Monthly Archives: September 2007

My Bad

I jammed up the elementary school’s traffic circle this morning.  And I’m not sure, but I think the traffic circle parent police and the vice-principal may have taken down my license number.  So I expect a call sometime later today, if not an actual visit from the crossing guard and a real state policeman, possibly banning me from the circle forever.  They can do that you know.

But it’s not my fault.  Not really.  I mean, normally I walk Snags to school each morning.  The cold front that the weatherman was calling for was supposed to move through over night and dump all its marble size raindrops then.  And it did, at least some of it.  I mean, I heard the thunder and the rain last night.  It started right when I started watching The Office, and at the exact moment when Snags got out of bed crying that he’d hurt himself, scratched his eye. 

That turned out to be his eye lid, but one look at his claw like fingernails convinced me he’d be a bloody mess by morning if I didn’t do something right then.  So I trimmed his nails, cleaned off his eyelid scratch, and sent him back to bed amid the rain and thunder and my trying to catch all of the funniness that is The Office.

This morning was supposed to dawn clear and bright and chilly, but I take it the weather Gods didn’t get that notice from the weather man at our local television station.  Because instead, the sky was that odd blue color, the one somewhere between an enthusiastic cobalt and a depressing gray, the one that means it might be getting ready to rain, hard.  Or it might simply be the old rain burning away from the sun behind it.  And only a little more time will reveal what is to be…

I kept looking out the window, and as luck would have it, everything was fine until the very. last. second.  And then the sky split open. 

But I’m flexible, so I said to Snags, “Get in the car.  I’m driving you to school.”  And Snags complained.  He wanted to walk.  I would have walked, really, I would have.  But I promised a neighbor friend who is out of town on a cruise vacation, that I would walk her son to school each morning, leaving her mother-in-law babysitter to tend to my friend’s young twins in the morning without having to cart them up to school and back like my friend usually does.

I figured two small boys with backpacks, lunch bags, and umbrellas might not be the thing to mix with a downpour and a deadline.  School has a definite starting time, and puddles are the devils snare to that. 

So I picked my neighbor’s son up and in less than 2 minutes we had pulled into the school’s traffic circle.  I followed the rules, I followed the cars and stopped where I was supposed to.  But then I had to get out of my car to help the boys out.  The doors have to be opened by hand, they don’t glide away like those on all the minivans that were surrounding me. One door has a child lock on it so Snags couldn’t open it even if he wanted to.  The other, well, that door would have opened into the traffic.  So I got out and opened Snags’ door to let the boys out onto the sidewalk. 

Only they are five, in Kindergarten, and not fast.  Not fast like the 3rd and 4th graders hopping out of the cars in front of us.  So by the time I got them out of the car and back into their backpacks and put their umbrellas up and gave Snags a kiss, and hopped back into my car, I was the ONLY car left in the circle.  All the cars that had been in front of me had vanished.  But all the world was behind me waiting, waiting, waiting to pull in.

That’s when I noticed the looks.  The disdain.  The shaking of heads.  You’d have thought I was sitting there reading a map for 20 minutes, or talking on my cell phone and had missed the green light.  But honestly, when I got home and looked at the clock, I had been gone for a grand total of 6 minutes.  So I couldn’t have jammed up the traffic circle for too long.  But apparently, jamming it up at all is a CRIME. 

So I am off to dig out the TRAFFIC CIRCLE RULES paper.  The one I didn’t fully read when it came home because I didn’t expect to be driving Snags to school.  It’s not MY fault it started raining this morning. And I can tell you one thing…  If I end up going to jail for this, the weather man, he’s going down with me.

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Filed under humor, life, school, traffic, weather

Soccer

Snags is playing soccer this fall but if you sat and watched the practices and games, you’d think he thought I’d signed him up for Conversation 101.  All he does during practice is stand in line for the various soccer drills and talk to the kids around him.  The coach is forever calling “Snags!  Are you ready?”

Last weekend his team played their first game.  And by game I mean scrimmage and also I mean there were no referees or anybody “official” on the field.  Well, save for the two fathers turned soccer coaches, that is.  And I only count them as officials because they had whistles. 

When you are five and playing soccer, the field is pretty small and your teammates are both boys and girls.  Your team uniform consists of matching t-shirts for all the players.

There are no fouls: no yellow or red cards.  There are no free kicks or penalty kicks.  But that is probably because there are hardly any kicks at all.  Mostly the team runs in a large clump, like a herd of small animals, chasing the ball around the field.  If and when some hapless player does manage to strike the ball with his or her foot, it’s usually by accident and out of bounds, or into their own goal.  Nothing says team quite like scoring a goal against your own, now does it?

