It has been almost a year since I caved into the allure of purchasing expensive in-home exercise equipment. My aging ankles consigned me to elliptical machines at the gym, but my six-year olds seemed incompatible with an absentee mom, so working out at home seemed to be the answer. Last winter, we bought an elliptical machine, and Ed assembled it in our bedroom. I used it once, then again, then somehow my determination waned, and the machine loomed there, taunting me with its gigantic fly-wheel, whale sized foot pedals, and highly mechanical workout data reader. I could not coax or cajole myself into climbing aboard the thing. Whenever I planned to exercise, I found myself doing something, anything, else. It was like being in some technologized version of a Poe story, haunted by the machine, envisioning walling it up, only to dream of its nightmarish whirring that would send me into madness.
My aversion was odd, especially since I could easily do 60 minutes on an elliptical at the gym, and in my running days, could even hop on the machine after a longish run. Even 20 or 30 minutes on the damned machine sitting in my house now seemed like it would require the effort of hiking to the top of Mt. Everest, but without the view or the oxygen deprivation.
I’ve been trying to sell the machine for about a month or so, with no luck. I guess because it was barely used, I was asking close to what we had paid for it, and on Craigslist, folks are looking for big bargains. Finally, this week, I had a nibble. FL and I did some negotiating via email, and came to an agreement, one that I could live with if it meant the evil machine would haunt me no longer. My purchaser planned to come this morning to pick up the disassembled machine and haul it away in her SUV.
When FL arrived with her brother to help with the heavy lifting, she was drawn to Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl right away. As I suspected from her name on the email, FL is Asian. We talked tentatively in the way that strangers chat when first meeting to do business, and then she asked, politely and with great sensitivity, where GG and MM were from. I explained that we adopted them from Vietnam, and immediately we were no longer strangers doing business. We had become members of a community that included the other.
“We are from Vietnam, too. Our parents left Vietnam in 1975 at the fall of Saigon — we don’t call it Ho Chi Minh City — and moved to Michigan City, initially.”
So began an hour-long discussion of adoption, family, going “home” to Vietnam, meeting other Vietnamese families, food, and coincidences. Luckily, it took a bit of working together to load the elliptical into the car, so while we worked, we talked.
As I walked to yoga class after FL and KL left, I hoped that we would somehow maintain this connection. Though I am not a believer in fate or things “meant to be,” I am struck by the serendipity of our connection, and I am thankful that FL was brave enough to ask, and that the four of us were trusting enough to share some very personal stories with each other, strangers until this moment. Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl provided us with the connection that made all four of us reveal pieces of our lives that we would never share with strangers, but this talk felt honest, open, and real.
The challenge now will be to maintain the connection. Does Craigslist have a listing for that?
It’s interesting negotiating connection and the ways it intersects with the technologies we use.
Life is pretty amazing. I love it when its magic oozes into the habitual.