I’m a Sucker for a Batted Eye
Rumor has it that my mother didn’t raise any fools.
I can now dispel that myth.
Last weekend, after trickery, cajoling and a skillfully executed full frontal assault aimed at my virility, I participated in a 5K Charity Run to benefit, as far as I know, the proliferation of the seldom heralded Siberian crepitating platypus.
Did I say participated in? I meant that I provided entertainment for the hundreds gathered to witness my shame.
I should have seen it coming. Once again my “adopted” children, the same children who have taken me on as a mascot since we all worked together at a charity event a year ago, called upon me to, once again, do my part for the good of mankind.
Keep in mind that when I agreed, I was under the assumption (never assume for when we assume we….you know the routine) that we’d be doing home repairs for the elderly which is what we were doing when we all met and have done fairly regularly since.
Saturday morning came in sunny and bright with just a hint of morning chill in the air. I loaded my tools in my truck and coasted into my favorite choke and puke for, you guessed it, greasy eggs, sausage of unknown origin, home-fries dripping with lard and my usual six cups of coffee.
I’m on a health food kick.
I thought it strange that we were meeting at one of the local high schools instead of at a church or the charity’s office, but chalked it off to the central location and ample parking and, after tamping down a final piece of toast (with real butter, none of that sissy margarine), I drove to the high school contemplating the work we were going to do that day..
As I pulled into the parking lot I was assaulted by wave after wave of banners choking the lawn and building, advertising a senior’s 5K run and Family Fun Fair that, by some coincidence, was taking place that very morning. I remember thinking what a logistics nightmare we’d be up against as our home repair group mingled with the nut-job runners while we tried to load the massive trailer we took to all the jobsites we worked at.
I pulled up next to Megan’s baby blue BMW and saw our group ambling around in the grass amid a pack of stretching and grunting runners preparing for the race.
David’s greeting stopped me in my tracks.
“Dude, you gonna run in those?” He asked, pointing at my ratty jeans, “I’m Not A Morning Person” tee shirt and work boots.
“Not unless angry villagers with torches and pitchforks start chasing me again.” I laughed. “So, where’s Terry with the supply trailer?
“We’re not working today, Pops, this is a run. I thought you knew?” It was Megan; looking extremely fetching and giving me the “eyes.”
“By running, I’m assuming (there I go assuming again) you mean you guys are running, right? What can I do? Work the concession stand?” I know my voice was beginning to tremble with a borderline whine in the delivery.
“No sweetie, we’re not seniors. You are. We’re here to cheer you on. You wouldn’t believe how many sponsors we got for you, and it’s such a worthy cause. Besides, my mom’s the chairperson and she asked for you specifically. You know you can’t resist my mom!” This phase of the death sentence was rolled out by Lisa, she, too, giving me the eyes. I’m a sucker for beautiful eyes.
“Lisa, sweetie, baby doll, were you deprived of oxygen at birth? For starters, I’m not a senior, thank you very much! Secondly, I have a strict policy against running unless someone who can do me extreme bodily harm is chasing me. And, even then, I’ll only run if I’ve given the matter intensive thought and determined that the recuperation period from said bodily harm will exceed a year in traction. Otherwise, I’d take my chances with the assailant. Fat guys don’t run. We mosey, sashay, waddle or stroll but we do not run. We were placed on this earth for the amusement of others. It’s in our bylaws; “Thou shall not run,” page two-twenty-seven, paragraph six. Look it up.”
“By seniors’, they mean over forty, silly! It’s supposed to be a fun race.” Now Lisa was pouting.
God I’m such a sap!
“Lisa, my love, I find very little humor in being referred to as a senior at forty-eight. And for the record, I’m in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in, thank you very much.”
“Oh please, please run this race? It’ll mean so much to everyone; especially my mom. If you do it, Megan, Cindy and I will fix your favorite seven course meal for you next weekend; a six-pack of Spatan and a hamburger! Better yet, we’ll fix you a real meal fit for a king with a chocolate cake and all the beer you can drink.”
David chimed in before I could utter another word of rebuke.
“On behalf of my client, I must insist that this alleged meal be prepared, served and cleaned up after by the aforementioned trio dressed in nothing but a smile!”
Did I mention that aside from being a member of Big Boned Local 241, I am also chapter president of P.E.R.V. (Promiscuous Elderly for the Return of Vaudeville)? My parents should have named me Randy!
The girls went into a giggly huddle. This is insane, I thought. I hadn’t actually retained David as my attorney (he is, in reality, a computer geek) but I liked his style.
The huddle broke and their spokesperson, Lisa, delivered their counter offer.
“Bikinis! We’ll do the entire dinner in bikinis but you’re not invited, David!”
Dejected, David accepted their offer on my behalf without any haggling and began to pout. Personally, I was hoping he’d negotiate the offer to at least topless, but once he learned he wasn’t invited, the wind went right out of his sails. He must have gone to the same law school my last divorce attorney went to. Besides, given my lengthy “dry spell,” dinner served by a bevy of topless thirty-something’s would probably kill me faster than the run I was now locked into.
But what a way to go!
After the girls left to tend to the formalities, I pulled David aside.
“You were awfully quick to raffle me off, David. I’m the one risking the heart attack, stroke or, worse yet, total humiliation. I haven’t run since the last time they had a two-for-one sale at the day old donut shop.”
“Piece of cake, Dude. Look at all those geezers over there,” he said, nodding to a quartet of elderly ladies stretching by the announcer’s tent. “They’ll be lucky if they don’t drop from a stroke when they hear the starter’s pistol. You’re a shoe-in, Dude!”
