Apolo Ohno, the New York marathon, and a $25 Subway gift card giveaway


↑ Not the marathon, but this looks like more fun!

Two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to talk to Apolo Ohno, the Olympic gold medalist and Dancing with the Stars champion. (Guess which title I’m more excited about. Hint: It involves jazz hands.) The call occurred a few days before Ohno ran the New York Marathon on Sunday, November 6th in response to a challenge by Jared, the Subway guy. (What do you think Jared puts down as his occupation on his tax return? Just Subway Guy? Sandwich enthusiast, perhaps?)

Alas, when opportunity knocked, I rolled over and slept in. Yes, I missed the conference call because I could not get my ass out of bed. In my defense, I did set my alarm, but it either didn’t go off or I was able to turn it off without any memory of doing so. When I woke up, the conference call was almost done, and I thought it would be rude to call in at the end, interrupting whoever was speaking, and then ask a question that had already been asked. Thankfully, Melanie the PR Lady made a recording of the call which I listened to.

I have deep respect for anyone who completes a marathon. I ran a half-marathon a few years ago, and I take the opportunity to remind people about this EVERY TIME POSSIBLE because OMG it was the most physically demanding thing I have ever done. Literally. It was so exhausting that it turned me off of running after that. I was done run out. So, anyone who completes a whole marathon has my deep respect. I thought it was interesting that Ohno was taking on an endurance challenge like a marathon. It must involve a different style of training than speed-skating events which focus on sprinting. I admire that he’s willing to take on new challenges like this outside of his comfort zone.

The conference call was with Ohno and his trainer Todd Rushworth. Here’s a bullet points breakdown of the highlights:

  • His diet is more lenient with marathon training. For skating, Ohno was very strict about diet, not eating an almond less or an almond more than required. For the marathon, “It’s not an almond less, but it’s definitely a lot of almonds more…I’ve been really enjoying the fact that I can pump my calories up a significant more than I ever have in the past.”
  • If he’s not hungry after a run he’ll drink chocolate milk to get the right mix of protein and carbs. He also likes coconut water. Me, too! I just had some at Twitter HQ. The night before a long run he likes to eat brown rice or pasta since that’s good, slow-burning fuel.
  • He’s lost some weight during training, but more significantly his body shape has changed. “It’s been interesting just seeing how my body has changed. Seeing how my body stores fat. Seeing how my body uses fat and uses different energy sources.” Speed-skaters develop bulky, muscular legs to give them explosive speed. Now his quads are thin enough that he can buy jeans off the rack. See, it’ s not just fat girls who have a hard time finding clothes!
  • As for the differences in training, “It’s so different. Night and day.” When he first started running he was, “Fast, explosive and all out,” and needed to learn how to slow down. “Training my mind and my body was probably the single hardest thing for me to do.” This is consistent with what I’ve heard from other marathoners, that the race is as much a mental challenge as a physical one, particularly near the end. He says,”The mind is the single most powerful tool.”
  • As for injuries, he’s been fairly injury free. His right IT band was initially tight, but his trainer was able to recommend stretching exercises and acupuncture treatments that helped. If you have no idea what an IT band is, neither did I, though I would have guessed it was a rock band made up of Information Technology workers. It’s not, but the Internet knows all. To avoid injury he says, “Get a lot of rest. Get mileage. Stretch.”
  • He hasn’t skated since the 2010 Olympics, calling it a wonderful break. Personally, I find it really refreshing that he doesn’t define himself just by his abilities in one sport and that he’s willing to chase other aspects of life. He’s been pursuing other interests like acting, business, film, working in health and fitness industry, and of course running. It would have been very difficult to be speed skating and marathon training at the same time because they require different things from your body.
  • The most hilarious thing I learned? Because of his speed skating experience Ohno kept veering to the left when running. LOL! His trainer had to run to the right of him so they weren’t constantly bumping into each other.
  • Even an experienced athlete like Ohno found a trainer to be invaluable. His trainer was able to create a personalized program that worked around Ohno’s schedule which involves traveling about 24 days every month. “Putting miles in when you’re on the road is very difficult,” he admits.
  • He doesn’t like to use a treadmill, though he would do that when he was skating to lessen the chance of twisting his ankle. For a marathon, “I’ve got to get the outside experience. Plus, running on a treadmill is boring. I can only last a little bit of time on a treadmill.” Ohno is based in LA and says, “For me running by the water, there’s nothing better.” He likes to run to rhythmic house music to keep him pumped.
  • He aimed to finish in three and a half hours, and to beat Mario Lopez :) Ohno beat his goal by about 5 minutes, finishing the race in 3:25:14. Mario Lopez finished in 4:23:30, so both goals were met! Because he finished in under four hours, Subway is donating $26,200 to one of his favorite causes, the Special Olympics. For anyone wondering about that number, a marathon is 26.2 miles.
  • His advice for marathon newbies is to train consistently and plan. Getting a trainer that suits your needs helps a lot. Don’t skip the long runs in your program. Get sleep and learn to rest because recovery is as important as running.
  • I also thought it was refreshing that even Olympic caliber athletes don’t want train some days. To overcome that he gives himself no choice but to run. “It’s always easier to sit around and dwell on something than it is to just go do it.” Ohno’s dad has a great saying, “Athletes and champions are made when no one is watching.” (Quick, everyone stop looking at me.)
  • What does he like about running? “It’s an incredible creative process. Some of my best ideas and decisions come from when I’m running.” He says it’s time to yourself to zone out and de-stress. “You’re so much more productive once you start exercising. Your brain, your thought process, your processing power is so much faster and more efficient.” Even if you only do 10, 15, 20 minutes a day you’ll see a vast improvement in the rest of the quality of your life.
  • He’s also inspired by other athletes, particularly anyone who completes the race in under three hours. “You always have stars who shine brighter than others. Who are just either genetically gifted or who work harder or a combination of both.”
  • What’s next? He’s interested in TV and film work and future involvement in the Olympic movement. “I’m hungry for success in all elements of life.”
  • Ohno’s personal motto is, “Zero regrets.” That means zero regrets in life as well as sports.
  • And we couldn’t finish without asking what his favorite Subway sandwich was. It’s a 12-inch, double meat, turkey sandwich on honey oat with all the veggies, banana peppers, oil and vinegar, and sometimes avocado.

