I bought a new Fitbit and I’m going for walks again. I’m fixated on getting 10,000 steps daily, and have passed the mark every day so far, except for the first. (I bought my Flex 2 in the evening, so I didn’t have time to charge it and walk five miles before midnight. For a quasi-obsessive person, I can be a poor planner.)
I should feel smart for understanding what motivates me, but mostly I feel childish for needing a toy to exercise consistently.
Alice assures me it’s normal to respond to positive feedback—blinking lights, chirps and chimes, apps that clap.
“Applied Behavioral Analysis is a thing,” she says. My wife is earning a Master’s in Education for Specific Learning Disabilities.
Hyuck, yuck, yuck—I am literally her homework. Unfortunately, finding consolation in a fancy science term is not a thing, at least for me.
Ape-ness: de-evolution of a man.
This nagging sense of immaturity is a special kind of self-loathing I call “ape-ness.”
It’s not because I’ve failed to evolve that I do dumb things. No, ape-ness is when I feel as if I’ve purposely de-evolved, willingly moved a step back in the parade of primates from savanna to suburbia, to indulge myself in whatever it is I want to do.
Activities that provoke ape-ness include:
- screaming at slowpoke motorists
- eating a fifth piece of pizza
- watching the Detroit Lions
- marveling at the size, volume, duration or aromatic qualities of my routine bodily functions.
In this case with the Fitbit, however, it’s a nuanced feeling of ape-ness worthy of Jane Goodall’s attention.
By walking every day, I’m doing something beneficial for myself, but only because the brute inside me wants to see the lights on my wrist and smartphone to go Bling! Bling! Bling!
A good walk spoiled.
The step and stair counting began with my first Fitbit, which, unfortunately, was also a hunk of junk. The ironically named Charge never made it an entire day without a needing to be plugged in. After nine months, the damn thing didn’t last more than four or five hours.
Without steps being counted reliably, or even counted at all, I stopped going for walks. Next thing I knew, I was seven pounds heavier and felt constipated all the time, even while asleep.
Funny thing is, I shouldn’t have needed a Fitbit in the first place. I like going for walks for all the usual reasons—fresh air, nature, seeing what neighbors are doing when they don’t close their drapes.
Yet one of the greatest pleasures of walking is that it’s the antithesis of ape-ness.
Gorillas do not stroll mountaintops sipping from travel mugs as they listen to Don DeLillo on iBooks. Even the worldliest bonobo does not wander the jungle picking up after its two beautiful dogs.
Taking a walk is apex animal behavior. It distances the men from the not men.
To hit 10,000 steps, I usually need to walk after work. In my subdivision, there are no streetlights. When it’s raining, I need a flashlight. Nights when the moon is out, I can see well enough. When December shuffled in, the snow made the moonlight better still.
Then the Christmas lights.
Glittering icicles dangling from gutters. Swirls of old-timey bulbs in tree branches, encircling porch columns, crowning shrubs. Our neighbor has a projector that shines on his garage door, making red and green patterns square-dance, wrapping paper sprung to life.
Last Saturday I bought a string of 75 white lights and strung it in the little dogwood in our front yard, then went back to the hardware store, bought two more strings and waited for night.
I thought 225 lights would be more impressive. Honestly, though, I was kind of proud. Our house showed a little Yuletide spirit. In their meager glow, I felt positively jolly.
A couple nights later, I took the Big Walk—down Wagina Street to the school, around the far baseball diamond and back. As calculated, my Fitbit buzzed just as I reached the edge of the driveway. I stopped and looked up at our haloed dogwood.
Then a panicked chimp began to scream in my head.
The cord snaking branch to branch, connecting the cheery white bulbs like plot points on my Fitbit hourly steps chart. Were holiday lights nothing more than stimulus to induce joy? Did I need the promise of presents to be a decent person?
A wave of Ape-ness hit me, the likes of which I’d not felt since junior high. I wanted to climb into that tree, howl at the sky, sling bread bags of dog crap at cars as they went by.
After a long, cold while, I went inside.
Applied Behavioral Analysis is a thing. So is overpriced Belgian ale. As are natural gas fireplace inserts, comfortable slippers, La-Z-Boy sectional couches, and cutting yourself some slack.
You know what’s also a thing?
The love of woman who knows the science of all your flaws, shortcomings, and weirdnesses better than yourself, but still loves you all the same.