Terry Talbert: And how was your day?

September 28, 1997

As I was leaving the office one particularly horrible day last week, someone made the mistake of asking me how I was.

I glared at her.

"Nevermind," she said.

"No, I want to tell you," I said. "I feel like I've been on a very fast treadmill all day. I mean, it's not every day you get to write about both a CIA officer and an obnoxious turkey harassing a small child, is it? My brain is dead. I can't think. I've been running all over the county.

"Like I said, I feel like I've been on a very, very fast treadmill. Almost as fast as that turkey. You wouldn't believe how fast that bird could move! It was absolutely amazing!"


She looked at me like I was nuts and went out the front door.

I hate it when people walk away from me when I'm talking to them.

"DID YOU HEAR ME? A TREADMILL!!!," I yelled after her.

Had I known I would be on a real treadmill that night I would have gone straight home, leapt into bed, assumed a fetal position and remained there the rest of the night.

Instead I raced home, fed the cats Kluckers, hopped back in the car, and headed for my friend's house in West Virginia. I had promised her I would come over for dinner.

I headed south on Interstate 81. Speed felt wonderful. I was sailing along and had even stopped hyperventilating when I saw brake lights ahead. Traffic was down to one lane - all because of a 4-square-foot construction site in the right-hand lane 2.5 miles ahead. I braked and stopped. I was already late.

As I sat idly idling I contemplated letting forth with a primal scream that would rock the county at its very foundations. As I stared at the wildflowers wafting in the breeze in the median strip, I reconsidered. I decided the only thing that would make me feel better would be to scream a very foul obscenity at the top of my lungs until I ran out of breath.

I was all ready. I breathed in deeply. Then I made the mistake of looking to my right. The guy sitting next to me in traffic was in a convertible. He had one of those religious bumper stickers.

I couldn't do it. I stuffed the foul word and began hyperventilating again.

I had a headache.

When I finally reached my friend's house, I was a bundle of nerve endings just waiting to be plucked. I tried to be civil. We ate, and then my friend reminded me she was taking me to her gym.

"Duh?" I think I responded.

"You'll love it. The exercise will do you good. Help you get rid of the stress," she said.

"Duh?" I responded once again.

My friend has a lot of discipline. She has honed her body down to a tight mass of supple muscle with sheer will power over the past several months. She is almost completely flabless. I am not.

We got to the gym. It was late. By this time I was devoid of lucid thought. I vaguely remember lifting 90 pounds of weight with my legs 10 times, and pulling 40 pounds down behind my back 10 times. I remember with startling clarity doing the tummy scrunches with 25 pounds of weight attached. I remember with frightening vividness that I thought I was going to die right then and there, on the same day I interviewed a turkey.

"What will they put on my tombstone?" I thought. That was before I remembered I'm being cremated.

Finally, my friend got on a treadmill with her little water bottle, and motioned me to get on the treadmill on her left. She gave me my own little water bottle, which didn't work. Either nothing would come out, or it would dribble down my chin.

I looked at her.

"Duh?" I asked.

"I'm going to walk two miles at 4 mph," she said. "That ought to be a good speed for you, too."

I glared at her, and pushed the little speed button until it registered 2.9 miles per hour. I figured that was a decent pace. My friend looked at me with disgust. Perspiration was glistening from above her sweatband. She was taking long assertive strides.

Several minutes passed. "Gee, I've already burned 8 calories," I said, looking at the little calorie counter on the treadmill.

"I've burned 20," my friend said.

She's lucky I was so tired. I didn't quite have the strength to grab her little sweatband, pull it out about five feet, and then let it snap back.

I tried. I just didn't have the strength.

Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.

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