Here’s a Sports Illustrated article about Apolo’s performance in the marathon.

Ok, here’s the part where I give away a $25 Subway gift card. Giveaway is open to US residents only. It ends at 11:59pm ET on Sunday, November 20th. To enter leave a comment on this entry letting me know what activity outside of your comfort zone you’d like to pursue. I’m thinking archery, but that might be because I just watched The Hunger Games trailer.

Disclosure: I received a $25 gift card from Subway as part of this post.

San Fran-tastic: Day 2 – Lucasfilm, Twitter and do you really need anything else? (Yes: two margaritas.)

Does anyone else think of Full House when they see these?

Does anyone else think of the opening to Full House when they see these houses? Just me?

I don’t remember the last time I hopped. I have bad knees, and hopping subjects them to two or three times the force of my body weight, so I am pretty much anti-hopping these days. Despite that, Friday was dedicated to the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour of San Francisco, with several cool stops in between all the hopping.

I was staying with friends in the Mission area of San Francisco, so I kept singing “Past the Mission” by Tori Amos any time I came or went from their place. I took a public bus past the mission (but not behind the prison tower) to a Hop On stop. I chose this particular bus company because I got a half-off voucher via the Travelzoo mailing list. Their buses come by every 20-30 minutes, and if you have a choice between getting on the double-decker bus or the open-air trolley, get on the trolley. You might think the bus would be better since it’s bigger, but it’s rather boring because the driver doesn’t talk. You just get a headset and a lame, pre-recorded narration that’s triggered every once in a while. For the most part, you sit in silence and don’t know what you’re looking at. However, the trolley driver also serves as the tour guide. He constantly tells you about the stuff you see and some of the drivers are quite entertaining. Willy was by far my favorite, and I was bummed I didn’t catch his trolley again after I’d hopped off at Pier 39, my first stop of the day.

Pier 39

Pier 39 is the tourist area of Fisherman’s Warf on the north side of San Francisco. I bought some chocolate and some cool socks, though no chocolate socks. I also bought a long-sleeve shirt because I was the doofus who left her hoodie in her friend’s apartment, which I did not have a key to. The trolley has better narration, but it can get damn windy and cold up there even with long sleeves. When we drove through a tunnel later, the air was hot in addition to windy and I felt like I might suffocate. I survived though, obviously. There is no blogging from the afterlife. They must have the Internet in heaven though, right? Otherwise it wouldn’t be heaven.

