It was just before midnight on a Tuesday night when I saw the kids come into the store. While I have over fifteen years in retail that makes me keenly sensitive to the signs put out by potential shoplifters, these kids were throwing out signs that anyone would have picked up on: The were both so nervous as to almost be shaking, they were looking back and forth more than I have ever seen anyone not on crystal meth do, when they saw the cashiers, their eyes went straight to the floor. Long story short, this would be a beer run, and one that was telegraphed so clearly that everyone in the store new it.
Nearly all retail stores have a fairly strict policy of not pursuing shoplifters. In the past several years several store clerks have been killed while trying to stop shoplifters, and in turn, several shoplifters have been killed by store owners who fear for their lives -a situation that only comes to bear when they have made the foolish decision to pursue the shoplifter in the first place. When it comes right down to it, there is nothing in a retail store that is worth a human life, neither the store clerk’s nor the shoplifter’s, and with security cameras able to catch every angle from inside a store nowadays, it really isn’t necessary anyway.
All of this I know. But as I stood watching two kids, probably both between the ages of 15 and 17, so clumsily making preparations, it started to piss me off more than a bit. Being a salaried manager, my bonus comes directly from controlling profit and loss -which they were about to take a chunk out of- and maintaining a corporate set profit margin -which the loss directly effects-. I took up a post about 30 feet from the door and stared at them as they walked through the store, hoping that they would get the message. They didn’t. But as they made their way to the door, someone opened it to come inside, and not having to stop to open the door gave them an extra second that I hadn’t planned for when I took up my post. They were both in a dead sprint by the time they got to the door, and I had a corner to make it around plus the 30 feet to cover.
When I reached the door they were 20-25 yards ahead of me, running with, and quite possibly the funniest part of this, exactly: two 18 packs of budweiser, one 12 pack of budweiser, three 32oz bottles of gatorade, two 20oz Nestea Iced teas, and 2 bags of Cheetos Puffs. Frankly, if it had been just the beer I would have stopped at the door and let them go, but something about the random nature of the snack food just seemed so insulting that I got so angry I just couldn’t. Also, they were running towards a gold Jeep Cherokee that was inexplicably parked at our fuel drop station, nearly a hundred yards from the front door. I wasn’t going to let those little fuckers get away with it.
As anyone who played in sports knows, you can run much faster than your body thinks it can. While it is difficult to explain, you can overcome the limitations your body places on you more or less by willing it to be. I first discovered this back in High School while doing some distance running. Near the finish, when my legs could hardly carry me and my ribs were painfully cramped, I could call on this unforeseen reserve of energy to finish the last eighth of the lap as fast as if I was on fresh legs. I soon found that this energy could be called upon at will, and it made me a terror on the kickoff squad in football (affectionately called the meat squad), able to close the fifty yards in far less time than anyone my size had a right to. And while my body isn’t conditioned like it was back then, the discipline to control it is still there.
I had to make up 20-25 yards before they made it the 70 or so yards to the safety of their vehicle. Game on. I caught up to them about 2/3 of the way to their car, and that was when I realized that I didn’t really have a plan for what to do once I did. I was pretty sure they were both underage, and I wasn’t (and still am not) sure what would happen to me, or the store, if I was to injure them. I smacked the beer from the hands of the larger boy, who then looked over his shoulder to see who was behind him. He yelled something I couldn’t make out and the other boy threw down all he was carrying as well. Not sure what to do at this point, knowing that they would be leaving with nothing, I knew I had to let it go. Before I dropped the pursuit, in a final act of anger, I gave the big guy a firm push in the back which sent him tumbling to the ground. He was back up in a second and kept on running. The jeep that they had been running towards had long since taken off, having surely seen the pursuit, and no doubt knowing that if I was able to get their plate number it would be pretty easy to I.D. all involved, so both kids ran off the lot, through the desert landscaping, on the way to the freeway overpass. The Jeep was actually parked on that overpass waiting for them, but I had no intention of following them off the property; pursuing them into the lot was questionable at best, off the property was definitely going to get me fired.