Since the games are more or less unofficial in this age group, each team member gets to take a turn trying out various positions on the field.  They can play one of three broadly defined positions: offense, defense, or goalie.

The goalie’s job is the easiest here.  The ball so rarely comes anywhere near the goal, the goalie can take a nap if he wants to and still be 99.9% guaranteed that nobody will score on him while he snoozes.  Except maybe that kid from his own team…

But back to my kid…the whole time Snags was playing defense he stood there sentinel, not moving except to chew on a finger shoved so far into his mouth it looked like he was trying to force himself, like some high fashion runway model with an eating disorder, to vomit.

I don’t know what he was looking at but it’s safe to say it wasn’t the ball, or the rest of the team as they came charging at him and he stood there, as if behind glass, or as if he was watching the action before him on a television set in Best Buy.  Occasionally he’d swat at a bee that flew his way, but that was it as far as motion goes.

The coach tried to get his attention:  “Snags!  Get ready, the ball is coming right at you!  Run to it! Snags!  Look!  The Ball!”  Eventually his coach gave up and called for the other defensive player, Tony, to take the ball.  And so did Snags.  As the ball came his way I heard Snags say, “Get the ball, Tony!” even though clearly it should have been Snags’ ball.  Being as it landed right as his feet.

Another kid on the team, Paul, isn’t much better though.  He doesn’t move unless the coach Calls. His. Name.  His mom stands at the sidelines yelling instructions:  “Paul, go get the ball, run after it, kick the ball Paul!”  And Paul shakes his head and hollers back, “But the coach didn’t Call. My. Name!”

And Paul may have a point there.  I noticed that the coach is more than a little vague in describing the rules and roles and the various soccer skills to the kids. These kids are 5 and 6 years old, playing in a league where five is the minimum age for starting to play.  Meaning, most if not all of the kids on the team have never played before. On the first day of practice, for example, the coach told the kids to dribble the ball.  One child picked up their soccer ball and started to dribble it like a basketball.  The coach sounded a bit annoyed as he said, “No!  No HANDS!  Don’t pick up the ball with your hands!  This isn’t basketball!”  He sounded, I thought, like Tom Hanks in the movie A League of Their Own, where he yells all aghast, “There’s no crying in baseball!”

So the children heard “no hands in soccer”, only to be told later, when they played the position of goalie, “Go get the ball!  Pick it up with your HANDS!”  So I think they might be just a little confused about it all. And I think the coach ought to maybe demonstrate the skill he’s trying to teach.  Then again, I tried out for the girls soccer team in high school and didn’t make it, so what do I know?

Since I’m not the coach, I merely sit and watch.  I cheer the kids on, cringe when they score on the wrong goal, and hand over Snag’s water bottle when the coach calls for a water break. Oh, yeah, and sometimes I swat at a bee that flies my way. 
 

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Filed under coaching, humor, kids, life, Snags, soccer

Don’t Try This at Home

Snags has the imagination of a crazy person’s reality.  A schizophrenic’s perhaps.  I don’t know if he actually hears voices, but he certainly holds conversations with invisible people — people that aren’t exactly real, like Darth Vader and The Mystery Gang from Scooby Doo.   He once spent weeks, or maybe it was months, talking to Eric and Dr. Kaufman and the Phantom Virus, characters that were in Scooby Doo and The Cyber Chase.  Most recently, he’s been holding his hand to his ear as if it were a telephone and having conversations with Darth Vader and The Emperor.  And he’s been known to suddenly shout out in the middle of dinner for someone to “STOP FIGHTING OVER THERE WITH YOUR LIGHT SABERS!”  Then of course, there’s the fact that Snags has changed his identity many, many, many times over the past few years.  I’m not sure how it’s taken me this long to wonder why I haven’t ever hauled him off to the doctor to get this checked out.  A visit with a psychiatrist perhaps, to reassure myself that this is just his imagination at play and that he’s not actually CRAZY…

But anyway, given his imagination, I thought it would be fun to make up a story, something utterly impossible and fun, and share it with him.  After all, Snags usually likes my made up stories.  He often requests them.  “Mom,” he asks most nights before bed, “Can I have a telling story? Please? Just one short one before I go to sleep?” 

