Tuesday, September 26, 2006

On The Clock

It is getting to the point where Ironman training has nearly consumed my capacity for intelligent thought or productivity at the workplace.

It was Monday morning. The day before I had ran 20 miles at a particularly speedy pace followed by a 3 hour ride at a moderate pace, of course mostly into a northwest headwind. I was feeling a little ragged.

I arrived at work knowing I could, would, had to pull it off. But it wouldn’t be easy. There’s only so many days you can close your door in an open-door organization before people start talking outside of your door, saying that they know you are in there and you can only hide for so long.

Settling into my office chair, a co-worker immediately popped into my office.

“You look tired,” he said.

I laughed and shook my head. Without a word from me, he said “Oh yeah, you’re getting close to that Hawaii thing.”

I told him yes, and yesterday I had ran 20 miles in preparation for that Hawaii thing. To which he replied, “So are you ever going to run the full 26.2 before the race?”

Funny the things that non-athletes will ask us athletes. I looked back at him. “No thanks, I’ll stick with my 20 and save the last 6.2 miles for a surprise on race day.” I said.

“Hang in there,” he said. I assume he meant that I should try to hang on to my brain in my head before it fell out empty on the floor.

For the next few hours, I tried to put together some semblance of intelligent thought at work, but got no further then writing an action song about turkeys for a class called Gobble Gobble for two year olds consisting of lyrics like “Hey Mr. Turkey, where have you been? Open the barn door and come on in!”

Clearly I had reached my intellectual capacity for the day and the better half of my brain was knocking on the barn door, along with the turkeys, and finding nobody home.

So, I did what any other empty and unproductive person would do. I went to Wal-Mart.

Honestly, I have nothing against Wal-Mart or people that shop there. I just have something against the one thousand bad experiences I have had in Wal-Mart. No matter when I go or what I’m looking for, my experiences have been marred by the fact that (1) Wal-Mart is always crowded, further complicated by the fact that (2) The aisles in Wal-Mart are about 3 feet wide, which is not a good place to be if you are surrounded by (3) Shopping carts filled with screaming children being pushed by their could care less mothers trying to make their way around (4) Unusually high numbers of people over age 75 shuffling around in sweatsuits and carrying oversized purses.

Unavoidably, I spend more than my preferred share of time at Wal-Mart. At least once a week, I am forced to shop at Wal-Mart for assorted work items. It sounds like a dream come true - being forced to shop at store, on work time, with someone else’s credit card. But when the store is Wal-Mart, it ain’t no dream. It’s pure unadulterated nightmare material.

Today I decided to go to Wal-Mart because it was the closest store to my workplace, because I needed to be distracted by something that didn’t require a lot of thinking, and because I needed a few things.

I walked into the doors and was immediately greeted by the typical Wal-Mart fanfare, some grumpy guy at the door who supposedly greets you and gives you a cart but instead says and does nothing.

Snarling at the greeter, I grabbed my own cart and wheeled away. Of course within 30 seconds, I realized I had grabbed the gimpy cart. Of the 100 carts in front of me, I choose the one with the front left wheel that continually veers right and requires my stronghold grip to steer it straight. I keep this up for another minute before I realize that my upper body is already exhausted from working out and this cart-induced workout was not the shopping fun I was looking for.

Cruising through the aisles, I weave in, out, and around the better part of DuPage County’s aged population. For some reason, old people love Wal-Mart. It’s a connection I have not yet figured out, but I’ve been watching. I’ve been studying what they put in their carts, and listening in on their conversations and I have one conclusion. I can’t help but think they have come to Wal-Mart because the marketing machine has convinced them that it is cheap.

But I know better. Case and point – the tampon selection. I notice that a box of 40 Tampax is $6.97 at Wal-Mart. For crying out loud, we’re talking 17 cents a plug. I’m willing to pay 10 cents and not a penny more. But notice that something else you need far less often is dirt cheap at Wal-Mart, like those little saucers you put under your houseplants to keep them from leaking. Like you need a box of 40 of those every month. Lure me in with what sounds like cheap deals only to realize I don’t need your cheap stuff but I do need every other item for daily life that you have marked up. I will not give in to this type of evil consumer trickery. Trickery, I tell you. Older people are less likely to pick up on this type of trickery. But us young folk – you can’t pull one past me. I’ll pass on your cotton plugs, Wal-Mart, and instead take my tampon shopping to Target, thank you.

Recently, they redesigned the local Wal-Mart. Everything is in a new place and I am completely lost in the reformatted format. I can’t find the detergent and the lotion has eluded me. Not only that but the fabric section has completely disappeared. Not that I needed fabric, but I wonder if this is yet another sociological sign that our modernized society has no room or time for the slower leisures in life, like sewing or quilting. For now, they’ve replaced that section with automotive goods. Yet another subliminal sociological message – from hand operated to automated. Wal-Mart is on to something here.

Rolling over to the shampoo aisle, I realize it is already jam-packed with about a million other carts. Determined to make my way in, I start pushing forward. And pushed right into grandma in shiny sweatsuit and silver hair. Oh, I dare you, I thought. Just try to get by me. It was the ultimate showdown on wheels and I was begging her to bring it on. Through my eyes, I was suggesting politely that she wait so I could get by because after all I had arrived at the aisle first and made my way in. If she wanted so bad to get out she could just throw it in reverse and roll out the other way. She wouldn’t budge. There was no getting by this woman, who’s years in age were outweighing my waning motivation to surge past her because I had left most my motivation somewhere on a path yesterday around mile 18. Score one for grandma.

Not sure how much more I could take, I made one more stop in the store in the basket aisle. I wanted a new basket. I didn’t need a new basket, I wanted it and on a day like this I was the child and this basket was the candy that I had to have. NOW. With basket in cart, I began to make my way towards the checkout line when my arms, weary with too many miles of resisting headwind and too many yards of pulling with paddles, gave out and my cart began to careen towards a woman in the seasonal aisle. I wanted to sound a warning, a cart out of control message to anyone within a 2 foot radius of my wily wheels, when all of a sudden I found myself helplessly slamming into this woman’s cart which bumped her body right into the display of tiny scarecrows on a stick. She looked at me from behind her glasses. She did not look pleased. I apologized for what surely came across as a very aggressive accident in aisle that shouted seasonal autumn happiness. I was out of place.

After checking out, I nearly blew a bicep muscle trying to steer the wayward cart through the parking lot. With bags safely in the back of my car, I locked myself into the front seat, sitting down exhausted. I thought Wal-Mart was supposed to be an easy, mindless trip. I felt worse than when I started. And there’s searing pain in my upper arms and a screaming pain in my head.

When I returned to work, my desk was where I left it and my work had not picked up and left. Back to song writing, and program managing, and phone answering, and trying to pull something productive and useful out of this tired mind. But alas, there’s less than 4 weeks to go until that Hawaii thing. And I’ll make it through. As long as I don’t take too many more trips to Wal-Mart.

2 comments:

finn said...

my advice? stick to Whole Foods. :)
make someone else go to Wal-Mart.

Mira Lelovic said...

I got a "D" on that exam I had 3 days after IM WI. I also got 3 "B's" during summer semester because if I wasn't using my time to train, I was too brain dead to concentrate on studying! But finishing the IM was worth the sacrifice. Thank God I made that swim cutoff.