Pier 39 is also home to the famous sea lions who go “Arf, arf!” and could make a good living if they would only hassle tourists for tips like the Bush Man. Yes, there is a man who dresses like a bush and jumps out at unsuspecting tourists. Then he asks them for money. He was doing this when I visited San Francisco three years ago, so it must pay well. That job must get monotonous after awhile though. It must take all the fun out of terrifying people.

I hopped back on the bus and then hopped off again a couple stops later at the Presidio gates. This stop happened to be up the path from Lucasfilm. Follow the sidewalk down and you’ll see this:

A fountain this is

(Well, you’ll see Yoda, but not me. I don’t live on Dagobah.) A fountain this is! The Lucasfilm lobby is open to the public. If you happen to be in the area, I’d recommend stopping by, but don’t go out of your way unless you’re a truly hardcore Star Wars fan.

Lucasfilm

The lobby contains many wondrous things like light sabers, life-size replicas of Darth Vader and Boba Fett, and a thermal detonator. (I hope they disarmed that.)

Boba Fett

Darth Vader

I gotta’ admit, Vader is one tall dude. I would definitely freak out if he boarded my spaceship looking for stolen plans. Big props to Princess Leia for not wetting herself upon seeing him.

Because the lobby is the only place open to the public you’d think this is where the visit ends, right? WRONG! The editor of my second book, Chocolate & Vicodin, recently left her job at Simon & Schuster to work as the senior editor of Star Wars books. Aw yeah, that’s right! I got a private tour of Lucasfilm! I’m sure visiting Simon & Schuster would have been cool too, but they would have to bring their A game to beat a place where the coffee shop is called Javva the Hutt.

Javva the Hutt

The Lucasfilm hallways are filled with lots of cool movie memorabilia, not just from Star Wars but from other projects like Indiana Jones and movies they’ve done special effects for. It took every milligram of restraint I had not to ask my editor to take a picture of me next to every single prop. Instead, I settled for just one in front of R2-D2.

Me and R2, too

Granted, I wish I looked thinner in that pic, but who cares?! I was hanging out with R2-D2, chatting it up all bleep-dee-bloop style!

George Lucas collects old movie posters, which we walked past when we weren’t walking by the Millennium Falcon or under ET riding a bike suspended from the ceiling. There is so much art and memorabilia displayed in the building that they have a curator for it. That includes…

Lego my Lucas

A bust of George Lucas made out of Legos. (Lego my Lucas!)

Chew-bama

And First Lady Michelle Obama getting funky with Chewbacca. (Chew-bama?)

We had lunch in the Lucasfilm cafeteria, which had a fantastic array of culinary options. Two walls of the cafeteria are just windows that look out onto a fantastic view of the Golden Gate bridge. On the way out of the building I got to see the private theatre where they do employee screenings of movies and the latest Clone Wars animated series episodes. Some areas of the building were restricted, like the Lucas Arts section where they make video games.

My editor’s office had a bookshelf full of Star Wars books and graphic novels which she uses as reference materials. She said there is a library in the building that contains basically every thing published about Star Wars. There is also a guy who manages a huge database of everything that has happened in Star Wars ever. So yes, he gets paid to be totally obsessive about the Star Wars universe. I bet he never retires.

After my editor bid me adieu, I hopped back on a trolley and continued my tour around San Francisco. That included a drive through The Presidio and Golden Gate park. I got off in the Haight-Ashbury area to get a coffee and people watch because I’d heard this is where the hippies hang out. The hippies back home hang out in Carrboro, which is a city adjacent to Chapel Hill. However, no one told me that there is a big difference between Carrboro hippies and Haight hippies. The Carrboro hippies shop at a co-op, drink locally roasted coffee, raise chickens in their front yards, and compost. The hippies in Haight are freaky, creepy, degenerates with strange piercings, two of whom I saw pull out baggies of marijuana in front of the MacDonald’s, right across the street from the Whole Foods. And yes, I know marijuana is legal in California, but I don’t think these people were taking it after cataract surgery. Granted, this is the neighborhood Charles Manson used to live in, so I should have been more prepared.

