It was on a temperamental treadmill in downtown Atlanta that I realized I could never be a traveling salesman or part of any profession that made me go out on the road repeatedly. Don’t get me wrong: I love to travel. But I hate it almost as much as I love it.
I like seeing new things getting out and experiencing a distant city, a new culture, new sights, whatever. But I hate living out of a suitcase and having my regular routines snapped in half and shredded to bits.
Take, for instance, running. I have to run, and it’s not so easy when you travel, especially in a city like Atlanta. There I was in the hotel, the thought of traveling outside into the blustery cold to roam the bleak and desolate streets of that concrete and asphalt wasteland about as appealing as going underwear shopping.
It was painfully cold, and as far as I could tell, there were no trees and no squirrels to chase.
Enter the treadmill. It was a nice hotel with a nice gym, and since I’ve never belonged to a gym and never really run on a treadmill, I thought I would give it a shot. Besides, that’s what all those other business travelers seem to do. And if they can do it, why not me?
So down I marched, figuring treadmills were easy. I thought I would befriend one, run a few miles, and then the two of us would grab a beer.
I never imagined that it would try to kill me — that a treadmill could be evil and have so much hate in its heart.
But this one did. I climbed aboard one of the sleek-looking devices expecting to flip a switch or press a button to bring it to life. Running is one of the simplest sports there is. It involves two things: running and avoiding cars. Only this treadmill looked like mission control.
Obviously really smart people who had never run in their lives had designed it, for I had all manner of options, gadgets and gismos that had nothing to do with running.
I could find out how much fat I was burning, I could plug in my iPod, I could have my shoes spit-shined and I could not only have my cholesterol checked, but also my arteries cleared out.
Yet, apparently, I couldn’t just run.
Or couldn’t “normal” run. There were settings so I could do a trail run that would incline the track to make it seem like I was running through hills. I could use a setting that mimicked what it was like running from the police. I could chase after bears if I wanted to, and all the while watching Oprah on the built-in TV.
But I just wanted to run — regular run — and it was the only option not included.
I finally figured it out, but had to first enter my weight (why was that germane, and what if I didn’t want to share that with the treadmill?), my distance, the amount of time I wanted to run and finally my speed. Only, the speed I had to enter was in miles per hour and I have no idea how fast I run in miles per hour. Who would know such a thing? Do people get friends to drive along next to them in cars and scream out their speeds?
So I guessed. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll start off at something reasonably slow, like say 22 mph.”
I hit “start” and wham! It shot me off the track and into the wall. Business travelers all around me stared in a cocktail of shock and snootiness. “Amateur!”
At some point I actually got running, and ran 5 miles at a respectable pace. But it was torture. I had to hold onto the rails and stare at my feet to make sure I didn’t trip or lose my balance. I hated it! I never chased a squirrel and I didn’t relieve any stress. Like business travel, treadmill running just isn’t for me. I’ll stick to dodging cars and chasing critters the old fashioned way.