Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Head Bobs and Finger Nods--The Country Wave

If we are anything out here in the country we are wavers.

We wave at every available opportunity. We wave at our rural mail carrier. We wave at the UPS man. We wave at the meter reader from the water district. I think I’ve even waved at a suspected meth chef or two as they’ve whizzed on down the road.

Although country waves are effective while sitting, standing, piddling and what-not, our best waving out here occurs while driving. It is a major country faux pas to not wave at an oncoming vehicle while behind the wheel. Waving expectations heighten with particular road and vehicle types. Case in point: In some counties, if one fails to wave at a pick-up truck while driving on a gravel surface, the local prosecuting attorney may file misdemeanor charges.

There is not a specific prescription for how one waves. Most simply raise their pointer finger slightly above the top of the steering wheel. You want to lift this finger high enough to be noticed, but not too aggressively lest you startle the oncoming driver.

This is the so called “finger nod,” One can use any finger he wishes during the conveyance of the finger nod. Certain fingers should be avoided, for obvious reasons and to avoid confusion with the sort of less-friendly gestures that are used in the city. And, use of the pinkie is sort of frowned upon. It’s considered a little half-hearted and likely to betray suburban roots.
One should also stay away, while driving, from the literal raised hand wave. A literal wave is seen by most country folk as sort of desperate and screaming for attention. It implies you don’t have enough country business on your mind. The wave is never about the wave itself. It is a vehicle for delivering respect. It’s a subtle, dignified acknowledgment that we’re all in this together.

In some townships waves may be replaced by head nods, or more accurately head bobs. The head bob can either be a slight lift of the head about five degrees backwards, or a slight downward head movement that is quickly returned to the starting position. I often employ the head bob during the operation of a riding mower. This gesture is universally accepted by passers by. No one expects a man on a lawnmower, tractor, combine or any other piece of machinery to hinder the safe and productive operation of said machinery by ceasing to steer the machinery—even momentarily—for  the sake of a wave.

Another thing about driving and waving on the road is you start to recognize your neighbors and other folks by the grille on their pickup. Then thoughts just run through your head…’Yeah, that’s Jim. He needs to apply some bug and tar remover….’ ‘….Billy Wayne is missing the "G" from his" GMC"….’ ‘… Mr. Blake still has that big old crack in his windshield….’

 I came to the country wave late in life. I was exposed to it initially during college in the early 1980s while driving along Farm Road 1217 outside Springfield, Mo. My first reaction was a childlike curiosity on how the nice farmer might know me. My curiosity turned to panic as it occurred to me that he might just sort of know me but really know my parents. I finally realized something bigger was going on along Farm Road 1217 after three of the next four oncoming drivers also waved at me. It was then that my love for the country wave was born. When I eventually moved to the Kansas City hinterlands,  I could finally own it.

When we leave the country and venture back to the city, we can’t turn off this habit of waving. It’s now a built-in reflex. Sadly, no one in the city waves back. In fact they look at us like I looked at that farmer in Springfield back in 1983. My son Davis has grown up waving at folks. While far from a country bumpkin in all other ways, the country wave has become part and parcel of who he is. He’s working is in Panama City Beach, Florida this summer. Much to his chagrin, no one there waves back at him either.

I hope Davis and my other children raise my grandchildren to be wavers. Even if they live in the city, training a child to wave the country wave should be an integral part of child rearing. It’s as respectful as a Georgia father teaching his children to say “Yes sir” and “Yes ma’am.”

Let’s not forget, however, as we teach our children and grandchildren to wave properly, that there are real live human beings behind those steering wheels. Let’s not just blindly wave at them without being willing to step into their worlds. Let’s not substitute the country wave for real, live, down-and-dirty interaction.

The next time you look over the steering wheel and see me coming at you, flag me down and pull me over. I’ll have a thermos of coffee that we can share right there in the middle of that gravel road.

And if you don’t like coffee, I’ll have some bug and tar remover and we can go to work on that grille.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Aspiring Couch Potato

I am lower than a couch potato.

How do I know this? Because I installed the iPhone workout app called Couch to 5K (C5K) and I can’t get through the first day’s routine.

C5K (changed from the politically incorrect “Couch POTATO to 5K”) is a workout regimen that is designed to take you, over a period of nine weeks   from being a so called couch potato to a living, breathing specimen that can run a 5 kilometer race.  Five kilometers.  As in 3.1 MILES.

At first blush the idea seems plausible. The plan is to alternately walk and jog for a thirty minute or so session three times a week. Each week the workout transitions into more jogging and less walking until, voila’, during week nine you jog for 30 minutes, which at the pace of 6.2 mph should carry you about five kilometers.