I meant to go all the way down to Haight and Ashbury, but turned around at least two blocks before that because I really wanted to leave this neighborhood. I hopped back on the bus which finally deposited me back where I began, which was only a few blocks away from Twitter headquarters where my friend @DanaDanger works. (Yes, my friends are so much cooler than your friends. No, I don’t know how this happened.) I gotta’ say, that Hop On Hop Off bus had highly convenient stops in regards to my agenda that day.

The Twitter birds nest

You’d never know that Twitter headquarters is in this building by looking at it. I didn’t exactly expect it to be tainted bright teal, but I was surprised there wasn’t a sign anywhere. Actually, there was a small sign, but it was for AT&T which is also in the building.

That's twitter!

I couldn’t help tweeting from Twitter because that seemed so recursive or meta that it might cause the walls to implode through improper error handling (though it didn’t). I imagine that might happen if you checked into Foursquare at Foursquare HQ.

Home tweet home

I arrived a little after five o’clock on a Friday for Tea Time. This is a weekly party they throw after the employee-only All Hands meeting. Tea Time is open to guests and it’s where I saw a man dressed as a lobster.

Lobster man

Now, Dana Danger claims that people were dressed in unconventional outfits because it was the weekend before Halloween. However, she had no way of proving that Twitter employees don’t dress like this on a daily basis, so I am skeptical of that claim.

As you’d expect, Twitter HQ has some awesome amenities. The fridge was full of a variety of drinks from sodas to coconut water (which was rather good). They have their own coffee bar.

Coffee, please

Oh, and this.

Bins of temptation

That is an unlimited supply of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and bins full of chocolate-covered everything. This was when I realized I was glad not to work at Twitter, not because of a fear of lobsters, but because I could never be trusted to exist in the same building as this unless I wanted to exist at three times my current size.

I got a tour of the rest of the sixth floor which is the only one open to visitors. They seem to be very conscious of security because the double doors on other floors had signs saying “Beware of tailgaters.” And no, they weren’t talking about the kind with a six pack of beer in the parking lot before a Colts game. They don’t want any corporate spies or blabby bloggers sneaking in behind someone with a key card.

Twitter looks a lot like any tech office. They have a wide open layout sectioned off by office pods. But you could tell it was Twitter because the walls are painted teal, and offices didn’t have people’s birth names listed on them, just their Twitter names.

Don't forget to floss, too!

They seem to expect you to live there, which is why they have toothbrushes in the bathroom. No floss, though. They obviously don’t care about your gums!

There was also a skeleton riding a green deer in the lobby.

Oh, deer

Yeah, I don’t know about that one either.

Visiting Twitter reminded me that ultimately the world is just made up of people and places. Twitter has changed my life in many positive ways, so it was interesting to view it as an office with people instead of an abstract concept or a server farm. It reminded me of how I felt when I went on The Today Show. The set I saw on TV was just a room connected to a hallway that was connected to a lobby that was connected to the rest of the world. It’s just a place. That said, it’s a pretty awesome place!

After that, the Twitterati took me to a sports bar where I got drunker than I have ever been in my life. Literally. I swear I only had two margaritas, but I hadn’t eaten for six hours, so that might have had something to do with it.

Drunk off my ass, but really happy!

Yes, this is the photo that will cause future potential employers not to hire me. (Hello, future potential employers! I’m sorry it didn’t work out between us. Also, you’re so pretty! <burp>) It turns out I am a happy drunk, which my friend said is the best kind of drunk to be. She said there are four types of drunk, but I either don’t remember what they are or she was too drunk to tell me. Anyway. I. Could. Not. Stop. Giggling! I was the giggling drunk girl for 45 minutes straight. I also couldn’t stop swaying back and forth, so my inner ear must have been drunk too.

Somehow we got in a car and a sober person drove us to a private Karaoke bar. One of my other friends was leading me around speaking to me in that I’m-talking-to-a-mentally-impaired-person tone. Once we got to the private room I started eating sushi and eventually stopped giggling enough to belt out a song or too.

Private Karaoke is definitely the way to go. You sing along by reading lyrics off a screen like regular Karaoke, but you’re in a small room instead and no one is on stage. It’s just you and you buds, hanging around. It removes the social anxiety that comes with stage performance. (The alcohol helps two.)

