41 + Books = New Pain
Here is another reason why I am not a yuppie: I am old. If I had any doubt about that, if, say, my chronically adolescent lifestyle and habitual wearing of baseball caps, gigantic shorts and black t-shirts had convinced me that I was successfully fighting the effects of time, I was reminded this morning in the most harsh of ways that this is not the case.
I am not a small person. I'm not freakishly large, but certainly no one would describe me as "slight." Certainly I am large enough to lift three bags full of books out of my car without suffering injury. Certainly, unless I were 41 years old and had not stretched sufficiently before attempting to lift three heavy bags of books, that is.
But first, a quick summation of my pre-existing conditions: I've had a crushed bone in my left elbow since age 11, chronic tendonitis and calcium deposits in my left shoulder since I was a mediocre 18-year-old high school pitcher. Atop that I have the usual aches and pains, but no knee problems, ankle problems or back problems. Leg problems, I figure, usually develop following traumatic injuries, while back problems, I've always assumed, are the exclusive domain of tall guys. Sometimes I'll have something like this week, where on Monday, at the gym, I tweaked something in my lower back. Nothing major. In fact, I only noticed it when I was sleeping.
I have this mental game I like to play. I invented it right about the time I turned 40. How about this, it says: instead of having spent the past 23 years semi-engaging in a variety of careers, what if I was a 41-year-old lefthanded pitcher, nowhere near the dominant flamethrower I once was but still able to get lefthanded hitters out with regularity? What if the chronic shortage of lefthanded pitching -- especially with the watering-down of talent due to repeated expansion -- had made it so that some team picked me up, paying me a reasonable $800,000 for the year, knowing that I could help the club.
I'd still be me, after all. And this year would be the year that Sandra Bullock tells me to think about hanging it up, but I still love the game and love the competition, so I stick it out for just one more year. Sure, my shoulder gives me fits, and getting in shape is more difficult each year, but darn it, I love the game. Next year I'll retire and spend more time with the Jawa. I'll become a writer or something. After all, I did major in English in college.
That's my fantasy world. True, it is a simple one, and probably reveals plenty about my self-esteem and lack of ambition. After all, if you're going to have a fantasy, why not make yourself a superstar? You take your fantasy; I'll take mine.
Meanwhile, back at the car, I reached in and pulled out the three bags. With the third, I felt a sharp pain in that spot I was only noticed when I was sleeping. "Ooow-wow!" I said.
Then it went away. I carried the three bags into school, up a flight of stairs, and deposited them in the library. I walked back down the stairs, stopped to talk to Jenny from the Block, went back out to the car and drove away.
I am now sitting in a chair. It is several hours later. Every three minutes or so I squirm, trying to find a position that does not result in shooting pains down my leg. I have been stretching, fidgeting, laying on the floor, on the couch, standing up, sitting hunched over, sitting straight up, lying on my side in the fetal position. Nothing helps. Sandra Bullock has promised me Tylenol laced with codeine. Maybe that will help. I am now, at least for today, a guy with back problems.
All day I have been announcing, "I AM NOT A GUY WITH BACK PROBLEMS!" to which the low-key but occasionally sly woman who sits next to me at the biotech said, "Yes, but you are 41."
Today was a celebratory day at the biotech. They've secured a big private funding deal and signed papers that will eventually allow the company to move into San Francisco. To mark this, the entire company -- save for contractors whose wives hold lofty positions within the organization and feel that having their lowly husbands present might cramp their style -- took off work at 10:15 and loaded up into buses that took them to the Embarcadero, where they then boarded a luxurious yacht to enjoy a bay cruise.
Contractors whose wives hold lofty positions within the organization and feel that having their husbands present might cramp their style were officially invited to this party but unofficially discouraged from attending. Instead, they stayed behind, wracked by back pain so new and unexpected that it would not have been inappropriate to say the shehechyanu over it, squrming in their office chairs as they filled out endless equipment status forms with only the Woman who Speaks Loudly on her Phone About Food for company.
As you may have guessed, this arrangement did not last until the previously agreed-on 3:00 end time. Once I realized that we had forgotten to work out Shack's lunchtime feeding, it was very easy to rationalize the idea that I should leave at 1:00 pm and continue my status forms at home. In pain, but without the persistent hacking cough of the Woman on the Phone, the day brightened considerably.
As much as a day that involves your back constantly reminding you that you are 41 years old, that is.