So one afternoon a few weeks ago, I found myself a little bit bored and dare I say sick and tired of listening to Snags having one sided conversations with Darth Vader and the Emperor on his hand phone, and I decided to tell him a story…

But before I tell you more, let me give you a little bit of background on my inspiration for the story, which I took from Pinocchio, my own mother, and Bill Cosby…  Pinocchio, you may recall, is the story of a wooden puppet that gets turned into a real live boy. My mother, well she used to tell my brother when he was a kid, that she got him from a shelf in a department store and that she could return him at any time… And that sort of reminded me of Bill Cosby, and that bit where he says something like “…I brought you into this world and I can take you out, make another one that looks just like you…” 

It was with those thoughts in mind that I came up with this story. This story that I made up on the spot and thought was a pretty ingenious idea: both brilliant AND funny.  So funny, in fact, that I was chuckling in my mind the entire time I was telling it.  But oh, the wrath I brought down upon myself!

See, I told  Snags that he was originally a baby doll and that I bought him at Toys R Us. Everyone, I told him, all of our family and friends, and even strangers, thought I was crazy for carrying a doll around.  So I started to pray to God to turn the doll into a real boy and when he was 7 ½ weeks old, God did!  But, the night before that happened, right before I went to bed, I had tossed Snags the doll into my toy box because, well, he was just a doll… But then in the middle of the night a noise woke me up.  I heard something crying and there was a bad smell in my room.  Our dog had started barking, so I turned on the light to see what all the commotion was about and saw the dog barking at the toy box.  I got out of bed, went over to see what was going on, and lo and behold, there was Snags, alive and waving his arms and crying.  And he’d pooped his diaper!

I went on to tell Snags that the scar over his eye, the one we’d always told him he got from throwing himself on the floor and hitting his face on a toy when he was a baby, was really from the dog taking him out of the toy box and playing fetch with him when he was still a doll.  That, you see, is where the dog’s teeth had scratched his doll head…  Now, I thought this was all very funny, but apparently I was wrong.

Snags totally freaked out and screamed and yelled at me.  He was so stinking mad I couldn’t believe it.  “No!”  He screamed.  “You’re lying!  That’s not true!  I was never a doll!  Why would you say that?  I’m not going to trust you anymore!”

I was taken aback at his outburst and suddenly I felt very defensive.  It was just a story, after all.  A story I kind of liked, you know, since I made it up (even if Pinocchio and my mother had sort of been the inspiration for it). But still…

In my defensiveness, I’m a little ashamed to admit, I turned into a bit of a child myself and kept insisting the story was true, and that Snags shouldn’t be so upset.  In fact, I told him, “You can ask your dad and Uncle Dan when they get here.  They’ll tell you this is all true!”

And of course Snags did.  He ran screaming to my husband and his Uncle the moment they walked in the front door.

“Dad!”  He yelled. “MomsaidIwasadollandGodturnedmeintoaboyandIknowsheslying!”

“What?!” my husband responded. “She said what?”

“MomsaidIwasadollandGodturnedmeintoaboyandIknowsheslying!” Snags repeated.

My husband looked at me, shook his head in disgust and said, “Now WHY would you tell him THAT?” and my brother, Snags’ Uncle, started laughing.

“It’s NOT FUNNY!” Snags cried.  “It’s not true, either, is it Uncle Dan?” he insisted.

But my brother, well, he’s a lot like me and can’t resist a good moment when he sees it.

“Well yeah it’s true!” he said, with a big smile spreading across his face.

To which, Snags got even angrier.  My husband had to calm him down, and I had to admit that it was just a story.  But I still maintained it wasn’t such a big deal and he shouldn’t have gotten so upset about the whole thing.

And my brother, he seemed a little deflated when the truth came out. But I think that’s because up until the point where I had to come clean and admit that the whole “Snags was once a doll” story wasn’t true, my brother was probably thinking that if my mom ever did return him to that department store, at least there was a chance his nephew might be sitting on the shelf next to him. 
 

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Filed under dog, God, humor, identity, insanity, parenting, Scooby Doo, Snags, Star Wars, telling stories

Why?

How is it, when something really bad happens to somebody good, that the world doesn’t  just stop?  It seemed so strange to me, to walk outside a few days ago and see that the sun was shining, the sky was robin’s egg blue, the air was cool and breezy, just the perfect temperature.  Most people, I imagine, would have declared the day to be “perfect” or “beautiful.”  I can even hear the conversations in my mind, of people outside, walking in the park, on their way to lunch “I wish every day could be like this…”  and the response, “Yeah, me too! Isn’t this fantastic?” 

But most people would not know that a friend of mine just suffered a parent’s worst nightmare, just lost her first child to a stillbirth, little more than a week before the baby was due.

And I cannot fathom it.  I swear that on the day it happened the skies should have darkened, storms should have raged, the seas should have churned black waters as lightning bolts were thrown from the heavens.  And yet, they didn’t.