Like I said, it was Halloween weekend, so there were lots of people in costumes running around. I could see them walking past the window in the door. Several times someone would wander into our room accidentally. Then we’d ask them to stay and sing, which they did. Alcohol makes everyone friends! One of the girls was wearing the same pair of socks that I’d bought at the sock store earlier that day, which was rather bizarre considering there were hundreds of socks at that store. We both have really good taste, I guess.

I don't know any of these people.

I eventually sobered up and drank lots of water to avoid a hangover. Then we took a cab home and I fell asleep because I was exhausted. Having one of the most awesome days ever does that to a person.

Day 3 wrap-up coming soon, when my head doesn’t hurt too much and I finish work for a bazillion different clients.

San Fran-tastic: Day 1 – Chinatown, Telegraph Hill, and lots and lots of walking

The Golden Gate Bridge

I occupied San Francisco last week…in the traditional sense of occupying space, much like I am occupying Chapel Hill right now (and not in a tent in front of the post office). I took a birthday vacation to visit some friends and take advantage of their sofas. Visiting cities where your friends live cuts costs and makes them feel like they’re getting the full value of their sofa purchase. However, I did see some people occupying San Francisco in the newest sense of the word:

We are occupied

They become an impromptu tourist trap. To people visiting the city they were as photo-ready as the Golden Gate bridge.

My friends had to go work on a Thursday (losers!), so I was on my own. That morning I felt totally intimidated by the public transit system, clutching my Frommer’s Guide with fold-out map close to my chest. But by the next day I felt like an old pro. I even knew when to buy a macaroon or postcards to break a five dollar bill for proper bus fare.

I started by jumping on the cable car at Van Ness and California like my friend Mo recommended, and not the cable car at Union Station which has a one-hour line (if you’re lucky). The only waiting I did was for five minutes before we started down the hill! The coolest thing about the cable car (besides the swift morning breeze) was that it stopped in the middle of an intersection to pick people up. The cable car operators also seemed to have a flexible attitude towards fares. If you hopped on and then off before the fare attendant wandered by than you ride was free.

The ferry building. No ferry included.

I wondered around the ferry building, which no longer serves any actual ferries. It’s like a mall with a farmer’s market on Saturdays. I bought a decorative magnet and electric plate from a street vendor. Then I walked around, checking out the views and the sea gulls who had no fear of humans, until I met Mo for lunch. This was the first time I got to use the Google Maps application on my phone extensively while traveling. It’s fantastic because no one can tell you are totally lost. They just think you’re texting.

After lunch I wondered around Chinatown, which is very dense with people. I stopped by a fortune cookie factory (after I walked past it and consulted said Google Maps app), and I found Waverly Place, a short little street that is mentioned in The Joy Luck Club.

Waverly Place. My trip was so literary.

What I found most interesting about Chinatown was the integration of traditional Chinese design with American imagery. There was a cafe with a Chinese title and a big red Coca-Cola sign. The Bank of America looked like a pagoda. And there was a Chinese Baptist Church. (I’m sure someone will tell me I’m racist for thinking this is odd, and that I shouldn’t be surprised Chinese Americans use traditional American institutions like any other Americans do. You got me. I’m a big fat racist. I’ll go listen to some Slanty Eyed Mama and shape up.)

I also walked by a restaurant called the “Loving Hut.” I don’t think that title translated properly, unless there’s a hidden item on the menu.

I'm afraid to read the menu.

One of the defining characteristics of San Francisco is that it has hills. Lots and lots of hills. Very steep hills. In Chinatown I started walking up one of these hills behind a very slow, elderly woman. Normally I am annoyed by slow walkers. I am familiar with chronic pain and the way your body starts to let you down as you age, so I understand why people walk slowly and empathize with them. Still, it annoys the shit out of me. However, as I took baby steps up the hill behind this woman I suddenly realized something: this woman was a genius! When I go up hills I try to keep my stride length fairly close to normal, which wears me out quickly. If I took little baby steps up these hills I could pace myself without stopping to vomit up a lung every block. Thank you slow, elderly woman! You are wiser than your years!

I had some free time before meeting some friends for dinner, so I went a little crazy and walked from Chinatown to the top of Telegraph Hill. I think I wanted to prove to myself that I was still active and mobile even though I’ve gained some weight. There is no longer a telegraph at the top of the hill, only people panting heavily. I walked up a fairly steep street just to get to the entrance here:

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

After you get up the steps, there’s a long ramp that winds around the hill.

