Chimps in the parking lot

I can’t sit quietly in a parking lot for five minutes without another human being engaging with me in a negative way. Why is this? I deliberately avoid engaging with strangers. But for some reason I’m weirdo bait.

Today was not the greatest of days. I spent the morning being therapeutically mauled, which was an exhausting and painful experience. As part of this process, I was given instructions for stretching and strengthening. Naturally, these called for more pieces of equipment: resistance bands and a medicine ball. Jonathan was told to try gel inserts. Fine. We’d go after lunch.

The first stop was CVS. Our destination? The foot care aisle. But upon getting out of the car I noticed a sticky substance along the floorboard of the driver’s side (I always drive; it works for us). A Hammer Gel, lodged in the door pocket, had exploded from the heat and leaked. So Jonathan went ahead while I took a few moments to clean up the mess.

I travel with paper towels, water and extra clothes in the trunk. Band-aids and a flashlight too. You’d think I’d been a Girl Scout, but I rejected that racket when I learned we had to sell cookies door to door.

Did you know that when you open the driver’s side door and then subsequently pull the trunk release lever on a 1997 Toyota Camry LE Sedan that this combination of actions will cause all of the doors to lock? I learned about this feature today.

There they were, on the passenger seat: my car keys, along with my bag containing my wallet, phone and iPod. I knew Jonathan had no car key because he never drives. I limped into CVS and gave him the bad news.

While I mulled over what to do (go to a pay phone and get a cab? Borrow someone’s phone and call Geico’s roadside assistance?) Jonathan was practically running away. Which was impressive since not only was he wearing sandals but he also has not been able to run for close to two months.

We were about 1.5 miles from home. He figured he could hoof it there and back with a car key in about 45 minutes. He was eager to solve this problem. I was experiencing mounting pain in my hip again, as I’d forgotten to take a painkiller. Off he went before I could think about alternatives. As I watched his retreating figure I wondered if he’d remembered to bring his house keys.

So now I had to kill 45 minutes. I had no money, no form of distraction and I was in pain. I made my way over to the edge of the parking lot, found a shady spot and sat on the curb. This was pathetic. I played with my watch and observed fat people going in and out of Dunkin’ Donuts.

Then, excitement. A kid, about 17, came blasting across the lot on one of those Razor scooters. He attempted to use a smoothed over section of curb as a ramp and proceeded to fall ass over teakettle right in front of me. He lay immobile on his back for a few seconds, then got up and looked at me with a combination of anger and sheepishness.

“Are you alright?” I said, more out of obligation than concern. Asking this made me feel old all of a sudden. Matronly.

He picked up the scooter and sulked off.

Three minutes later he returned, looking very agitated. He disappeared among the storefronts, then returned to the scene of his accident.

He asked me a question, which I thought was “Did you see me fall?”

Oh, great, I thought. He’s thinking of suing CVS and wants a witness. Why me? I also thought this was an incredibly dumb question. Of course I saw him fall.

“Uh, yes.” I offered.

“Well, where is it?”

This confused me.

“What? Where’s what?”

“My phone.”

“Oh.” This kid needed elocution lessons. “Your phone. No, I thought you asked if I saw you fall. I haven’t seen your phone.”

This enraged him. He raised the scooter and hurled it to the ground. “FUCK!!!!”

Okay, so now I know I’m dealing with a chimpanzee and not a bonobo.

“I lost my fucking phone!” He starts frantically looking under the shrubbery, continuing his rant. “The person standing next to me when I find it is going to get it. I’m going to shoot up everyone in this place.”

O. Kay. Time to get over to where more people are.

But I can’t walk without looking like a spastic. I lurch and wince. I suddenly have a reluctance to appear weak. I don’t want to be the injured gazelle that gets taken down.

So I just sit there, waiting to see what he’ll do next.

He stomps off again, searching for his phone.

By the time he returns for a third look around, I’ve managed to hop my way over to the Dunkin’ Donuts entrance, where I lean in the blazing sun. This he finds suspicious. I worry that he’s going to come over and demand his phone. I’m ready to tell him to fuck off because I’m having a worse day than he is, and let the chips fall where they may.