The day was bright and clear, in absolute contrast to the drama and horror and sadness that was unfolding in a hospital room across town.  The darkness…  Darkness of spirit and emotion and grief and pain over a life dreamed of, sought, achieved, nurtured, then lost, in the blink of an eye, for no apparent reason at all.  A life that ended even before drawing its very first breath.  A life that can now only be remembered for what might have been, was so close to being, but never was… at least not outside the womb. 

And yet, other lives go on.  People have their daily routines and they continue…  lunch dates, business meetings, dinner reservations, homework, television, football practice, errands, music lessons, baths, bedtime, whatever the routines are, for most people, they carry on, the world spins on it’s axis as it always does. This is true for me, and it’s probably true for you too.  That’s the way the world works. 

But suddenly it seems bizarre that it should work like that.  It seems like there should have been some other kind of notice of what was happening, of what had happened.  Perhaps a tiny blip in the earth’s rotation, a slight bump, a sudden storm, a “let me have your attention please,” kind of moment.  A funny feeling, an intuitive knowledge.  A notice other than a ringing phone…

It’s not my tragedy, I know that.  But I am a mother.  And the loss of a child is the fear of every mother.  It hits, as they say, close to home.

And so I grieve for my friend and her husband and their lost child.  And I simply wonder WHY?  and  NOW WHAT?

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Filed under death, loss

The Fire Drill

Snags has a mortal fear of fire drills.  It all started when he was in daycare, somewhere between the ages of two and two and a half, when another child pulled the fire alarm.  I imagine the sudden loud noise of the clanging alarm frightened him the first time he heard it.  When we picked him up from daycare the afternoon this all happened, Snags said, “A baby pulled the fire alarm!”

That of course, seemed impossible.  I mean, how could it be?  A baby?  Pulled the fire alarm?  Babies aren’t tall, they can’t reach the average fire alarm, can they?  But we quickly learned that Snags was right.  It turned out that Megan, a little girl at the school, was in her teacher’s arms as the teacher stood in the hallway near a fire alarm.  Megan, curious babe she was, reached out to the shiny red fire alarm handle and gave it a yank, thus setting off the blaring tones of the alarm, and requiring the entire population of the daycare center to evacuate the building. 

Three, almost four years later and Snags has never forgotten this.  He has also never forgiven Megan this one transgression for the fear it instilled inside him.  And over the years this fear… snowballed, more or less.

The preschool that Snags attended insisted that children keep their shoes on during the day, and the teachers imparted the logic that “You need to keep your shoes on in case there is a fire drill!” to the children to teach them this.  I assume they said this because if there was a fire, or even just a drill, that they’d waste precious time putting shoes on 10 or 20 children that had been running around without shoes.  Evacuating the building without shoes could be a danger.  We wouldn’t want these barefoot raggamuffins to cut their foot on a pebble in the parking lot, right?

And yet somehow, in all of that “keep your shoes on” harping, Snags got it twisted in his head that taking shoes off CAUSED the fire alarm to sound.  Shoes on and all was golden.  The days were quiet and calm.  Shoes off and all would be chaos and the screeching alarm would pierce eardrums and turn children into stone.  Or at least that’s how I imagine Snags had made the connection of in his mind.  Because once, we were at the mall and Snags saw people trying on shoes.  He was half way to the exit door before I caught up with him.  “Let’s go!  Now!”  He cried.  “The fire alarm’s going to go off!”  I couldn’t convince him otherwise.  Nothing I said quelled his fears.   He started to cry and shake in fear and as the tears began to roll down his face like a sheet of water over Niagra Falls, I conceded that it might indeed be best if we cut our shopping trip short and left the mall as quickly as we could. 

When Snags was three a new student started at his school, and was placed in Snag’s classroom.  The child had some discipline problems in that he did exactly everything he was told not to do.  Also, he was fond of taking off all his clothes any time he felt like it, which seemed to be approximately every five minutes, or three seconds after the teachers had dragged him out from under the craft table and got him dressed again.  And of course, as part of all of this, he took his shoes off.

The teachers admitted that this new child was a challenge, and that he was a disruption to the class and that he upset ALL the other children.  EVERY. DAY.  It seemed there was nothing they could do about this except wrestle the naked problem child to the ground and forcefully put his clothes back on him. Snags began to dislike school.  He’d cry in the mornings that he didn’t want to go to school.  It wasn’t fun.  Jeremy wouldn’t keep his clothes on… Then one day, Snags’ teacher came to me and DEMANDED that I had to do something about Snags, because every time Jeremy took his shoes off, Snags started to panic and cry because he thought the fire alarm was going to go off, and his crying set the other children crying one by one, until the entire class was a roomful of wiggling, writhing, crying children that no amount of anything could calm.