Let's go rollerblading! You have health insurance, right?

I admit, I took a break on a conveniently placed bench. Then I continued until I got to this set of steps:

RIP

I can only assume the names engraved on these steps are those of the people who died trying to reach the top. Godspeed, my comrades.

Finally, I finished surmounting the freakin’ hill and immediately found another tourist to take photographic evidence that I made it to the top.

This ain't Photoshopped!

The reward for raising my heart rate into the anaerobic zone was the spectacular view.

A bridge!

Buildings!

I have to admit, I don’t think Telegraph Hill was as steep as the hill I climbed in Greenwich, England to see the prime meridian. (It looks like I ran into protesters on that trip, too. Do they schedule these things just for me?) Still, it was a workout.

The side effect of walking up a hill is that you have to go back down it, or do as the homeless do and take over a nice park bench. I already had a nice sofa to sleep on, so I made my way back down. Normally I consider going down stairs to be a lot easier than going up stairs. San Francisco proved this theory wrong.

That's not a hill. That's a geometry problem.

That is not a hill. That is a geometry problem. I should not be walking down it; I should be calculating the cosine. Judging by the buildings on the left, it looks like I walked down 5 stories on this block. There are concrete stairs in place of a sidewalk. There is no railing. Descending this hill felt like I was being pulled into a gravity vortex. I had to fight to stay vertical and not pull a Jack and Jill.

I was amazed the cars could park on one of the other hills I descended:

Get out your protractor!

Seriously, do you see how far the houses would have to be tilted for these cars to be on flat ground?

Un-tilted hill

I eventually made it back to the ferry building to have oysters with my friends at a place with very negligent waiters. As I waited for service, I sucked down two glasses of water I stole from friends. This was after draining my metal drinking bottle throughout the day. By this time I was tired and my phone was dying. I’d never used it so much in a day so this was the first time I realized the battery life kind of sucks. I loitered outside the bathroom next to an electric socket for 10 minutes so I’d have enough power to text.

I then hopped on a bus to meet my other friends, rapidly texting, trying to get directions before the battery totally died and I’d be forced to buy something from a coffee shop to rent time from their power outlets. I ended up walking in the wrong direction and then walking back and still got there before my friends. I think I left my feet on the bus though, because they really hurt by then.

I caught dinner with my friends and then we went to Naked Girls reading Neil Gaiman, which is exactly what the title says it is. It was a bit weird, but I expect that in San Francisco. It took place at the Center for Sex and Culture which is in a nondescript building without any sign on it.

That’s how I wrapped up my first day. More to come about days two and three which include a visit to Lucasfilm and Twitter!

The chattiest gas station in America

Super heavy

I always marvel at people who make spontaneous conversation with strangers. A woman in the soup aisle of the grocery store once started talking to me about the price of minestrone or something. I went along with the conversation, nodding and responding when appropriate, but inside all I could think was, “Wow, how weird is it that I’m talking to some stranger in the soup aisle?” My social anxiety about talking to strangers far outweighs my desire to talk about barley.

This is why I have deemed the Hess gas station as the chattiest gas station in America. Why?

The number of impromptu conversations I have had with patrons of Hess: 2
Number of impromptu conversations I’ve had at any other gas station ever: 0

I don’t know if this is a Southern thing, or if someone stuck a sign on my back that says “Please chat with me as I pump petrol!” All I know is that I’ve had two hit and run conversations with patrons of the Hess gas station this year. I pay at the pump too, so it’s not like they’re chatting me up in a long line while we’re waiting.

The first time happened a few months ago when a woman was complaining about having to go inside to get her receipt. We then managed to talk for over a minute, more than 60 whole seconds, about this problem, and how awful it was that they didn’t always print it at the pump, and why was that? I figured it was because the pump had run out of paper for receipts, but decided that telling her this might encourage her, so I just nodded and agreed as appropriate.

Then yesterday I had just finished pumping gas when a woman bounded out of the gas station and asked me, “Did you used to be heavy?” I was like, used to be heavy? I’m heavy right now! Do you think I took a trip to Jupiter? (On Jupiter you weigh 2.3 times what you weigh on Earth. Science!) I used to be much heavier on Earth than I am now, but my attitude toward my current weight is subject to the half-glass-full/half-glass-empty perception vortex.

