Monday, January 30, 2012

LA Fitness

I joined LA Fitness spring of 2008. Not only did I get in great shape to watch the Olympics, but I was inspired to pursue a second career in the motivation industry.

On sign-up, I was led around by a tan sales kid with a mouthful of veneers atop a suit-full of DHT. He oriented me to the free weights and machines, to the cardio, the cardio-video, and the cardio-video-audio: Tune to 90.4 for Fox News, 91.2 for ESPN, etc. (Instead, I’ve been watching Fox and tuning audio to NPR. The net effect is like seeing Guiliani in drag – makes me run fast.) The sales kid also brought me by a dark room where spinning was going on; shielding my eyes I peered in looking for Rumpelstilskin. Instead I found a peddling frenzy of women on stationary bikes taking commands from a whip-cracker with 2% body fat, 8% silicone, 4% collagen, and 60 mL of botox.

Kid’s club was a nice surprise. Day care at the gym! I promptly dropped off my girl. We both cried a little when the kinder-marm implanted a GPS chip in her neck.

I brought home a schedule of group exercise offerings. Went a little crazy the first week, signing up for high-impact aerobics, low-blow kick-boxing, aqua fit, power yoga and Tai Chi. This last one was disappointing. I expected I would learn to froth a latte, not slow-mo Chuck Norris moves. At the bottom of the group exercise schedule was the abs sub-section: mat pilates, the six-pack workout, Brad Pitt’s 25-min abs, step plus abs, the Spartan 300 training regimen, and Adobe Photoshop abs – a tutorial in digital fitness.

An iPod is essential gym equipment now. I remember gym membership in my self-conscious college days: scared shitless some turbo would ask me for a spot I couldn’t lift off his chest. Now? I'm sporting a sweaty knit beanie, iPod on eleven, bumpin’ fists with the key-chain identity scanner kid and the fresh towel-hander-outer, and scared shitless some turbo will ask for a spot. Hence the iPod. When turbo loads another plate and looks my way, I close my eyes and start poppin’ and lockin’ my way to the far side of the gym.

I quickly learned that I can communicate effectively with my gym bros without hearing anything but Madonna blaring on my headset. I now know the universal iPod gym sign language for:

  • R U done, bro? (Shrug. Point at bro)
  • Can I work in a rep? (Shrug. Point at self)
  • Move your towel, bro! (Point at towel. Shrug)
  • Miss, can you please apply some hand sanitizer to my moist parts, as I am a carrier of MRSA? (Shrug. Point to armpit)

I unplugged my ear-buds in mid-workout the other day. (Confession: yanked out the headseat doing curls and acted like I meant to.) I pocketed the tunes and listened to the ambient chatter. Wow. This is what has changed most since the last time I was a gym member: most of the souls in the place are personal trainers, motivational speakers, or spinning instructors. I was energized by second-hand encouragement! Suddenly I was at a cocktail party with Tony Robbins, the Gazelle guy, and Jillian Michaels.

The thought of a second career is really growing on me. Lacking the gift of gab, though, I think becoming a motivational speaker is out. But I am certain I’d make a great motivational listener. Or impersonal trainer. I could text instructions to my clients:

Looking good. 2 more reps. Nice. 1 more. Strong. Now THREE more, let’s go. U can do it!!!!!!!!!! ;) CP

All my life I’ve dreamed of running a marathon. (That's a lie. The dream began with Bruce Jenner’s historic achievement: being the first non-cartoon character to grace a cereal box.) With my mature outlook on fitness however, I've stopped aspiring to the marathon because it’s too far and takes place outside. Plus my only motivation was to compare life’s other challenges to my marathon. “Sure, planking is hard, but it ain’t no marathon. I know, I ran one. Did I ever tell you about when I hit the wall?”

So, no marathon. Ever. I am committed. However, I also remain committed to the illusion that I am training for a marathon while watching Greta Van Susteren. Here's how: I always wear a competition number and always line up 6 dixie cups of agua on the cardio dash-board. I alternate dumping them on my head and tossing them into my gaping maw. 

My outfit: I haven’t got workout shorts yet. Just the 80’s cargos exposing seven inches of thigh above the knee. Balancing this fashion anachronism is the whale-tail that develops by the end of my run – cargos down, boxers up and in. I wear my Medecins Sans Frontiers (that’s Doctors Without Borders to my non-francophonic friends) tee-shirt for three reasons:

  1. I hope someone will spark up a humanitarian reminiscence: Hey, I know you! says the child on the Thera-ball, You amputated my snake-bit leg!
  2. I hope someone will speak French to me. *
  3. Performance enhancement. MSF reminds me of drunk teenage Africans with AK-47’s. I run faster.
No takers on the tee-shirt conversation at the gym. However, the one time I wore my wife’s MSU tee, I was halfway in the front door when greeted by an enthusiastic solidarian:

Him:           Dude! MSU!
Me:             It’s my wife’s shirt.
Him:           Dude, too bad!
Me:             *placing ear-buds*

I had more on the topic but I just got a phone message and I gotta get back to the gym to pick up my girl. Apparently the Kid’s Club day care doesn’t include nights.

(written in 2009)

* Conversation at Safeway with a stranger inquiring about my MSF tee-shirt:
Stranger:     Parlez vous francez?
Me:             Je ne speak no French, but I am a big fan of their fries and that movie where Nicole Kidman makes out with Obi Wan Kenobi inside a sequined elephant.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Can You Hear Me Now?

A typical exchange at work:

Beep beep. [Me, squinting to read callback number]
[Me, wandering the halls looking for a phone]
[Me, dialing]
[Me, waiting]
Four east can I help you?
Hi. Porter here. [Pleasant tone of voice] I was paged?
One sec…[muffled] Did anyone page Dr Porter?
[Me, standing in a hall, attached to wall by a curly handset cord from the forties, waiting]
Nobody says they paged you.
What unit is four east, anyway?
[Me looking at my pager again, tilting to better capture light in the corner of the LED readout]
Did I dial 5117.
No, this is 6117.
Thanks – g’bye. [Me quickly hanging up and redialing]
Recovery room. This is Dale.
Hi. This is Porter. [Less pleasant tone of voice] I was paged.
Umm. I’m the only one here. There were some residents here before.
Ok, thanks. Bye.
Beep beep.

Same exchange at my previous hospital:

[Me, walking toward my destination, looking at text message on my cell phone]
Colectomy Hgb 12.2 – stable

(Note that the second exchange was complete. The first was entering round two in a match of undetermined length.)

My new hospital is one big faraday cage.

The inefficiency of returning to communication modes of the seventies is staggering. At my last job I cursed the residents who had iPhones because the AT&T coverage was lame - we couldn’t talk phone to phone. But at least we could text. At my new job, I’m as land-line dependent as Marcus Welby.

The huge advantage of the inter-doctor text message is the ability to refer to the message again, instead of referring to my memory (of a phone conversation) or to the thigh of my scrubs where I wrote the patient ID number.

I just googled improve cell service in my hospital. I learned of the cellular repeater, which sounds brilliant. I wonder what they cost and how effective they are. Imagine the potential for expediting and improving patient care through accurate, timely, portable, re-accessible communication. Planning to discuss with our director of communications tomorrow.