I didn’t know what I could do.  Really, it seemed to me, the teacher should be doing something about Jeremy the problem child who couldn’t or wouldn’t keep his clothes or his shoes on.  I shouldn’t have to do anything about Snags for being scared.  Besides, I’d already spoken to Snags about this.  Ad nauseum.  I’d explained that shoes, on or off, were not the switch that controlled the fire alarms.  In fact, I’d told him there was no connection there at all.  But he insisted it was true.  After all, the teachers told them this every day.  Keep your shoes on in case there’s a fire drill.  Only Snags heard “Keep your shoes on or there WILL BE a fire drill.” 

Eventually, the problem child was removed from the school.  This wasn’t my doing.  One morning we just arrived to find that he wasn’t there, and then he wasn’t there the next day, or the day after that….  And then we learned that the school had asked the family to take the child elsewhere, he was simply too great a disruption, too great a discipline problem, and they couldn’t handle him, shoes or not.

That would seem to be the end of the story except Snags focused his energies on Megan, the child who had pulled the fire alarm that very first time. When she was a baby.  She’d been moved up to his classroom, and sometimes at nap time the teachers would set up her cot on the floor directly underneath the fire alarm.  Snags monitored this like you’d watch a poisonous snake circling around you.  He asked the teachers to move Megan’s cot.  “She might pull the fire alarm again,” he warned them.

Over time we got to the point where every morning Snags would demand that I ask the director of the preschool center “Is there going to be a fire drill today?”  And every morning she’d say “No.  No fire drill today.”  This got tiring very fast.  I was sick of asking the question and I know the director was tired of answering it.  But if we didn’t dance the dance, Snags would be paralyzed with fear, right there in the middle of the hallway, unable to move unless he was promised there wouldn’t be a fire drill frightening him on THAT day.

So, after a few months of this, I got the bright idea to tell Snags that the computer where I signed him in in the mornings had a sentence there each day telling me if there was going to be a fire drill or not.  So I’d log him in and say, “No fire drill today!” and he’d audibly breath a sigh of relief and relax a little.  Sometimes he would even start to skip down the hallway. 

The director of course, knew about Snags’ fear of fire drills.  It had been born and bred in her center, after all.  I’d asked her every day for months if there was going to be a fire drill.  So eventually, when there WAS going to be a fire drill, she’d warn me ahead of time.  “We’re having a fire drill tomorrow morning,” she’d say to me as I passed by her office on the way back to my car after depositing Snags safely in his classroom.  “I’ll try to do it early, before you arrive.”  And for the most part, this worked.  I think we went almost 1 ½ years without Snags having to partake in a fire drill of any sort.

But then Kindergarten was upon us.  The first day was a shortened day where the students met the teachers and the parents stayed to fill out paper work.  We went to this shortened day and all was well.  On the second morning, as we headed off to school, Snags told me that “At least they don’t have fire alarms in the classrooms!”  It seems he’d scoped out the surroundings and noted that the alarm bells were outside the classroom doors.  “Maybe if they have a fire drill it won’t be so loud” he said.

“Don’t worry, Snags!” I told him.  There’s no way they’d have a fire drill on the 2nd day of school!  That’d be crazy!”  I scoffed.  And as usual, I saw Snags relax a little.

But I was wrong… 

When I picked Snags up from his after school care after his second day of school (his first FULL day of Kindergarten) he ran to me and said “I have something to tell you!” 

“Okay, what is it?”  I asked. 

“Not until we’re in the car!” he said. 

So we gathered his lunch box and his back pack and left for the car.  Once he was strapped in his booster seat, I sat in the driver’s seat with the car door open and turned to him and said “So, what was it you wanted to tell me?” and he said through gritted teeth “Shut. The. Door!”

“Okay,” I sighed, beginning to worry what he could possibly have to tell me that was so secret the car door had to be shut.

I turned back to him.  “Okay, what is it?”

“We. Had. A. Fire. Drill. Today!” He said.

I realized then it was highly unlikely that he would ever trust me again.

Then he went on to explain that during the morning announcements, right after they said The Pledge of Allegiance, the Principal announced that they would be having a fire drill.

“Where you scared?” I asked.

“YES!” Snags replied.

“Did you tell your teacher you were scared and what did she say?” I asked.

“She said it would be okay.” He said.

Snags told me how the class practiced lining up and going outside for the impending fire drill.  In place of a real alarm, his teacher made a “beep beep” sound and when she did that, the class had to line up and evacuate to the playground.  But they weren’t allowed to play.  And then the teacher said the practice was over and they all got to go back inside the building.

