Poor Martha didn’t know what she was getting into. She has been asking me to go to the gym to try this “Body Pump” class she’s been taking for months now. I always refuse. You see, I hate going to the gym. As a matter of principle, I hate anything having to do with exercise. It’s not that I’m lazy, but I figure if I’m going to put forth an effort to push my body to its physical limits, I need to see some immediate results. For example, when I do any sort of manual labor, usually I can look back and see the results of my hard work at the end of that same day. Not so with exercise… it seems it takes forever to see any results from that. I guess I’m just a sucker for instant gratification.
My particular aversion to exercise is nothing new. Since the days of gym class in junior high school I’ve been this way. During those days I was one of the few who refused to “dress out” for gym class or any other such ridiculous thing that involved jumping around, sweating, and looking like some fool needing a heavy dose of Ritalin. If it wasn’t for the academic aspects of that class, I’d still be trying to get a high school diploma at the age of 45. Silly, I know, but sometimes the truth just needs to be told.
When I went to college, little did I know I would have to endure this nightmare all over again with yet another PE class. As you can guess, I put it off as long as I could. I think it was my first semester as a junior before I ever gave in and finally decided to get that God-forsaken class over with. It wasn’t bad enough they made me go through the agonizing misery that only a sadistic, evil, hateful, spiteful, vindictive, deceitful Bush administration torture expert could conceive of doing to another human being; no, they had to add a swimming test to this class just to prove their callous hearts had no soul.
You see, I do not swim. I don’t even go into wading pools. With my luck, I would be the one you read about in the paper who drowned in his bathtub when he fell asleep. So you can imagine my dismay at the announcement that we had to take this swimming test and actually pass it in order to pass the class. Just as soon as class dismissed that day, I marched myself right up to my PE teacher with the bad perm and explained, rather convincingly I thought, that I could not swim and there was no way I would be able to pass this test. Thinking that she would have mercy on my soul and just let me slide from this one thing since I had endured all sorts of humiliating things in the name of finishing college, I felt pretty confident that I would be able to talk myself out of it. The only thing she would do, however, was give me an “Incomplete” for my grade and told me to take a swimming class the next semester and come back to take the test. Can you believe that nonsense? The next thing I remember were the paramedics reviving me with spirits of ammonia.
Time passed, and I had completely forgotten about any swimming test. But like an old wise sage on the mountaintop, a college registrar forgets nothing. I got a letter in the mail the next year stating I had an “incomplete” in that PE class to remove from my transcript before I could graduate. Having a renewed sense of stubbornness and zeal to beat the system, I once again decided there was no way “they” were going to beat me in this thing that, in my mind, had become a full fledged war between myself and the dark forces of the PE department.
The very next day I sauntered myself into the office of the Chair of the PE Department to explain how there was no way I could pass such a test and how unfair it would be to force me to do something of that nature. I think I used excuses like, “afraid of water” and other things that might not have applied to my particular situation just to make my case stronger. Believe it or not, the evil little man behind the desk didn’t buy it… I would have to swim whether I wanted to or not.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that didn’t sit well with me.
Not to be outdone, I made an appointment the next day with the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to plead my case to someone who obviously had more sense than a simple PE teacher with an over-inflated ego. But after 30 minutes of bearing my soul and laying it on the line, he proved he was no better than anyone else. He agreed that I would have to take this test. That idiot!
Well, that didn’t sit well with me either.
So the next step, obviously, was the President of the University. Trying to get an audience with him, however, was like trying to get a peek at the Pope. In no uncertain terms, the little troll of a lady sitting behind the desk informed me that if the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences had agreed with the PE Chair, there was no way the President was going to overrule their decision and I would be forced to take this test or not graduate. I’ll spare you the details of the scene that ensued in her office… suffice it to say there were threats of calling security that just didn’t fit into my envisioned scenario, so I left.
So there I was, stewing in my dorm room, trying to figure out a way out of this mess that I had gotten myself into. Still, admitting defeat was not an option. They say it’s always darkest just before the dawn, and little did I know my “dawn” was getting ready to walk into my room in the form of Shane. Shane was a good friend of mine from one of the organizations I was involved with on campus. We started talking and I explained to him my dilemma. He explained that since there was a completely new staff in the PE department from the time I had taken the class, he could impersonate me and take the test for me. FINALLY… a light at the end of the tunnel! The very next morning, we called and arranged an appointment for “Glenn” to take his swimming test.
