rather loud).

“Are you alright?” her friend asks. By now everyone is sitting up and staring at this poor woman. Melissa asks if she's okay.

“I don’t know if I can take this class,” the woman responds. “I have vertigo.” Who knew I was in class with Kim Novak?

And then there were 8.

After what seemed like three hours, we wrapped up class. I think we did about five and a half exercises. Not only did I not break a sweat, I almost fell asleep while we were in child’s position.

So much for a workout. But it did get me out of the house and into my yoga pants; and I think I pulled a muscle getting into the car on the way home, so I even have a sore hamstring to show for it.