Later in the afternoon the Principal came on the loudspeaker again.  This time she was ready to actually have the fire drill.  She gave the children a one-minute warning.  I think they may have counted down.  And then, right as the alarm was about to sound, Megan, Oh Megan the child who pulled the fire alarm when she was a baby, screamed “EVERYONE COVER YOUR EARS!” 

So Snags was prepared.  He knew the alarm was coming.  He even knew when to cover his ears and line up and go outside.

He wasn’t THAT scared.  He survived.

“But NEXT time,” he told me in a bit of a worried voice, “They aren’t going to WARN us! The Principal said this was the last warning and next time it will be a surprise fire drill!” 

And I find it hard to reassure him.  I can tell him not to worry.  I can tell him it will be okay, because it’s true.  I just can’t tell him it won’t be today.  Or tomorrow…

*********************************************************** 

Author’s note:  Snags’ elementary school had that “surprise” fire drill TODAY.  Tonight, a child who looks like Snags and acts like Snags, but most certainly cannot BE Snags, said to me “I LIKE fire drills!”  Upon further inquiry, the imposter child stated that his reason for liking fire drills is “…because we get to go outside!”  and also because “…elementary school fire drills don’t frighten me as much as the ones at daycare did…”

And that’s the first step in denial and why I had to get the entire fire drill story down.  Because one day, most probably in the near future, this kid of mine will swear he never had a fear of fire drills, that I didn’t spend an entire year asking the daycare center director on a daily basis if there was going to be a fire drill that day.

 So whether Snags is 7 or 15, 23 or 30 when he denies this all ever happened, I can say “Oh yes it did!  Here, read this.  THIS is how it all went down!”

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Filed under alarm, fear, fire drills, humor, life, shoes, Snags

Race Report

13:22. That’s how many minutes FASTER I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run on Sunday over my previous ½ marathon, which was back in the Spring.  And just between you and me, the 13:22 shaved off my time means I set a personal record for speed on Sunday.  So congratulations to me!

They call Philadelphia The City of Brotherly Love.  I don’t know about the brotherly part except to say my brother is here visiting on his vacation from where he lives kind of far away and he ran the Philadelphia Distance Run yesterday too.  So I was in Philadelphia with my brother if that counts.  And I think it counts because he volunteered to drive us there in the first place.

Now the love part, I get that.  Because having set my personal best ½ marathon time ever in that city, I love Philadelphia now too!!!
 
But let’s back up a bit, shall we?

It took us a little longer to get to Philly than we had anticipated because somewhere along the way we hit some serious traffic that appeared, like traffic often does, out of nowhere and for no good reason.  The closest hint we got for the traffic being so heavy was when we finally, after about an hour, inched our way 15 miles up the road and saw one lone police car at the side of the highway and everyone slowing down to look at it.  I guess maybe it was a novelty, like some strange and beautiful bird you might want to watch, or like some sort of dangerous animal you’d creep slowly and silently by, hoping not to attract it’s attention so that it won’t jump out and attack you write you a ticket.

After we arrived in Philly we debated which to undertake first: should we check into our hotel or go to the race expo to pick up our race packets?  We attempted the first and got a little lost, so we settled on the second.  The lost part wasn’t our fault though.  I attribute it to the map that came in the mail as part of our final set of race instructions.  The map showed our hotel on 8th street, only it wasn’t on 8th, it was on 4th street.  I suspect that in the interest of space and saving paper, the map maker simply ended the map at 8th street and stuck little hotel dots along the edges to indicate that they were “near” the borders of the page and if only you drove around and around in ever increasing circles you’d eventually find your way and be so relived to have finally done so that you wouldn’t dare complain or blog about it to the world. 

And yet, I also suspect the map maker didn’t attend all of his  requisite cartography courses during college because a little thing called scale would have helped immensely and also, the map maker didn’t count on a geographer (ahem, that’s me) trying to follow the map worthless piece of paper.

Now, in case you aren’t a runner or a person who likes to hang out at race expos, I’ll tell you that the expos are place where you go the day or two before the actual race to pick up your race packet which includes your race bib (no it’s not a bib for eating, it’s simply a sheet with a number on it that you pin to your shirt so they can identify you as runner number some-thetty-something), your timing chip, your free race t-shirt, and other goodies.  Then there are vendors who set up booths to try and sell you stuff: running shoes and shorts, socks, energy bars, hats, sunglasses, key chains, spinal adjustments, muscle creams, etc…  You get lots of free handouts from the vendors too, like band aids and safety pins, notepads and tote bags, packs of oatmeal, and energy drinks.

