“I quit the gym and bought a treadmill,” I told Carlton.
“Great,” he said. “How much clothing can you hang on it? They really free up the closet space. I can get two suits and six shirts on mine. I’m thinking of buying another one for my sweaters.”
Did I mention Carlton is trapped in an unhappy marriage, breathes through his mouth and is trapped in the body of a middle-aged, balding man? I tried to straighten him out.
“It’s not a clothes rack. I really use it. When I figured out how much it was costing me to drive to the gym: a gallon of gas every day plus the dues, it just made sense to buy my own equipment.”
“If you walked to the gym every day, you wouldn’t be using any gas, and when you got there, you wouldn’t have to exercise. You could just walk home,” he said, pretending to be rational. “You wouldn’t need the gym or the treadmill. And you’d be in better shape. They have these new things now, they’re called ‘sidewalks.’ You should try them some time. You could have bought something nice, like a giant, flat-screen HDTV instead of a treadmill.” This is coming from a guy who can’t see his feet. Did I mention Carlton has things like “eat a salad,” “find five more pall bearers” and “read a book” on his to-do list?
“And if I had better friends, they wouldn’t think I’m using my treadmill as an armoire. Have you tried walking anywhere in this town? It’s a death trap. It’s like “Death Race 2000,” where pedestrians are the targets. People in cars are out to get you.”
“That would make a great game!” Carlton said.
“I think it’s already been done. A few thousand times. Never mind, I forgot who I’m talking to. The last time you took a walk outdoors it was to receive your high school diploma.”
“That walk made up for all the gym classes I skipped. So, you’ve had the treadmill two weeks now, how many times have you used it?
That is, twice. It took me one entire day just to get it out of the box. The next two days all my muscles ached. I couldn’t feel my fingers. It’s hard to break those giant staples they use on packing boxes. And the thing must weigh 200 pounds. Then I spent about a week putting it together.
When I finally got it finished, Sue said she didn’t want it in the middle of the living room and asked me to take it upstairs and put it in my office. Now, she tells me. So that was another two days, taking it apart and wrestling it up the stairs and putting it back together again.
I never had lower-back pain before, but I’ve got it now. The money I’m saving on the gym will probably go to a back specialist or a case of Bengay.
Finally, it was ready to go. I stepped on the treadmill and started my 30-minute routine. I could feel the energy surge through my body, that great feeling of the heart pumping, the blood flowing, the muscles warming up, the total and complete boredom of walking in place. So I turned on the financial news to check up on my IRA while I exercised. My financial guru was telling Maria Bartiromo that small investors shouldn’t panic. When someone on Wall Street says, “Don’t panic,” it means, “What’s the use? We’ve already lost all your money.”
Can I get this treadmill back in the box? Will it look like I used it? Can I return it and get my money back? I’ll need it for my leaden years. One more “buying opportunity” in the stock market and I won’t have to worry about retirement – I won’t have one. Thank goodness I exercised, I can look forward to outliving my savings.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.