Hardy Plumbing
January 12, 2011

My Aching Back


Most people I know want to get out in the fresh air and enjoy Mother Nature. They like to hike and bike and play tennis and even (gasp!) run. They dig and plant and row and skate. There is also a lot of work to do – hard work, like raking leaves – and, if you live in East Hampton, you have to make them go away, since the town doesn't pick them up any more. (This is when fire comes in handy).

Jeez, I really wish I could do all that stuff, because there is nothing like working yourself into a sweaty lather, blood rushing to your face, sweat pouring out of every pore until your clothes are drenched with moisture. Yeah, that sure is fun, alright. Unfortunately for me, I can't enjoy all those strenuous things because I have a bad back.

At least during the winter, I can relax – I mean, rest my back – in peace. Winter is heaven for me, especially during football season. Karen used to say football was like a drug to me, until I pointed out drugs are like a drug to me.

But after years of complaining she has accepted the fact that it is best for me to recline and watch endless hours of football. Part of it has to do with my little white lie – I told her football games are like soap operas and that you have to watch every game or you'll become hopelessly confused and won't know what's going on. Women relate to that kind of analogy.

The only chore that comes up with any regularity is shoveling snow. Unfortunately, I can't shovel snow because I have a bad back. Every time it snows Karen rushes outside, scarves and coats and gloves galore, straining her tiny body to remove the mountains of snow blocking our walkway and driveway lest I attempt to do it and hurt myself.

That's because I'm quick to point out should my back go out, I will be laid up for months. I will lose my job, we'll lose our house, they'll take back our trucks, and we'll end up living in a tent which I won't be able to help pitch because my back will hurt too much.

Karen loves to dance. When I was courting her I used to endure her passion but I eventually had to stop – my back, you know. The truth is, I hate dancing, especially at weddings. There seems to be a universal practice at weddings, no matter what culture or country, that as the party progresses drunker and drunker people feel compelled to make complete fools of themselves by doing the same asinine dances. You know the ones: the YMCA, when you have to spell out the letters with your arms, the Macarena, and of course the bunny hop thing where-in lines of people hop around the room holding on to each other's waists from behind like a gaggle of freakazoids.

There's always the serious women who want to make all the right moves, and the married one who wants to make her husband jealous by pretending she's dancing on a pole. Then there's always the grandma who gets all confused and there's always a little snot-nosed kid trying to upstage everyone by running under your legs.

Everyone is laughing hysterically like they are having fun or something (if in fact making the letter "Y" with your arms is funny) and no one minds when you almost trip on Little Johnny (I always try to step on his head).

Nowadays I sit back with a cocktail, which is good for my back, and smirk.

Though I am not good at doing any actual work I am good at telling others what to do. Nowhere is this more obvious than here at The Independent, where the mere thought of doing any work actually hurts my back. We have a water cooler, which I use all day long, but I've never actually picked up one of those giant bottles and loaded it into the cooler.

Instead, I enjoyed watching my former editor Carey, who weighs about 82 pounds, labor under the crushing load. Did I feel guilty? Not at all, not even now when I see her in the neck brace. I tell her it looks like a turtleneck – poor kid believes me, too. Yeah, and that paralysis on the left side is going to go away, too.

Weekends are when most guys bond with their neighbors doing guy stuff, but not me. When my neighbor asks, "Hey Rick, can you give me a hand getting this lawn mower in the truck?" I just look at him hopelessly and sag forward a bit. I don't even have to lie anymore. "Oh, right, your back. Sorry. Anything I can do?"

"Yeah," I say. "Can you lend me some cognac? It's the only thing that stops the pain."

The truth is I hate to get out of bed in the morning. I feel lethargic all the time. For a long time I thought I was lazy, but now I realize the horrible truth. I have Lyme disease. Better have a little cognac and take a long nap.

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