Thursday, September 01, 2005

Heavy Lifting

One of the instructions on the discharge papers at the hospital a week ago was "no heavy lifting for four weeks." You would think this would be a non-issue for a college-educated urban adult with a cubicle job.

You would be wrong.

Here in New York City, where gas is now $3.50 a gallon and parking and insurance are astronomical, most of us do not own cars. Or we do, but only use them to leave town on weekends and spend the rest of the week moving them from one side of the street to the other.

Consequently, we get around by a combination of walking, public transportation and cabs. And with no car to throw our things into every morning, we leave the house carrying everything for every possible contingency that could arise in the next sixteen hours.

So for the past 25 years or so, I've been having these displays of female macho with my peers:

"I've been carrying this since eight o'clock this morning. Feel how heavy it is!"

"Oh, Melinda...That's nothing. I've been carrying my suit from my temp job, my rehearsal clothes and a set of encyclopedias I'm selling to pay for my voice lessons. And that's just in my black shoulderbag. Look what I've got in my tote bag."

Plus, as you go from place to place, you accumulate more stuff: dry cleaning, groceries, kids. And maybe there was a conference at work and they ordered too much food, so you're taking some of that home to save money. So by the time you return home, you have packages of every size, shape and material hanging from every hangable place on your anatomy. It's as if, in order to keep from becoming a Bag Lady, you've had to inoculate yourself with a minor Bag Lady Virus.

In the past week, however, I've been able to painlessly manage nothing larger than a small handbag that resembles the pocketbook I had when I was ten, with just the bare essentials needed for survival: small wallet, cell, sunglasses, Metrocard. It's the "what could you not live without on a desert island" question made real. Nevermind that the only place I have to rely on this little bag is the half-hour subway ride between my home and my office, where I have a duplicate set of nearly everything. For that half-hour, I am the estrogen version of Robinson Crusoe.

Add to this the fact that my usual exercise routine has been temporarily proscribed and that my usual power walk has been reduced to a gentle stroll, and I'm experiencing not only a flashback to age ten but a preview of old age. I feel I'm lacking the agility to leap out of the way of aggressive people or the intimidating mien to make them get out of my way, and all I can do is wince is they slam into me. And instead of saying "excuse me," these adrenaline-charged folks make these little annoyed "tsk!" sounds because they can't walk through me as if I were a hologram.

Times like this cause me to reflect that as I get older, it may be a good idea to leave the City and buy a condo in some exurban Baby Boomer retirement community where they pipe in British Invasion and Motown and people are happy alllll day long. Heck, there are brokers getting people big money to give up their rent stabilized apartments. If anybody makes us a good offer, we should take it and run.

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