I scanned the crowd and, with few exceptions, didn’t see many participants under the age of sixty. It seemed as if the odds were probably favorable that I’d finish somewhere in the middle with very little effort. I felt a little better about my situation, although the prospect of having to run went against every fiber of my being.
I should have just tattooed a huge “L” on my forehead and gone home, bikini catered dinner or not.
I scrounged through my truck to find a pair of roofing-tar-stained sneakers I kept in the back for traction when I needed to do repairs on slanted roofs, and used a pair of tin snips to turn my worn jeans into cut-offs. The look was not exactly Armani, but you have to work with what you have.
The rest of our group arrived and took turns patting me on the back, attempting to boost my confidence. I felt like a condemned man on his way to the gallows. I tried to mentally prepare for my upcoming feat of stupidity (one in a chain of thousands) by picturing Lisa, Megan and the girls serving me shish-kabobs in skimpy bikinis. If I didn’t make it through the run alive, at least I’d have that visual permanently embossed on my age-addled brain.
Lisa attached the requisite paper number to the back of my shirt (my mother swore all her life that I’d end up wearing a number one day) and gave me a big hug for luck. I must admit, the inspiration was working. What’s 5K, right?
The announcer’s booming voice brought an instantaneous hush over the swarm of runners as he thanked everyone for attending and asked all “seniors” to take their positions at the starting line. The ambulances positioned along the track were a definite eye-opener. I tried to slow my pounding heart by rationalizing that should something go amiss, (and I was certain something would), there was medical intervention just a few yards away.
I was standing next to a couple of true “senior” ladies who had apparently run together before.
“Lacy, I hope you brought your oxygen mask to keep my dust out of your lungs!”
“Margaret, the only way I’m going to be eating your dust is when I lap your wrinkled ass and it wafts up from your lifeless carcass!”
These two were serious! I scanned the entire group as they jogged up to the starting throng and realized that I was the only relay virgin in the group. These “seniors” weren’t new to relays, charity or otherwise; they were all hard core pros!
I tried to side-step, slowly, hoping to work my way to the side of the track and mingle with the onlookers, but the influx of runners kept me pinned in the middle of the pack. Fear, mixed with claustrophobia, and the rising heat of another late July morning started rearing their ugly head. The air was getting thinner and I could actually feel my lungs constricting as I listened to snipes and bravado from all sides. This wasn’t a fun race, it was a death match and I was a leg of lamb in a pack of blue-haired pit bulls.
The starter’s pistol initiated a stampede of wrinkles, the aftermath enveloping me in a vortex of Channel Number Five, Bay Rum and Ben-Gay in its’ wake. By the time I got my bearings and began to run, my “running mates” were already half way through the first lap. I heard Lisa and Megan yelling, “Run, Forrest, Run!”
My chronic fear of humiliation caused me to spring into action; quite contrary to my usual apathetic style. I poured it on with all I had. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much.
The quivering mass of stretch-marks lapped me shortly after I left the starting line. I was, yet again, in the middle of the horde.
After a few laps, I tried occupying my oxygen deprived mind by attempting to do the math and figure out how many K’s were in a mile and how many laps it would take around the eighth-mile track to finish the race. Given that my body had already shifted to the fight or flight, primal sectors of its’ suffocating gray matter, I took some temporary solace as two of my running-mates, who had been carrying on a calm, and surprisingly interesting, conversation about needle point, extolled others in the group of the fact that there were still sixteen of the twenty-four laps that made up the three-point-one miles of the 5K race left; all the while expressing their doubts about whether “some of us” were going to make it.
I knew then and there that granny was trying to use psychological warfare on me…..and it was working!
By now I was panting, my lungs screaming for air as my heart threatened to jump out of my chest and run the race alone. To make matters worse, the breakfast special I’d consumed at the choke and puke was threatening to show its’ displeasure over the uncharacteristic exercise I was subjecting my unaccustomed anatomy to.
I made it eight more laps before my stomach waged it’s full, final protest and, without warning, brought my earlier feast back up for discussion. Thankfully, the “seniors” had left me in their wake, yet again, so while they were not immediately privy to, or baptized by, the jet-propelled, Technicolor stream spewing forth from me, they were brought into the loop when the group at the chili cook-off, taking place directly in front of me, looked on in horror as they emptied their samples into the waste baskets and rushed away, screaming. I tried to make it to a less conspicuous area to finish my conversation with Ralph in private and tripped over my own two feet as I attempted to step off the track and go through an open gate, twisting my ankle severely during the fall. My muscles cramped up instantly and I rolled around on the ground like a floundering, beached whale, unable to get back on my feet.
To add insult to injury, my fall couldn’t have been less strategic if I tried. When the culinary flood gates opened, the damn broke and an oozing mass of Ma Pruitt’s Home Cooking formed a lake which, depending on whether you’re a glass half full or glass half empty type, somewhat cushioned my fall. Unfortunately, the lake was rather polluted and the fact that I was covered in said lake water precluded any of the good Samaritans standing by from helping me up. To further my humiliation, the paramedics, properly gloved, had no problem helping me up to the leers and jeers of my former running mates. One of the medicos, a friend of mine, was kind enough to grab a nearby water hose to clean me off which, while well intended, left me looking like Big Edna after a wet tee-shirt contest.
As luck would have it, the ankle was only sprained, I was only mildly dehydrated which brought on the cramps and, more importantly, my running career was over. The only immediate consolation was that the local news team and the newspaper staff were either asleep at the switch or attending some other blood bath and didn’t catch my Kodak moment for future airing and my continued humiliation.
As a consolation prize, and after some intense apologies and assurances that I’d never be volunteered for anything involving running again, the girls all agreed that I’d earned the dinner they’d promised for next Saturday.
I hope those ambulances are in the neighborhood………………….