When the day of reckoning finally arrived, we casually walked over to the natatorium, Shane having memorized and rehearsed all the information needed to convince the swimming instructor he was actually “Glenn.” After about thirty minutes, Shane emerged and said, “Well, you got an A.” Once our friends figured out what happened they couldn’t believe we went through with it… and actually succeeded! Twenty-odd years later, that little incident is still brought up in conversation. I guess that goes to show you there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
I suppose I tell you that story to give you a little background as to how humiliating it was for me to finally break down and tell Martha that, yes, I would finally go with her to this “Body Pump” class. You see, I had gotten on the scales the week before and almost had a nervous breakdown because of the numbers that flashed before my eyes. Never in my life had I been that heavy. So I decided that something dramatic had to be done. Little did anyone realize, however, exactly how much drama would be involved with this experience.
The day of reckoning finally arrived. After work, I followed Martha to the gym where we met her husband who was also taking this class. Now keep in mind, by this point I’m more nervous than a woman of ill repute in church about setting foot in a gym. All sorts of terrible scenarios crossed my mind, but the worst was getting ready to become reality. We walked into this place where everyone looked as if they’d been on a strict steroid regimen for at least two years. When we got to the room where the class was held I was introduced to the instructor who was this twenty-something girl who looked like the Incredible Hulk, and here I was looking more like the Incredible Bulk. This was not the start I had anticipated. We picked out our weights, and I took the smallest amount possible (hey, why kill myself on the first day?). Finding our place in the back of the class, we started with the warm-up exercises. I should have known it would be all down-hill from there when the instructor jumped into the class without even a mention of how to go about doing these exercises.
So here I am, at least a beat-and-a-half behind everyone trying to figure out what the heck they’re doing. About ten minutes into the class, my legs have turned to jelly, and my head is floating about 10 feet above the rest of my body from sheer dizziness. Then, the truly unexpected happens. We had to place this barbell over our shoulders for part of the exercises, and that’s when I must have pinched a nerve in my neck. All of a sudden, I get the worst headache known to humankind. In two seconds, I had convinced myself I was having a stroke right in the middle of the gym. Everything blacked out, I couldn’t hear anything but my heart beating in the middle of my head, and I became so nauseous I was convinced I was going to toss everything I ever ate in my entire life onto the floor. Surely, I don’t have to tell you that this is not how I planned to meet my Maker. Never in a million years had I imagined my obituary would read something like, “Glenn died unexpectedly from suffering a stroke while working out and drowned in a pool of his own vomit.” But struggle through, I did. Before class was over, however, I did have to worship in front of the porcelain god in the restroom and make an offering of my lunch from earlier that day.
At the end of this class, I was so relieved the ordeal was over I could have kissed the ground when I left the gym. Martha didn’t think it was as bad as I did, which only convinced me even more she must be a card-carrying masochist. I was so nauseous and had such a headache when I got home, I immediately went to the medicine cabinet, swallowed two Percocet for my headache and shoved a Phenergan suppository up my backside as far as I could get it for the nausea. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the evening in bed.
The next day, I was so sore it literally took me five minutes just to get down the stairs. It even hurt to blink my eyes! My headache was still there, and it would be with me for at least three more days. I could hardly move. When I finally made it into work, I wished the ten plagues of Egypt upon Martha all at once for subjecting me to such torture when I hadn’t done anything in life bad enough to have to endure this kind of suffering. It was sheer hades on earth!
Eventually, the pain went away. I forgave Martha for trying to kill me, but in no uncertain terms I let her know I learned not to fall for her evil tricks ever again. The other day, she actually tried to convince me to go to a different class. The look I gave her almost turned her into a pillar of salt. The next time I get this crazy idea to lose a few pounds quickly, I can guarantee you it won’t be by going to a gym. No, next time I think I’ll simply have my jaws wired shut. Believe me, it’s a lot less painful!