One more for the road....

       My mom and I enjoy spending time together. Some of our favorite things to do are going for long walks in the country, cooking fabulous meals and even shopping. Neither of us like to shop for volume, we are always looking for a rare treasure or a special find. We are especially fond of used bookstores, antique shops and crafty places.

       One day when we were out and about spending an afternoon together we found a shop called "Back to Nature". The sign over the door was made from a single piece of beautiful oak. The letters were hand carved and stained reddish brown to offset them from the background. The overall effect of the sign was very inviting. If someone went through so much effort to announce the name of the shop then they must be offering something worth my while. Images of herbal tea and fancy face soap were forming in my mind. Maybe even some home made candles or a few books with gardening tips.

       I was fooled. Once I stepped foot over the threshold I realized it was just another one of those stores offering dietary supplements. Some people would call it an 'herbal pharmacy'. I am a bit curious about herbal remedies, but apprehensive too. So we took a look around. As I strolled down each aisle I found most of the stuff was for people interested in sports and fitness. I felt my curiosity rise a little.

       I like to exercise, but I have always been against taking chemicals (that claim to be herbal), to change my ratio of muscle to body fat. Good old sweat and tears is the only way to do that. But, I have to admit if it were really that easy (and safe) I might be tempted.

       A few years back I was driving the stretch of highway from Madison to Milwaukee that is so familiar to me when I heard a book review on public radio. The focus of the book was women and muscle mass. Basically we don't need to bulk up, but we need to build some muscle if we don't want 2 broken hips when we arrive at that golden age (hell, I still want to be riding my motorcycle at that golden age!) I even wrote down the name of the book as I negotiated rush hour traffic on the edge of downtown Milwaukee. I didn't buy the book, but I did decide to make a few changes in my daily routine.

       Around the same time I heard another bit of interesting news on public radio. Early one morning as I was getting ready for work I heard about several people dying from taking a dietary supplement to enhance sport performance. These supplements were not FDA approved.

       So over the last couple of years I have made more of an effort to carry more groceries and laundry. I also decided to lift small weights a couple of times a week in addition to my running and skiing. But I have never taken any 'supplements'. Who can ever tell the difference between 'herbal' and 'chemical'. Herbal drugs are still drugs and can be very potent and can really alter your internal chemistry.

       Why do they call this 'Back to Nature'? Maybe because the stuff on the shelves is supposed to make you healthy and nature seems like a good thing to associate with a healthy body. And the herbs come from nature, don't they? I was coming to the end of the first aisle and nothing had impressed me very much. Where are all the treasures that the beautiful sign promised me? As I turned the corner to head back out of the store I saw it. The display was on a shelf just below eye level. I had to bend over a little to see what the poster was trying to tell me.


Exercise while you sit in your office chair!!


       I thought that sounded great. Virtually sugar pills.... but what else? I showed Mom. She said "you are getting sucked in. They are useless, don't even think of buying them." But I figured it was just like the gadget they showed on TV. You plug the thing in and hook up the electrodes to your muscles. It electrically stimulates each muscle with a natural reflex and you get a workout while sitting on the sofa.

       So I snuck to the counter while Mom wasn't looking. I paid for the Acu-neeze and stuffed them in the small backpack I was carrying. Like most impulse buys I forgot the small white bottle in my bag for a few days. I was still at Mom's house when I found them at the bottom of my back pack. Only one way to find out if they work and I figured no body would be the wiser if I popped one to try the effect. So I did.

       Nothing seemed to happen for about 30 minutes. Then slowly I could feel my muscles begin to twitch. Not an unpleasant sensation. Sort of like drinking a little coffee. But the sensation gradually increased to muscle spasms. I was no longer in control of my muscles. I began to panic. This is what it must feel like to drink 100 cups of coffee. I tried to relax, thinking this can't last too long because I only took one pill.

       It didn't take long for Mom to realize what I had done and I could see the 'I told you so' look on her face. What am I going to do? This is awful.

....slowly the scene began to change. I had been dreaming. But wait, my muscles are still twitching, especially my legs. This is not good. That was a dream, wasn't it? I played back the scenes like a video tape. No, I couldn't have been shopping with Mom. I am in the middle of the Indian Ocean on a sail boat heading for South Africa. But then why are my muscles twitching? Did I drink too much coffee or eat a pound of chocolate? Wait, I don't drink coffee or eat chocolate. Please, God, stop this... help me. What did I do to deserve this? It was very uncomfortable and I was really becoming alarmed.

       Then it all became clear. It wasn't my muscles at all, there was an 9 horsepower diesel engine running at full revs about 12 inches below my ass!