I know every word to the song American Pie and can name all the kids in my third-grade class. Yet in terms of learning from my mistakes, I possess the memory of a goldfish.
Just a month ago, I swore off sports and exercise--in any form--for life. Not because I'm lazy, mind you, but because I came to realize that the Twin Gods of Physical Harm and Humiliation had chosen me as their personal pet project.
Soon, however, my scale began whimpering as I approached. Even as I recalled my Vow of Slothfulness, I sighed and dusted off the treadmill. Walking in place: how dangerous could it be?
If I were to endure this for thirty minutes every day though, I'd surely need to be entertained. No TV set in the room, and reading was out of the question. (One hand off the rail for a flip of the page and I'd find myself doing a full body flip.) But with my laptop, Hulu.com and an endless stream of sixties and seventies TV? I'd have so damn much fun exercising, I might stay on the thing all night! I studied the drink holder. With a tall glass and a long straw, a margarita might raise the entertainment level a notch.
Alas, even with the audio fully cranked, I couldn't hear the Mary Tyler Moore Show from the laptop's position across the room. So I got to pondering my predicament, conjuring up all the engineering skills that made me such a quality D+ student in high school science and math.
Fifteen minutes later, I had rigged a laptop treadmill shelf, and the computer hummed brightly, just inches from my face.
The treadmill did not hum happily along. It whined and wheezed and roared. It seems treadmills object to years of neglect and all that rust and dust accumulating in their gears. I hovered closer to the laptop, straining to hear the audio through the treadmill's roar. Instead, I detected a secondary rumbling noise.
But this newest sound was not coming from the treadmill at all. My comprehension of the situation--that my makeshift stand had a slight design flaw and that the laptop was vibrating its way off the shelf-- arrived a moment too late. The computer rocked a couple times more, and then it took a nose-dive toward me.
At that very moment, the hand-eye coordination which eluded me all my life decided to make amends. As I fought to keep my brisk walking pace, I happened to catch the laptop with my left arm, between my wrist and my elbow. Normally, I'd take a moment to gloat over such a success. But my dilemma had only begun. As the laptop slipped off its rudimentary shelf, landing fortuitously upon my arm, it first managed to hit the treadmill speed control.
The belt surged at Olympic-speed rates.
My eyes bulged and my feet raced. The laptop jiggled, perched precariously along my forearm.
With a flash, I recalled the treadmill's emergency pull-string. But it lay just out of reach of my right hand. The only way to pull this emergency chute would be to remove the one fist which remained gripped around a handrail. The God of Physical Harm chuckled.
Somehow, I managed to twist the laptop off my arm, maneuver it sideways and wedge the keyboard between my left elbow and my waist. I hugged it to my side and then grasped my left hand around the rail.
By now, I was bent forward at an 180-degree angle, with my feet flying underneath me. "Red-rum, red-rum, red-rum," the machine roared.
I would not be defeated. Not this time. Even as my feet began to slip on the track, I clenched the laptop under my left arm. I lifted my right hand off the rail and stretched. My fingertips brushed the emergency chute. I tugged.
The treadmill halted. The gears fell silent. The only sound, from the now clearly audible video, was Mary's voice.
"Oh, Rhoda," she said.
And as my knees buckled beneath me and the laptop crashed to the floor, Rhoda found nothing to say in her defense.
Care to share your week's personal failures? If not, at least laugh with me.