But as with all seemingly plausible schemes, there was for me one glaring flaw in this app. The flaw, I have discovered, is that the C5K’s definition of couch potato is apparently  “world class athlete.”

I’m not sure who wrote the code for the C5K app. I think it was written from some college kid who was either juiced or blood-doped. I don’t think the programmers actually identified a focus group of bona fide couch potatoes to see if they could actually finish the first day’s workout.

Let me take you through the C5K routine to see if you agree.

The program starts Week 1, Day 1 with a five minute warm up walk.  So far, so good. This caused me to break a sweat but my heart rate only got about 25 points above resting. No cause for concern or reason to have Life Flight on standby.

 But after the five minutes is up a woman’s computerized voice softly says “jog.” That’s when the trouble began for me.

I started jogging at her prompt but I had only gotten about 12 seconds into it when my body began to writher and convulse. My heart rate skyrocketed and by blood pressure catapulted to life-threatening levels. Or so it seemed.

I started to get dizzy and unspeakable things started happening at the cellular level. Impurities from the bowels of my stored cholesterol  fought  through the layers of pizza rolls, frozen burritos and late night Taco Bell runs to be released.  Lipids, long ago forgotten, fought to free themselves from their plaque-covered berths. Every saturated fat and empty carbohydrate I had ever consumed paraded before my mind’s eye, mocking me and daring me to quit.

I was taken to the woodshed for every slab of ribs, every Big Mac, every Chinese buffet,  and every slaw dog from  my favorite drive-in at Panama City Beach that I had ever eaten. All of them, and other unidentified toxins, commenced a no-holds-barred assault on my cardiovascular system.

Finally, after what had been only a minute but felt like an eternity,  I was saved by the woman’s voice that said, “let’s walk, ” which sounded more like “let’s croak.”

This walking reprieve lasted only 90 seconds and then I was pressed back into duty as that annoying voice once again told me to jog. During this second jog I was transported back into junior high school  when  I had eaten 10 for $1 hamburgers at Smak’s. Then some post-little league baseball game onion rings from Paul’s Drive In on Blue Ridge Blvd. were released from a special storage compartment inside my liver.  Paul’s onion rings did not leave quietly.

Once again my 90 second walk saved me. But it was during this walk that my mind immediately shifted into high gear. I had to figure out a way to modify this workout regimen or I would have to be scraped off the ground by emergency medical personnel.

I finally decided I would skip jogs 3 and 4 (there are 8 total during Day 1) and would simply walk until I could pick up the  5th jog in three or four minutes. Then I jogged the sixth leg but walked until the 30 minutes were up.

This altered routine saved by live, but it left me in despair as I realized I was not worthy to be called a couch potato.

But I did not linger in grief. I realized that I must simply write a new program for a new app for people like me who aspired to achieve  a level of fitness worthy of the name “couch potato.”

My new app is in development and I am currently learning various codes like Morse and the like so that I can properly market this new app to Apple and other manufacturers. I think I’m ready to announce its name.  After rejecting my first two ideas—“Comatose to Couch Potato” and “Drone to Prone,”  I’m pleased to announce that I have decided to name my new app “Insulin Resistant to Couch Subsistent”  or IRCS for short.

IRCS is still in beta testing, but here is what I’m thinking the first few workouts will look like.

Week One, Day One:  Sleep For 30 Minutes
Week One,  Day Two:  Lie Quietly for 30 Minutes, Sleeping for 25 of those.
Week One, Day Three: Alternately Sleep and Wake for Five Minutes until 30 Minutes has expired.

Week Two, Day One: Sit upright in recliner watching the U.S. Open Golf Tournament.
Week Two, Day Two: Sit upright in the recliner for 30 Minutes without the benefit of television, focusing on your pain and vowing to push through it.
Week Two, Day Three: Sit upright without TV for 12.5 Minutes; stand for five minutes, then return to upright TV-watching position for another 12.5 minutes.

Week Three, Day One: Stand for ten minutes; then sit and take your blood pressure. If still alive, stand for another ten minutes the replenish fluids with Gatorade.
Week Three, Day Two: Walk for 15 minutes around the hospital’s emergency room parking lot. Sit for the remaining 15 minutes in the E.R. waiting room. Note: do not eat anything from E.R. vending machines during this segment
Week Three, Day Three: Walk for 30 minutes while hooked up to portable EKG monitor.

I’m still working on the remaining six weeks, but you get the idea. By the end of the ninth week of IRCS, anyone should be in couch potato-ready form and will be promoted up to level  C5K.

I believe my app will save many unsuspecting lives thought they could just start C5K straight away. This app will provide a great service to mankind, and will remove the long-held stigma associated with couch potatoes nationwide.
So download my app as soon as it comes out. I’ll get you in tip-top shape.

And if I don’t, I’ll meet you at the Chinese buffet.