So I wondered how she could know I used to be fatter than I am now. Maybe she’s read my book. Two people recognized me during the first year I lived in Chapel Hill, so she easily could have been the third. But no, she didn’t mention my book or ask me if I was Jennette Fulda or ask me to spin around in circles to compare me to my spinning progress photos.

So, again, how the hell did she know? Do I have loose skin flapping around under my chin? My jeans were a bit baggy, but that’s because I’d worn them earlier in the week and they were stretched out. I should have asked her how she knew, but she’d already moved on to ask me what I had done to lose weight. What had I eaten? How much had I exercised? So I found myself giving my general one-minute spiel on weight loss that I perfected over the course of multiple media interviews. Exercise more! Eat fruits and vegetables! Avoid white flour! Eat lean meat and skim milk! It’s hard but it’s worth it!

At this point she lifted up her shirt to show me that she had saran wrapped her belly. “I’ve lost 3-5 inches this week!” And I just nodded and went along with the conversation, observing the scene outside of myself, wondering what was happening and if I really was on Jupiter after all. Then her friend called to her and they got in their car to leave. I checked my front seat to be sure this hadn’t been an elaborate ruse to steal my laptop and purse as I talked about the importance of drinking water. Thankfully all my valuables were all still there. My confusion remained.

Then I drove home. I am undecided as to whether I will stop at this gas station again. I’ve had some weird experiences here, but it’s made for good blogging material. And having someone ask if I used to be heavy is more of a compliment than an insult, right? Maybe?

I always knew this parking lot was ripe for a car accident. I’m just glad it wasn’t me.

A few minutes ago I was walking out of Ace Hardware carrying a replacement air filter for the one I hadn’t changed in, um, over a year. (I like my air dusty!) That’s when I saw the green van creeping down the aisle of the parking lot and the white car slooooooowly backing toward the van’s side door. I cringed and stopped right in the middle of the road (real smart, Jennette), hoping the white car would stop, stop, PLEASE STOP! Then I heard that familiar CRUNCH sound like an aluminum can being squashed. (Yeah, it was all too familiar. Blame my 17-year-old self. And my 29-year-old self, too.)

It’s rather horrible to know something bad is about to happen but to have no way of stopping it. I really feel for people in movies about time travel who can’t stop airplane crashes or the deaths of loved ones. I guess they can’t stop minor fender benders either or stop you from misplacing your keys.

When the driver of the van got out of her car, I asked her, “Are you ok?” because my mother told me that’s the first thing you should say to someone after a car accident. It makes you look caring and concerned for the other person’s well being even if you don’t give a shit because they just plowed into your car. The last thing you should say is, “Sorry, it was my fault,” even if you’re pretty sure it was your fault. You shouldn’t give them anything to use against you in case it actually wasn’t your fault. You should always file an accident report too so there’s official documentation on what happened and whose fault it was. (I admit I have only done this once even though I’ve been in, um, more car accidents than I’d like to admit, though half of them were with inanimate objects.) If someone asks you not to file a report or promises to just pay you back for damages, do NOT do it because they are a lying jerk and will rip you off like they did to a friend of mine.

Van Lady was all right because it’s basically impossible to get injured by a car traveling 3 miles per hour. Van Lady and Car Lady then got into an argument in which Car Lady said, “Why do you have to be so hateful?” Uh, because you just backed into her van, dumbass, and will now cost her hours of her life filling out paperwork and getting the vehicle fixed. They started yelling at each other and I recognized that they were escalating the situation because I’ve watched every episode of Flashpoint. (I love using the word “escalating” in this context. It makes me feel fancy.) I kind of wanted Enrico Colantoni to step in and help them work it out. Instead I walked over to the coffee shop across the mini-mall because my car was now blocked from getting out of its parking space. I thought about leaving my contact info as a witness, but it was clear whose fault it was. The van couldn’t exactly slide sideways into the car that was pulling out. And I really didn’t need to involve myself in this shit.

Anyway, I hate this parking lot and I’ve always suspected I would one day get into a car accident here. I still might, but I’m glad the one I witnessed happened to people who aren’t me. I am a wonderful human being in that way.

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Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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If this had happened in a movie I would never have believed it was possible.

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I don't have a FitBit or an employer, but if I did I wouldn't want them sharing information.

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Glad someone figured this out before disaster happened.

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