Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dirty Old Man

One thing I like about ushering is that you never know what will happen when you walk through that door and start working. Most days, it's a waiting game: waiting for an event to start, waiting for it to be over, waiting for the building to empty of people. Some days though, I start out pretty certain of what my day will look like and it takes a sudden turn into totally new territory.

Today I was assigned to work in arena seating, helping patrons find their seats, looking for spills and other safety hazards, solving problems on the fly, and just generally providing that kick-ass customer service that I do my best to provide.

Several minutes after the doors were supposed to open, the lead supervisor in the seating area called me down to the floor. There was a safety issue that couldn't be fixed in time for the patrons to get in and the televised event to start on time. It was something that could have put the front row of one of the student sections at risk, so I was stationed there to point out the problem to the students, keep an eye on them, and remind them throughout the game to stay well back from it.

The students in that first row were lounging comfortably. They appeared pretty much like any of the other students in the section, though the first two of the group of six were casually painting their faces in patterns of orange and white. With about half an hour until game time, though, the first one stood up and said, "We ready to do this?" And as one, they stood up and pulled their shirts off, including the woman in the middle. She was wearing a black sports bra, which immediately got the attention of the camera operators on the floor whose video feed goes to the scoreboard screen.

Five of the six friends began painting letters on their chests. The woman helped her friend outline his "E," and then he began filling it in himself. She tried to outline her own "X," but was unsatisfied with the straightness and symmetry of her lines. Soon she had 3 guys surrounding her, helping her get it right. The sixth friend, incidentally, if you're keeping score, did not remove his shirt, but instead worked the Pentax camera, documenting the occasion.

So there I am, directly in front of them, trying not to ogle the smooth, curvaceous college body and trying particularly not to get on camera ogling the smooth, etc. etc. Then suddenly I was entirely surrounded by the cheer squad. Apparently I had set up shop right in the middle of their territory, and there was barely enough square footage for me among their pom poms, megaphones, and sundry promotional items, including t-shirts, mini-basketballs, and other giveaway items.

So bare abs to my left, short skirts to my right, and me in the middle trying to look professional, is what I'm saying here.

The game progressed, and the students were pretty good about remembering to stay back from the safety issue. I got a few smiles from listening to them razz the officials ("OK, I'll give you that one, Ref, but I'm expecting a make-up call!"), and the opposing team's coach ("Don't yell at them, Coach! It's not their fault they can't read!") and players ("Hey, #23, is that Frost & Glow?") and fans ("Lighten up; it's just women's basketball!"). They participated in all of the cheers and songs, and lamented the rest of the crowd's lackadaisical attitude. "Our fans suck," one observed. "Yeah," another agreed. "That's because they're all old people."

As the end of the game approached and our team closed the gap and came within a few baskets of the opposing team, the student section came to life. They danced like crazy on the time outs; they jumped and waved and screamed through the free throws. The front row even picked up their string of interlocking folding seats and pushed it back into the row behind them, giving themselves some more room to move and groove and jump. Sadly, our team wasn't able to pull off the come-from-behind victory, but the students' adrenaline was up, and after the end of the game and the singing of the school song, they started rough-housing, jumping on each other, and trying to smear each other's body paint. One jumped on another's back, transferring his own "A" to his friend, and suddenly they were staggering backwards, about to topple right over my safety issue and right on top of me. I stepped forward, and pushed them back onto the risers, preventing potential injuries to them and to me, and covering my hand and forearm in sweat and body paint. I was relieved that the one I touched was not the woman.

So maybe I saved some lives today without groping a nearly topless woman, and managed, I hope, not to be filmed or photographed looking at the bare abs or sports bra of a woman half my age or contemplating the legs of God knows how many short-skirted cheerleaders. I'll call that a pretty good day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


1) My motivation for counting Weight Watchers points faltered pretty quickly. I'm still making good mealtime choices, but when I'm not counting, it's easy to throw in an extra snack here and there and think of it as unimportant or incidental, or to eat in their entirety the staff meals that were provided at work this weekend, including dessert, because it's really not that bad, and it's only occasional. But repeated and untracked "occasional" or "special" meals or snacks add up quickly. I'm going to keep trying to make good choices, but clearly counting is not for me.