He leaves me alone. Minutes later, Jonathan shows up, now in running shoes, with keys. He’s run the 1.5 miles back. He says his legs feel very fresh. He’s not angry or annoyed, as I thought he’d be. He seems, if anything, perky. The day’s looking up.

Oh, how I wish I were a masochist

Today I hobbled up to Coach Sandra’s magic workshop in Ossining for something she’s been promising for several weeks — an examination for “weaknesses” (I have lots of them, but I don’t think she’s talking about vodka) and imbalances. But it got put off due primarily to her travels.

Because of my recent incident, however, this visit turned from one of mere examination to therapy. Or should I say torture? Sandra is a myotherapist. I think myotherapy should replace waterboarding as our nation’s preferred interrogation technique. It’s certainly less messy.

The good news is that I don’t have anything seriously wrong with my hip. The bad news is that I was compared to a kitchen sink that has for years gone unwashed. It takes a lot of scrubbing to undo that kind of neglect. The hip is just the tip of the iceberg that is the whole of my problems, it seems. In fact, Sandra was amazed that I haven’t had more issues given how totally fucked up I am below the waist.

To summarize, here’s what happened on Saturday. The hip issue was the final straw in a cascading series of events having to do with tight muscles in my legs. My right hamstring had been giving me trouble for days beforehand. During the race it tightened up to such an extent that everything around it went into spasm and seized up as well.

My hip is not actually the problem — it’s just where the problem is most acutely expressed at the moment. The most notable issue is a large muscle knot (two, actually — but one is much worse than the other) deep in the heart of my right buttcheek (gluteal muscle). It sits at the top of my iliotibial (IT) band, which is no great shakes either. The IT band is not only tight, but it has scar tissue all up the side of it (both of them do, actually, although the right side is much worse than the left is). Did I mention my calves? They are also tight enough to bounce quarters off of.

I got scolded for running on pavement all these years. And not stretching or getting proper massages (meaning deep enough to be painful) all this time. Who knew?

What does this mean for me? A world of pain, the intensity of which I can scarcely describe.

For close to 90 minutes Sandra dug into these problem areas and made me alternately shriek and weep. Lots of her athletes break into tears while she does this, so I was told not to feel bad about it. I was also told that since she is undoing years of neglect, it’s going to really hurt and take at least another few sessions. She said the muscle knots have been there for a long, long time, given their density and size.

I also have about around 50 (seriously) stretching and strengthening exercises that I am to do twice a week now, working up to three times a week.

I was also told that, when she was still running competitively, Sandra would go engage in this process for 10 days with a guy in Ireland who is the best at this in the world. It was basically a Torture Holiday. Myotherapy, then run, then check things and do myotherapy again. Khalid still goes to him for this treatment. She ended up studying under the torture master and forging a parallel career.

Here’s what happens in these sessions:

  1. Sandra picks an area to work on. She digs into it (often using her elbow with full weight on it). I scream and cry. She expresses sympathy, but also warns that she’s just warming up the area — loosening the surface tissue so she can get closer to the source of the problem (knots and scar tissue).
  2. She digs and stabs. Then checks the muscle or tendon. Then digs and stabs some more. Then asks me if that last round of digging and stabbing was any less painful. I am tempted to lie sometimes, but I don’t because I know that will only prolong the process.
  3. Then she focuses on another area, letting the first recover a bit. Then she goes back and works on the original area some more. In the meantime, neighbors call the police because it sounds like horrific crimes are being committed on the second floor.
  4. I go home and take an ice bath. I do my stretches. I go running and see how far I get before it becomes painful. Then we do this again a few days later.
  5. Repeat until knots and scar tissue are gone.

There are some bright spots in all of this. For one, it’s not a serious injury. I was worried about a hip stress fracture or that my award-winning left bunion was causing all of this and would require surgery. For another, if I get all this shit worked out and do my stretching like my life depends on it (and try to stay off of pavement as much as possible), I should never have to go through this “cleaning the kitchen sink” process again.