I enjoy wandering around the expos and collecting all the free goodies and then parting with some of my money when I see something I really need.  Like the pink running shirt I bought that says, on the front: This seemed like a good idea 3 months ago, and on the back: Race Official, Do Not Pass.  It’s a lovely shirt but none of the other racers seemed to heed the warning on the back because plenty of them were passing me right on by during the actual event on Sunday.  Personally, I think they just didn’t know how to read.

After we collected our race packets and parted with some hard earned cash at the expo, my brother and I waited in line to check into our hotel.  While there we witnessed a hotel employee standing guard over an adolescent boy in a wet t-shirt and wet shorts and the hotel employee was saying something to the boy’s mother about two chairs and a life preserver.  I was enthralled by the scene but before I could learn any more I was called to the front desk to get my room key.

My hotel room had 3 pillows on the bed and a small card with “pillow menu” printed on it, describing the varieties of pillow firmness that were available depending on how you liked to sleep: on your side, on your back, or even both ways, like a flopping fish.  I played Goldilocks and tried all three pillows before picking my favorite and falling into a deep slumber.

And then it happened.  I had a nightmare!  I woke with a start at 4:00 a.m., having dreamt that we had already run the ½ marathon but that I hadn’t gotten my finisher’s medal because they weren’t giving them to you for crossing the finish line.  Rather, I dreamt they were passing them out down a dark alley near the entrance to a different hotel.  Only I hadn’t known that and so I didn’t venture down that alley and didn’t get my hard earned medal.  I tried to go back to sleep because technically, I had one hour until my alarm was set to go off, but I was rattled, my heart was pounding, and sleep didn’t come easy.

In the darkness that is 5:00 a.m. in mid-September, my brother and I debated driving to the race start or taking a cab.  Driving would mean getting the car out of the hotel’s parking garage and finding a garage closer to the race start where we would probably have to fork over an additional $20 in parking fees, so we decided on a cab.

When we stepped outside the hotel door we were accosted by a woman demanding to know how we were getting to the race.  And in case you are wondering how she knew that’s where we were headed, well, it’s a pretty easy guess when you have a large race number pinned to your shirt.  We told her we were going to take a cab and she asked if we’d like to share a cab with her.  Of course we said yes because the more people in a cab, the less any one person’s fare will be if you split the cost, right?  That’s what sharing a cab means, right?  Share a cab = split the cost.  Well, that’s what I thought it meant, but apparently I was wrong.

The cab fare came to $9.60.  I had two five dollar bills at the ready.  The man in the front seat who at the last minute decided to share the cab along with us, actually turned to us in the back and said, after the cab driver announced his dues, “Can you guys spot me a couple of dollars?” as if we would ever find him again in the crowd of 12,000 runners.  As if he ever really inteded to pay us back.  The woman who had the bright idea to share the cab in the first place had a whopping $2 at the ready.  Sensing this wasn’t going to be an even split, I handed the cab drive all of  my $10 and the woman handed me her $2 and said, “No that’s for YOU, not the cab driver!” and she stepped out of the cab.  I thought about this for a split second.  My $10 left the cab driver with a tip of $0.40.  I felt that was inadequate even for the short ride.  So when big spender lady wasn’t looking I handed her $2 over to the cab driver and told him “Here, here’s $2 more for your tip.  Thanks for the ride!”  And he said thank you and  waited for me to exit the cab before driving off.

As we got in line for the race, I spotted two of the women I’d spent much of my summer training with.  I inched my way over to them and asked if they were running together for part of the race.  Usually people train together and then on race day it’s “everyone runs their own race” meaning if, during the race, you have to stop and tie your shoe, your friends run on.  They don’t stop with you. Likewise, if your running mate falls and breaks an ankle during the race, you wish them well and continue on.  It sounds harsh, but honestly, an ambulance will come along and pick your friend up so they’ll be okay. You know, eventually.  Like once the cast comes off and they’re finished with physical therapy and all that.

My training partners, however, said they were running together the whole way and I was free to join them.  Since my brother had predicted a faster finishing time than I had, he was positioned closer to the starting line of the race and I was alone back in the crowd.  I thought it would be nice to have some company along the way so I eagerly agreed to run with my old training pals.  We ran together until mile 8 or so where my friends pulled over to grab some Gu (an energy gel that many runners like but which I can’t stomach) and I kept going.  I figured they’d meet up with me again so I kept trucking trudging along.  With only 1/10th of a mile to go, my friends caught up with me and we ran it in. 

I collected my race medal, dug out my cell phone, called my brother to find out where he was in the sea of race finishers, and then called my husband to tell him I’d finished the race with a pretty good time.  Then my brother and I, not ones to be lazy after all that running, walked the 2 miles back to our hotel so we could shower and change before heading home.

