Monday, June 09, 2008

Steamed

Little by little, I realize that I am, indeed, getting older.

I recently celebrated my 37th birthday, but my realisation of the aging process comes not so much from events you can mark on a calendar. Instead, it's a collection of little observations that, taken individually, can be easily explained or overlooked. Put all of these "little observations" into the Big Picture, however, and the result is somewhat more depressing.

I do my best to stay young. Some might even say I'm childish or immature. Others may say that I'm trying to recapture my lost youth. Well, to those I say, "Pshhht!" I'm plenty grown-up, and you can't recapture something you haven't let go. Still, though my brain insists we are only 20-something, my body has begun to point out that 40-something isn't far away.

For instance...

I've always liked to play Frisbee. Most of all, I like jumping for high ones or diving for just-out-of-reach ones. There's nothing more satisfying than the look on someone's face as you magically snag out of mid-air a Frisbee that they were sure was going to send you running across the park. During coffee breaks at work, we used to go out in the back lot and toss a couple discs around. I'd always try for the catch, no matter how impossible it looked. I'd grab one skimming an inch off the pavement... I'd lunge and trap one just about to hit a wall... I'd jump over the guy in front of me to make sure I got the next one instead of him...

I can still try to do all of these things, but a recent trip to the park with an 11-year old has shown me that 180lbs does not achieve the same height or hang-time that 135lbs used to. Nor does it tend to stop very easily once urged into a lunging motion. Such maneuvers are now typically followed by a tumble in the grass and a 5-minute time-out for recovery.

Damn inertia.

And then there's food. I used to have an iron stomach and unbeatable metabolism. I could eat absolutely anything I wanted, without consequence. As an example, there was a time when I was counselling 9- to 12-year old boys at a summer camp, and I was challenged to a lasagna eating contest by another counsellor of, shall we say, greater corporeal girth. Well, as heavy as that pasta can be, I packed it away and kept pace with the big guy, bite for bite. In fact, about 1 full tray into the contest, it became obvious he was on the verge of throwing in the towel. So, he sent one of the young boys from his cabin to sabotage my lasagna with a big scoop of ice cream (the rest of the campers and counsellors had long since moved on to dessert). Nonplussed, I stirred the extra dairy into my meal and, by the time a tray and a half had been consumed between the two of us, I was declared the winner. The big guy moaned and groaned for the rest of the evening, but I was more than ready for hot chocolate and marshmallows at campfire time.

There's no way I could repeat that performance today. For starters, my relationship with dairy has taken a turn for the worse in recent years. We just don't seem to see eye-to-eye like we once did. Cramming that much cheese and ice cream down my throat now would either have me running for the nearest washroom equipped with an industrial-strength ventilation fan, or wishing that I was. It's a purge-or-bloat scenario, if you catch my drift.

Aside from that, I've also been introduced to this lovely phenomenon called heart burn. All I can say about that is, "WTF?!?" Apparently, the supposed one-way valve at the top of my stomach has become confused with the definition of "one-way". No longer does my stomach have a monopoly on all that wonderful acid some foods seem to produce. Now my esophagus gets to enjoy all that burning goodness too. Yay. It's especially fun when it happens in the middle of the night and my brain is too sleepy to differentiate between acid reflux and a heart attack.

Fun times.

There are lots of other physical manifestations of this thing called "aging": a 100-foot dash to catch a bus that feels like sprinting the last 100m up Mt. Everest... joints that tend to fuse solid if allowed to go unmoved for more than 10 minutes... a knee-cap that enjoys wandering around the general knee region without actually staying on the knee itself... muscles that spasm and cramp in places I didn't even know I had muscles...

The list goes on but the reality of it all hit home yesterday, not with a pain, or a burp, or the crack of a hip. It was something that just sort of snuck up on me...

We were at the wavepool last night with our kids, enjoying being out of the rain. The place we go to is pretty cool, too. The wavepool is shallow enough for the two younger girls, who aren't the strongest swimmers, to go without life jackets, there's a portion called "The River" where they run a current you can float in or swim against, lots of fun water toys for the little ones, and a nice big hot tub that never seems to have too many people in it. My favorites, though, are the steam room and dry sauna. Unlike at most facilities, these amenities are right beside the pool (as opposed to down the hall to the change rooms) so I don't have to abandon the kids just to enjoy a little heat.

Well, as I was contemplating going in the sauna last night, I noticed a couple of girls, probably no older than 13 or 14, going in and out, holding the door open, and letting all the heat out. I could actually watch the temperature drop on a digital thermometer outside the room. As I walked towards the sauna, one of them snaked past me with two flippers full of water from the hot tub and dashed it on the hot rocks. Great idea if this was a steam sauna, but totally forbidden by the facility because... well... it's not.

As they were about to run back for more water, I stopped one of them and said, "Hey! Can't you read? This is a dry sauna!" Then, jerking my thumb toward the foggy glass door not two feet away, I said, "If you're looking for the steam room, it's RIGHT THERE!!!"

Yep, I'm the cranky old guy at the public pool. It's all downhill from here, I'm afraid.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go yell at some kids on my lawn, Wil Wheaton-style.
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