Walking On Empty

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Walking On Empty

Diabetes is no laughing matter, kids. (I'm not accusing you of laughing at diabetes—I'm just saying.) Diabetes affects millions of Americans, and while it can be controlled, there is no cure. I'm thankful to have the less severe form, Type 2, but I could still lose a leg. I'm in no imminent danger of that, but I could, eventually, lose a leg. Or some fingers.

It saddens me to think that victims of this unfortunate disease have to curtail pleasures we should all have the right to enjoy, like eating sweets and sitting in one place for a long time. That's why I decided to join the Trick Or Treat Charity 5K Walkathon For Diabetes last Saturday. For every kilometer I walked, I raised money for our local chapter of the American Diabetes Society.

If you had told me a year ago that I'd be doing a charity walk, I'd have asked you, "Can I hitchhike?" I'd have been pulling your leg—sort of. But I'm not really the charity marathon type. Years ago, I did a 15K bike ride against bedsores. By the end of the ride, I was suffering from heat exhaustion and sweating profusely, and I had shooting pains in my inner thighs. (I had to ride up a ton of hills that day! Why would anyone make a charity bike course so challenging? You'd think it would be on level ground, or even downhill. I'm still scratching my head on that one.)

But, as I was saying, no one had to talk me into the diabetes walk. I had a vested interest in its success! As soon as I heard about it, I started hitting up pals for pledges. Pledgers could either donate a set amount per kilometer I completed, which I would collect after the walk, or give a flat sum. In return, they would receive a certificate shaped like a paper foot.

My pledge collecting started off strong. Good ol' Patti, my creative-writing teacher friend and one of my biggest fans, chipped in a lump sum of $15! Fulgencio, my old coworker buddy at South Central Insurance, signed up, too, but he only pledged 50 cents per kilometer.

"Fulgencio, that's only $2.50 for the whole walk," I protested. "Can't you do a little better?"

"Girl, I'm only number two on your list here," he said. "You'll get more pledges, and they'll add up. Chill out, honey! I'll get some of my girlfriends in on it, too."

I was excited that Fulgencio would ask his girlfriends to donate. (That Fulgencio must get around. Hubba hubba!) But days went by, and I didn't hear back from him. Meanwhile, I hadn't been doing much better. My brother Kevin didn't return my calls, and neither did Dr. Plimm, the doctor who diagnosed my diabetes. My mother's friend Arnie promised 50 bucks! But then he called me back to say that my mother wouldn't let him contribute, because they needed the money for their Christmas trip to Vegas. (Yep, sounds like the same woman who bought my first training bra at a garage sale! I wish I were kidding!)

I was all gung ho to collect pledges, but what I didn't consider was that—and this may shock a lot of you Jeanketeers out there—I really don't know a lot of people. I was resolved not to ask Hubby Rick for help, because I didn't want him lording it over me. But who else was there? Then the perfect idea popped into my mind: I could get a business to sponsor me!

Tacky's Tavern doesn't open until 4 p.m. weekdays, but Tacky Jr. usually gets there early. When I called, he was his usual live-wire self.

"Walkathon For Diabetes?" he asked. "What, you like diabetes? That's pretty weird." (It took me a second to get it. Har-dee har har! Now I see where Rick gets his sparkling sense of humor.)

I told him that if Tacky's supported me, I'd wear a Tacky's T-shirt during the walk. To my shock, Tacky Jr. agreed. He pledged four bucks a kilometer, 20 bucks total. He said that was all he could pitch in, because pledging for the March Of Dimes Walkathon last spring pretty much wiped out his petty cash fund.

"These walkathon rackets are a lot of bull," Tacky Jr. said. "I'll take a good old bake sale over a walk any day." (I wholeheartedly agreed, but I sure didn't say that!) I offered him a paper foot, and he told me to knock it off. (What a charmer!)

When the big day finally came, I stopped by Tacky's to pick up the T-shirt. I was shocked by what Tacky Jr. gave me—a white shirt with an ugly, loud cartoon of a barfly on it. The barfly was simultaneously pinching one barmaid's butt and vomiting into another's cleavage! It looked nothing like the modest blue Tacky's T-shirt I'd seen Rick wear. The shirt was a couple sizes too small, too, and would certainly accentuate some bulges I would've preferred to keep under wraps! I protested, but Tacky Jr. said I could take it or leave it, because it was all he had. I didn't want to lose the pledge, so I went to the bathroom and put the T-shirt on.

When I pulled my car up to the walk's starting line, boy, was I was shocked by what I saw! All the participants were wearing Halloween costumes! Shoot! I could've worn a cute costume, too, if I hadn't been so determined to get Tacky Jr.'s pledge.

Patti said kilometers are shorter than miles, but the walk was still really long. After a kilometer or two, I was ready to throw in the towel. (And, just like the charity bike ride, part of the walk was uphill! Again! I ask you, does that make any sense?) There were women handing out refreshments along the way, but they only had bottled water! Sheesh! What was this, a death march? One woman looked at my sweat-drenched T-shirt and suggested that I take a short rest. But I was afraid that if I rested, I'd stop altogether, so I kept walking.

About 20 minutes later, I started seeing strange little fireworks before my eyes. I'd drunk a couple bottles of water, but my mouth was parched. There were no tables of water in sight, though, and the tediousness of the walk was starting to get to me. I walked in a daze for a few minutes more, and then something occurred to me: I hadn't seen another walker in a long time. I yanked out the map. I was off-course! The road had forked shortly beyond the rest stop. I almost quit right then and there, but I couldn't let my pledgers down. I turned back and found the correct road.

When that finish-line banner hanging over the entrance to a local park finally came into sight, I felt like bawling! As I got nearer, though, I noticed that no one was around. I wondered if I'd missed another turnoff, but no—the American Diabetes Society banner was right there. As I passed under the finish line, I gave a little cheer. It was my moment in the sun, even if no one was around to see it.

I spotted a Walkathon van about to pull away. I ran over and yelled for the woman driving the van to stop. She didn't know why I had stopped her and seemed a little put off by my T-shirt. I was hoping she'd have some cookies and juice, like a Bloodmobile driver. When I told her I had just finished the walk, she grew leery.

"But the last registered walker passed through 50 minutes ago," she said.

I explained my accidental detour to her.

"You completed the walk?" she asked. "Where's your number tag?"

"What number tag?" I said.

"Didn't you register at the starting area before the walk?" she asked.


I was so dazzled by the participants' Halloween costumes that I had missed the registration table. The woman told me that I needed to get my pledge sheet stamped as evidence that I'd actually done the walk.

"Can't you see I'm exhausted?!" I cried. "And that gal at the rest stop saw me! Ask her!" The woman said she was sorry, but there was nothing she could do. I could tell she was skeptical I'd even made the walk! Who in their right mind would cheat on a charity walkathon?

Well, Jeanketeers, I'm still too embarrassed to call my friends to collect the pledge money. If they asked me to prove I'd finished the walk, I'd have to tell them about my mistake. (I'm sure Tacky Jr. would be relieved to know he's off the hook! Albeit on a technicality.) I guess I could write a big fat check for $37.50 and send it to the American Diabetes Society, but they'd probably ask a bunch of questions. I mean, if they're going to be so picky about rules, how can they be a productive charity? Well, I know that I finished that walk fair and square. So, who's the loser here, the American Diabetes Society or me? (Don't actually e-mail me with the answer. That was a rhetorical question.)

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