And there you have it, my race report. 

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Filed under 1/2 marathon, freeloaders, life, Philadelphia, running, taxicab, traffic

The Bionic Woman

I’m off to the races this weekend. A foot race, that is.  A ½ marathon.  I’ve been training for it all summer long and it’s finally here.   This isn’t my first ½ marathon, and it’s not even my second.  I’ve done a few of them by now.  My race this Sunday will be my second one this year and the one I’m running in October will be my third, again, for this year.  But I’m not bragging, I swear.  Bragging would be if I wore my finisher’s medal around my neck when I go to work on Monday.  I won’t do that.  Although… I might pass it around for people to look at.

While I’ve put in a lot a lot of time running this past year, I haven’t lost a single pound.  In fact, somehow I’ve piled on all the pounds the rest of the world has lost.  I’m some kind of pound magnet.  Or maybe it’s all the chocolate I’ve been eating.  Yeah, I suppose that could be it…

Or maybe it’s the chocolate combined with the fact that I’ve somehow managed to excuse myself from other forms of exercise on my days off from running.  Yes, I am one those people who take days off from running.  And not just when I’m sick.  Some runners, I know, would say that I’m not a real runner if I take days off.  I could argue the point but I won’t.  I want to save my energy for this weekend. 

I used to run an average of about 6 miles a day.  Then I started getting some aches and pains and tired and bored, so I backed off a bit.  Okay… a lot.  Now I run 3 days a week.  Two short runs of oh, three to five miles say, and one long run on the weekends.  On the intervening days I should be doing some other form of exercise, cross training by walking or cycling, or even lifting weights, but I’ve gotten LAZY.  That probably explains some of these extra pounds, too. 

Despite my slothfulness, I want you all to know that I am still strong.  Oh yes, I am.  These arms may have flab hanging from them but they are powerful.  Bionic powerful, I tell you. In fact, I may be the reason they have a remake of The Bionic Woman coming out on TV this fall.  I know that when you think about The Bionic Woman you are most likely remembering the days of Lindsay Wagner and her portrayal of Jaime Sommers, but I’m pretty sure it’s because of me and the feat of strength I pulled off the several days ago that they are bringing the series back.

Last week there was a fire right outside of the parking garage that charges me $150.00 dollars too much per month to park my car there while I work.  I didn’t actually witness the fire when it was in full blaze, but I came upon the aftermath, the burnt remains, when I made my way to the garage to retrieve my car and go home.
 
To enter the garage and get to your car you have to wave your parking ticket or monthly pass card in front of a magnetic card reader machine affixed to the brick façade of the parking garage.  The machine then sends a signal to a lock on the door.  You listen for a click and then pull the handle, open the door, and walk inside to the elevator.

On the day of the fire I walked up to find the card reader machine, which is made of metal and plastic, all sagging like the clocks in an M.C. Escher drawing.  It looked, well, melted.  I looked up and noticed that the awning above the door was half missing and the other half was hanging in tattered melted strips of nylon, like a shredded shower curtain.  The glass around the door was cracked, the street was covered in ash 2 inches deep, and black streaks ran along the sidewalk.

I thought it was odd, that it looked as if a fire had blown by, but that seemed impossible.  My office is right across the street.  If there had been a fire surely I would have heard the fire trucks, seen the flames. 

Since there was a man at the door with his hand already on the door handle, I passed the card reader machine without waving my parking pass at it.  Another woman walked up, and the man gave one good strong yank, and the door, despite its magnetic lock, popped open.  I remarked that it looked like there had been a fire and the man said there had been one.  A generator mounted on a truck that was parked right alongside the garage entry had caught fire around noon he said.  The flames, he told us, could be seen for several blocks.  Somehow I had missed all of this. 

But I learned my lesson.  The card reader machine, all melted as it was, wasn’t working properly so it wasn’t going to open the door for me anymore.  The following day, as I approached the door, the cracked glass had been repaired but the card reader was still sagging, the awning still missing.  I had two choices.  I could turn around walk down the street and around the corner then up the ramp that the cars use to enter and exit the garage, or I could yank on that door handle with all my might and pop the lock.  I chose the latter.

As I grabbed the handle, a woman standing nearby said to me, “You can’t get in that way, it’s locked.  You’ll have to go…” and I looked her in the eye, put my hand on the door handle, and yanked.  With an audible snap, the door popped open.  The woman’s eyes grew large, she took a few steps back, staring at me in shock and surprise, and I think, a little bit of fear. 

I hope my legs are bionic at the race this weekend!

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Filed under 1/2 marathon, bionic woman, exercise, fire, humor, life, running