It began, as so many obsessions do, with a freebie. My wife's health care provider sent her a tiny clip-on step-counter. It is an oval, dark and smooth, like a river stone but more naggy. You set a goal for the number of steps you want to walk each day, and the pebble holds you accountable. If you check it first thing in the morning, you are met with a little pixelated disappointed face sticking out its tongue at you for only having walked 22 steps into the kitchen to turn on the coffee maker. You would think they could have programmed a motivational morning face. You do not know who you are dealing with.
Apparently the counter resets at midnight, because this morning it showed she had already burned 316 calories in her sleep. She still got the stink-eye from the pebble. Maybe there is a way to change the time zone, to game the system so it thinks she is basically running a 5K in her sleep. If it can be done, people have thought of it. I'll google it, I say. That would be cheating, she says. Who's gonna know? I say. Blue Shield, she says, and shudders a little.
Jen does not have, by nature, an addictive personality, although there was that time that she played Tetris on the Game Boy for eight solid hours until her fingers began cramping uncontrollably. All so she could complete the final level and watch the tiny virtual space shuttle blast off in victory. Or the entire summer she spent endlessly answering questions on Yahoo in a gambit to be voted "best answer" on a wide number of topics and to be rated, by Yahoo, a top answerer. But it's not like she's tried crack.
Suddenly it's all about the numbers, though. "I need more steps" she will say as she breezes in after work, as if she forgot to check the "step" aisle on her last visit to Trader Joe's. "I'm only at 6,000. I'm going to take Skipper a few extra blocks." Our dog is the unwitting beneficiary of the pebble. He will be gifted more sign posts to sniff, more deadly chicken bones to ferret out of lawns, more dogs to inadvisably challenge. Bliss.
I am just thankful this obsession is not something unpleasant, involving me and kale. You know what they say—a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But without a pebble they don't count.