Monday, March 29, 2004

Don't tread on me...

Oh, good googly-moogly. Every time I get the confidence to declare that I am indeed a “grown-up,” I go and do something that points tragically to the contrary. Tonight I digressed from savvy mother of two to an abashed teenager in the seconds it took for a treadmill to suck up a Pilates ball.

My Mom and I have been exercising in her retirement community’s gym to prepare for an upcoming trip to Rome. (We came to the disturbing realization that Rome really does exist on seven hills, and that Roman sightseeing can outrival a stairmaster workout.) Mom isn’t big on stamina, and I am big physically, so we’ve commited to getting in better shape before we head for “La Dolce Vita”. (The sweet life, that is.) Which is why I found myself huffing and puffing on a “healthrider” this evening, wondering if the Spanish invented this machine during the Inquisition. Mom was plodding away on the treadmill, which was hypnotic to watch as endorphins surged through my punished body. Pre-war blues oozed out of a CD player to bolster the effect; I’ve developed intense respect for these silvered athletes who sweat to such eclectic tunes.

I tottered off the “SuperHernia-matic” when I reached my pain tolerance level. As I ambled towards my speed-walking mother, I noticed a cute little smiley-faced orange ball on the floor. “What’s that?” I quizzed Mom.

A pilot’s ball, or something,” she replied flippantly. “

I think it’s called a Pill-lot-tees ball
,” I corrected, as I nonchalantly kicked it towards a tub containing more smiling ball-brethren. I kicked it towards the tub, but it chose to ignore me completely and scudded under the moving runway of the treadmill. “Mom! Turn it off!” I yelled, afraid that the ball would grab the rubbery strip and send her flying.

What? Why?” asked Mom, as the engine slowly ground to a halt.

Please, just turn it off and unplug it,” I begged as I crept towards her, praying that the ball was simply wedged underneath. I coached her to help me turn the treadmill on its side. There lay the distended, bulging ball; entangled in the belt and rollers of the machine. My heart sank and my stomach rose. I envisioned an octogenarian ambling in for his six a.m. constitutional, only to find out some resident’s adult daughter had vandalized the gym.

“Oh my,” Mom sighed in her “You've screwed up, but I’m too Southern to tell you” voice. I urged her to call my father and tell him to bring a knife so we could pop the ball. “I sure hope no one hears what I’ve got to tell him,” Mom fretted as she went on her way.

I stood awkward and silent in the room for a few seconds. The sensation of being a naughty child, waiting for Dad to come home, swept over me like a wave of nausea. Mental video stills rolled of me sitting on a padded bench outside the Principal's office. I hopped back on the Musclegrinder 2000 to distract and occupy myself. I noticed a sticker on the seat stem that read “Questions? Call our hotline!” and wryly considered doing just that. Rattling doorknobs startled me as a security guard opened the door to peer in the room. (I guess it was uncommon for music and lights to be on in the gym after eight p.m.) “Hi,” I warbled lamely, as I pumped slowly back and forth. She mercifully withdrew from the room before noticing the dismal carcass of the treadmill. I increased the pace and rythym of my efforts as I played out the scenario of my father’s arrival in my head. He would walk over to the machine and scrutinize it for dragging minutes, eventually rising from his knees to grumble, “There’s nothing I can do.” As a kid, when dad couldn’t ride in and bail me out, I knew I'd blown it. Big time. (When something *was "dad-fixable", attention could benignly shift from my misdeed to dad’s prowess at repair.) Dad entered the room with my mother to end my grim penance on the healthrider.

Oh goodness,” was his Southern gentleman’s version of “You moron” as he yanked on the frozen and immovable belt. He produced his handy-dandy, everpresent mini-Swiss army knife and slit the gibbous orb. With a reassuring hiss the ball deflated, and Dad extricated the rubbery mass.

I love you, Dad!” I gushed, as I whisked away nightmares of indentured servitude to pay for a new treadmill. Dad swung the machine back into place and plugged the power cord into the wall. He turned the treadmill on, cranked the belt speed up, and hopped on to make sure the motor hadn’t burned out. Satisfied, he powered it down and stepped off the whining runway. Mom deftly snatched up the smiling rubber blob and attempted to bury it in the tub of healthy Pilates balls.

No, no, we’ll just throw it away,” Dad growled as he yanked the ex-ball out of the tub and folded it clandestinely into his jacket pocket. My parents had become the Bonnie and Clyde of their retirement community gym to save their adolescent adult daughter. Bless their hearts, y'all.