As I began picking up the goods, which were now strewn about the parking lot, one of the clerks brought a couple of bags out to help me (the beer packages had split open when I knocked them from his hands, there were broken cans all over, but we could get credit on them, so it’s all good). As we were picking the items up, he said to me, “You have amazing speed for your size.” Obviously it is the last part of that line that did it. He didn’t mean it like I took it, of course, but he said it all the same for my size. As we entered the store with the stuff, the other cashier said, “You’re a lot faster than you look”. Which is really just a variation on the same theme. I know they both meant it as a compliment, but when it hit my ears it came across as “Holy shit! Lard ass can move!”
I should take a moment here before I get into the self-deprecation to point out that at 5’10” and about 190 pounds, I am in better shape than most Americans. In this deep-fried, super-sized world though, that isn’t saying a whole lot. As my weight would indicate, I am not into the range of morbidly obese. In fact I only show the weight in the form of love handles and a gut – a gut which, I am proud to say, doesn’t flop over the top of my belt when I do up my pants (you know you have seen these guys who wear a 36 inch pant, even though it cuts through the flab, and the flab hides their belt buckle). And the weight fluctuates so that in the winter I usually go about 190 while in the summer it is more like 180. I know I am not in great shape, but I didn’t realize the signs of it were so outward. But what really, really, got me to thinking about it was that I was winded, and couldn’t even speak when I got back inside. A sprint of sixty or seventy yards had never done that to me before…
If my being out of shape were purely aesthetic, I would probably let it go. At least until 200 pounds. That is a deal that I made to myself long ago: If I ever hit 200 there must be a regiment of diet and exercise put into place to get me back below that mark. The 1000 pound man, I reasoned, must have crossed that 200 mark at some point, and if he had taken action then it wouldn’t have come to a bed-ridden existence. It was the breathing and heart-rate that really had me concerned. At 34 years old, I shouldn’t be winded with chest pounding after such a small exertion. I’m not sure what role adrenaline may have played in all this, but regardless, for my health something must be done.
I don’t have the time or inclination to go to a gym, so I needed to find some sort of cardio training for the home. The first thing that came to mind was an elliptical machine. I spent a couple hours online reading reviews and found a couple that seemed to be pretty good value for the price at Wal-Mart. I looked at a few of them in store, and while they seemed sturdy enough, they were just so loud and clunky. I looked at some that cost a bit more money at Sears, including a Nordic Track, but it was just as loud and clunky as the others. I am at my most active between 2 and 4am, while my wife is asleep and I am winding down from work, and every machine that I looked at was loud enough that I feared it would wake her up if I used it. So I decided to just go with a simple treadmill.
I went for a low-end treadmill for several reasons. First, I’m not as young as I used to be, and one of my knees has been pretty screwed up since high school. I can certainly work through the pain now, but if the impact should become a problem in the future, I don’t want to have a huge investment in the thing. Second, I’m not sure just how much use I am going to get out of it. Hopefully I will continue to use this thing as preventive maintenance for my body, but I am enough of a realist to admit that I may not. Third, it is just a motor and a piece of tread, all the rest is just frills. Why does one cost 300 and one cost 1000? Can the motor or tread really be 3x better? I guess I’ll find that out in the future, and I will hope the answer is no.
And now to the whole point of this post. I had no idea just how bad of shape I was in until I got on the damn thing. Thinking I was in better shape than most (I think a lot of us walk around with that delusion) I set the incline to max, which is only 9% and started the first workout plan. 6 minutes into it I felt like I had a dagger under my ribs on the left side (a cramp) and my legs couldn’t take it anymore. I adjusted the incline to the middle setting 6% and slowed it down to 4mph (a slow jog, or a really fast walk) and still only made it a total of 9 minutes before I had to give up. I had to give up from the pain in my shins though, and if you ever played sports on a hard surface you know that the shin splints hurt like hell. If you stop when you first start feeling them you won’t be in debilitating pain the next day. So for the immediate future the plan is to use shortly every day until my shins can take a full thirty minute workout. Then I will probably get into an every other day, 30minute type thing.
So, 189 pounds and winded after 10 minutes to start. I’ll check back later.