The COVID Chronicles: The Stopwatch

We’ve been, in one way or another, in lockdown mode for over nine months now. Still, despite a drastically empty calendar and virtually no driving, I found neither time nor inclination for reading and writing during this…..exile. Possibly because sharing one story is more or less opening up a bottomless matryoshka doll of stories – if only for contextual purposes.

And who has the appetite for that, myself included?

But on the other hand, writing beats scrolling through Instagram and being subjected to those inane synchronized dances that seem to clog up my feed most days. And it’s entirely possible WordPress has already charged my credit card for yet another year of radio silence on this old blog.

(Even though my credit card expired in November and it should not, in theory, be possible. Still ‘they’ find a way, don’t they Netflix?)

So what the hay, I present to you The Covid Chronicles. A series of vignettes from the absurdity that is my life – also known as: the confluence of my implausible choices, the members of my household, quarantine, and this strange land in which I find myself living.

Will they be daily vignettes? Weekly? Who only knows! (Best to subscribe if you hope to stay informed. Full disclosure, I don’t know how you do that. There’s got to be a button.)

For years now, I’ve engaged in an astonishingly low-tech form of exercise: running some distance, recording the time on a Timex stopwatch and using MapMyRun to ‘map’ the route and record the distance and pace.

Fitness fanatics and wordsmiths alike might conceivably wonder why I would lump ‘recording of exercise’ in with the ‘doing of exercise.’ But it’s a real chicken and egg argument at this point. The recording of the exercise is so intertwined with the exercise – and obviously without the former there is no need for the latter – that I can’t bear to distinguish between them.

Truth be told, they give me equal amounts of joy. The running offers a change of scenery and a mental break. And the recording offers tangible evidence of accomplishment. It’s a [seemingly pointless] conclusion that is commensurate to the activity: run in a circle around the neighborhood. Record it – acknowledge it was either faster, slower or the same speed as the previous day’s effort and move on to the next thing.

My kids are so accustomed to the co-existence of the running and recording, they don’t even bat an eye when, after a run, I walk through the door, directly to my computer.

Oh, did I fail to mention that I mapmyrun via an internet browser on my laptop? Did you assume I was using an app? Like, on my phone?!

Mais non.

As Jay, the patriarch from that interminable television show Modern Family once said, “the only app on my phone is voicemail.”

This is of course not [entirely] true, though it’s close.

But I digress.

My children have turned my oddly predictable habit into a verb. “Did you mapmyrun? How far did you go?” they’ll ask in their more attentive moments, in the off-chance I forgot to ‘write it down’.

Let it be known, I’ve never forgotten to mapmyrun. I have been out of town, out of the country, without internet service or computer access, and I’ve mentally stored the details of my run(s) and bolted for the computer the second I arrived home.

It’s more or less a form of Alzheimer’s prevention at this point.

(With a touch of early onset obsessive compulsive disorder on the side.)

We live in an age where people have Garmins and Fitbits that can track how much they do or don’t sleep at night and spout performance statistics while they are in the middle of running. And here I am with my stopwatch and my computer – trying to recreate the specifics of a run well after it happened. Did I turn right, or left? Did I add on the extra bit or leave it off?

I generally, especially in ‘Covid Times’, run the same route so there’s not a lot to remember. But there was a day, recently, when I got home, having run in one of the adjacent neighborhoods, at what I felt was quite a ‘clip’. I entered my ‘route’ and mapmyrun computed a pace so slow I nearly gave up running on the spot. And then I remembered a street I’d missed, lengthened my route, and all was right with the world.

I was an average runner once again.

Apparently the recording is a point of contention for the professor. On Christmas morning he handed me a rectangular box labeled ‘to Nicola, from Santa’ with a Fitbit beneath the wrapping paper. “I just can’t deal with the watch. And the laptop,” he aired his grievances. As though it were taking years off his life having to observe someone record their exercise in such a borderline analog manner.

I may have tossed the gift back at Santa like a hot potato shrieking “I don’t want it!”

I was still reeling from sending someone a text message about Trader Joe’s and finding my Instagram feed littered with Trader Joe’s products immediately afterwards.

I may sound like a 70 year old lady hiding her money underneath a mattress because she doesn’t trust the banks, but I don’t want Fitbit all ‘up in my business’ – judging my speed, or lack thereof, making me feel guilty about the dog walk I skipped or the stairs I didn’t take; telling me what I already know: that I am a terrible sleeper.

The professor, however saw it differently. “Maybe all this time you haven’t actually been running. And now Fitbit is going to expose the truth!”

So here we are, it’s the third day of Christmas and my true love gave to me: a Fitbit that’s yet to grace my wrist.