The Powers That Be got creative. First, they broke ground on a gym. Then, they had us jump through literal hoops and tires with CrossFit incentives and motivation strategies. Flu shots and motivational seminars followed, anything to cut premiums. Kurt and I joked that they were trying to cull the baby boomers.
Then came the contest. A bubbly sort from HR presented us with complimentary FitBits. Behind her was a backdrop of the ocean. She introduced Step Into A New You! to the cube dwellers. She received a a collective groan. Then she mentioned the prize, an all-expense paid trip to the Bahamas.
We were given an hour, in addition to lunch–smile!–to get our steps in. Whoever led by the end of the month, won the prize. Simple
I gave it a shot. That first day I tossed in my gym shorts and a brand new pair of sneakers. I logged 3,700 steps, or, three times around the Vita-Life campus. But the IT department had this intern, some cross country junkie who lapped me seven times before I got my first blister.
Thursday, I met Kurt from Compliance at the bar. We were both divorced, both in our late forties and both enjoyed making fun of the world from afar. I plopped down, fiddling with my Fitbit after forgetting to take it off and lock it in the glove department. I’d decided to give it to my niece, so that she could roll her eyes and tell me how FitBits were lame. At least we’d agree on that.
We were maybe a few drinks in when Kurt looked at me and said, “Did you happen to see the leader board today?”
I made a habit of avoiding leader boards, and people in general. “Why? Am I winning?” I took a big sip of my five-grain-Belgian-crisp-wheat-honey-wobble microbrew. Kurt shot me a rueful smile.
“No, I am.”
“Okay,” I said, waving him closer. “Details.”
He leaned close, bringing with him a manly reek of sweat, beer, and chicken wings. “I’ve been putting my Fitbit in the dryer. Cool cycle. I wrap it up in a wash cloth.”
His poker face was solid. I leaned back. Only Kurt would do something so sinister, so darkly genius. I set down my brew. “You’re serious?”
“Serious as a heart”—Kurt pushed away the basket of widow-maker wings— “Yeah, I’m serious. And that’s not even the worst of it. I’m in a tie.” He wiped at the dribbles of ranch dressing in his beard. “A tie! Do you know the odds of two people finishing with the exact same amounts of steps?”
“Or drying patterns.”
Another round came our way. Kurt took a slug of his Jagged Jack O’ lantern stout, shaking his giant head, his smile shameful but his eyes flashing with pride. “I’m tied with that cross-country twerp.”
The couple in the booth perked. I couldn’t help busting out laughing, but I mean, here was Kurt, a good chunk over 240, looking to face off with that rail thin runner. I smacked the bar, thinking of that kid’s face when he saw who had matched his steps. I started to steal a widow maker but it smelled like paint thinner. I tossed it back.
“So what happens now?”
Kurt dug in, ripped the meat off the wing. “A walk off. Me and Ichabod. All day tomorrow. Until four o’clock. ”
“Wait, you have to show up tomorrow, and race this kid?”
“Not race, just get more steps. It’s different. Whoever has the most steps by four o clock, wins.”
“Where’s your gizmo?”
He gave me a look, dabbed his face with a dirty napkin, streaking orange sauce across his forehead like war paint. I shook my head. “It’s in the dryer? Right now?”
“What the hell, right?”
“Jesus, so you’re still trying to win this thing?”
“Yep. Look, bring your FitBit tomorrow. That way I can keep mine tumbling. End of the day we make the switch.” He stuffed the rest of the wing, tossed the bones.
He held up two pudgy fingers. Wing sauce in his fingernails. “It’s two tickets, you know.”