I just ordered The Paleo Diet from Amazon (along with new ear-clip headphones and lubricant to prevent nipple chafe), so hopefully that will help me keep my calories under control and improve my lung function. I'm running and running and pushing myself to ever greater respiratory achievements, but somehow I'm still constantly wheezing and clearing my throat. My lungs suck. And blow. Ha! See what I did there? Respiratory humor! Anyway, maybe the Paleo Diet will help me discover that some portion of my lung dysfunction comes from a food allergy, like wheat or dairy, and suddenly I'll be able to breathe effectively again. Or something.

And yes, I did parenthetically mention that I purchased a special salve to put on my nipples to keep my shirt from sanding them off entirely as I run. And no, I couldn't let it pass as just a parenthetical comment. Nipple chafe for runners is a fascinating topic to me. Never would I have imagined such a thing. Never would I have imagined so many people pursuing a hobby with nipple chafe as a side-effect. Never would I have thought of Googling images of runners' bloody nipples. And yet, here we are.

2) Old stressors temporarily muted are starting to rise in volume again, pushing my wife to make tough choices and to anguish over them. There are, still and again, no good solutions, and every option has unpleasant consequences. Which is partly why:

3) I'm also struggling on the elimination of alcohol from my weekly routine.

So there you go. I'm working hard, running and lifting weights and doing push ups and losing weight, but every weekend is one step back on my week's two steps forward. I'm succeeding and I'm failing, and I'm happy, and I'm sad, and I'm mad, and I'm guilty, and I'm proud, and that's pretty much how life goes.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I Didn't Expect That When I Woke Up This Morning

I woke up this morning and canceled our Meals on Wheels run because Thumper was acting very sick yesterday afternoon. I couldn't get him a doctor's appointment until this morning, and when we went, the doctor said, no, he's not sick. He has allergies. She gave us free samples of Claritin, but confided that she's had better luck with Zyrtec. After seeing the Zyrtec prices at the drug store, I wish she'd had free samples of those. The Claritin must have worked some, though, because when we got home, Thumper said he wanted to go to the gym. It's nice having someone help me stay motivated by encouraging me to go.

I figured since I worked out yesterday and plan to work out tomorrow, I'd take it easy on myself, maybe give my knees a break and ride one of the recumbent bikes instead of running on the treadmill. But when I got there, I stepped up on the treadmill and thought, "I wonder if I can finish 10K without stopping?"

So I ran 10K non-stop today, for the first time since May! And I was only about a minute and a half behind my best time. I ran a faster second half than first half, and I burned about 1200 calories, earning 13 Activity Points. That's a pretty good day!

Now that I know that I can actually finish a 10K, I think I'm going to alternate between 5 and 10K runs. I'll work on speed on a 0.0 incline on the 10K's and work on increasing the incline on the 5K's.

My headphones shorted out on me halfway through today's run, though. I'm not sure if this was sweat-related damage, but I'll have to replace them, and soon. Who knows what I could have accomplished today if the right song had come along!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Because I Can, Mostly

After a couple of weeks, my training and weight loss program is going well, except that I'm having a hard time staying motivated on the not drinking part. I haven't gone crazy and still managed to stay within my allowed Weight Watchers points each day, even when I do drink, though.

Which reminds me: it is kind of amazing the number of points that I'm allowed as a large male. On days when I don't drink, I've regularly had around 20 points left over at the end of the day, and I'm not starving myself. I'm just making good choices.

I've lost 7 pounds so far. I'm pushing myself on every workout, too, improving my 5K time every time I run, except for today, when I significantly increased the amount of time that I ran on an incline, so though I didn't go faster, I did work harder and burn more calories. Choosing the right music makes a big difference for me. Last Wednesday, I picked a play list that Aerie made and called "Cardio." I was running out of steam about halfway through, and at the perfect moment, Fatboy Slim's "Because We Can (Can Can)" came on and saved my workout.

Today, the Chemical Brothers got me through with "Horse Power."

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