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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Let’s Get Physics-ical!

There are plenty of reasons why a guy like me might miss his regular exercise.

There’s injury, of course. I turned forty a few months ago, and let’s face it — at my age, I could shatter a hip opening a jar of peanut butter. I’ve been fortunate in the last couple of years to not break, sprain, strain, rip, shred or separate anything significant. But the threat of being yanked asunder like some oversized flabby chicken wing is always present.

(If not quite as appetizing. Though I also go well with celery and blue cheese.)

Other times, exercise takes a back seat to a busy schedule. My work days are packed tight with all sorts of meetings and disciplinary hearings and sobbing quietly under my desk. Sometimes it bleeds over into the evenings or weekends, and I don’t get a chance to work up a good healthy sweat.

(‘Soaked in tears’ isn’t quite the same. Ideally, I’d feel the burn all over; not just in the tear duct area.)

Also, there’s the laziness. The cruel, debilitating, delicious, spectacular laziness. If I’m snuggled under the covers, I can’t very well be out running, now, can I? That’s just how it goes sometimes. I’ve made my bed. And I’m prepared to snore and twitch and drool in it — all day, if it comes to that.

But for the first time, I’m at risk of missing exercise for a completely different reason: physics. Here’s how it shakes out — or more accurately, how it doesn’t:

Last fall, my wife bought me a volleyball net. I play in an indoor league for most of the year, but during the three-and-a-half days that Boston experiences something resembling summer, my fellow players and I like to set up a net of our own out on the grass and go at it ‘freestyle’. I’d never had my own net, so I was always at the mercy of someone else bringing the required equipment.

(Because without a net, volleyball is just… I don’t know. Lawn bowling, maybe. Or aerial four-square. But not a proper sport, that’s for certain.)

So my sweetie rectified that problem for me. Or so I thought.

It was too late in the season last year to try it out, so I stashed the net in the trunk for the winter. Today being the first moderately temperate day of near-spring, I thought I might take it out and have a closer look. Familiarize myself with the parts, see if I need to buy anything, lose the instruction sheet — all the usual stuff.

There’s just one teensy little problem. I can’t get the damned thing out of the trunk.

Everything needed to set up the net is in this big long black bag — poles, net, spikes, everything. The poles can telescope once you take them out, but in the bag they’re squished in as short as they’ll go. Which is about three inches not-short-enough to clear the mouth of the trunk. That’s simple physics. And it’s holding the net hostage in my trunk. Physics is a damned terrorist.

“I lobbied for a semester devoted to Imperial tie fighters. The prof told me to get the Force out of his classroom.”

(I think I always knew that, really — that’s why I barely passed the class back in college. I wasn’t lazy or dumb or hung over for the morning lectures. No.

I just knew that if I got close enough to really examine physics — to, say, be able to identify it in a police lineup — it would put a sack over my head, toss me in a basement somewhere and tie me to a radiator. I’d probably be there right now, if I’d studied hard enough to do better than a C- in that class.

My parents said I didn’t apply myself. Now I see it was self-preservation. Way to go, college me.)

What I’m failing to understand here is how I got the bag into the trunk in the first place. Because it’s not coming out. I’ve tried every angle, every shimmy, every tug and bend and gyration, and that bag is stuck. Permanently. It’s not coming out of that hole.

But it went into the hole. And this isn’t a black hole we’re talking about — I can still see the bag in there. Time’s not slowing to a crawl in the vicinity of my back bumper, and random pedestrians aren’t being sucked through the license plate past the event horizon.

(Okay, so I learned a little physics in that class. But only the bits that I could use to win arguments about science fiction.

I lobbied for a semester devoted to Imperial tie fighters. The prof told me to get the Force out of his classroom. Smartass.)

My conclusion is that the laws of physics have somehow changed in the past six months or so. Back in the fall, the bag would go in. Now, it won’t come out. The bag’s the same bag, the trunk hasn’t shrunk, and nothing else has changed — so it has to be physics. Physics is trying to prevent me from playing volleyball this summer. What gives, physics? Yo, you used to be cool, man.

So now I’m weighing my options. I could take the car to my mechanic and have the trunkhole widened a few inches. Where ‘my mechanic’ is this guy I know with his own acetylene torch. But physics would probably get all huffy again, and change the laws of the universe to screw that up, too.

I could buy another net — but where the hell would I store it? Not in the trunk, that’s for sure. And I’m not convinced it would fit in the back seat. I’d have to prop it up on the front seat on the passenger side — and I can’t drive around town like that. It’d be bad enough getting pulled over for an illegal turn or speeding or double-parking at the ice cream parlor. But if the cop’s writing the ticket and sees something that looks like a body bag riding shotgun? I can’t imagine that would end well. And I’m allergic to being cuffed and tased repeatedly. Pass.

So I guess that’s it. When we’re planning an outing, people will ask if I own a net, and I’ll say, ‘Sure‘.

Can we use it? ‘Oh, no, sorry — it’s in my trunk.

But you’re driving there, right? ‘Yup.

So the net will be there? ‘Uh huh.

In the trunk? ‘You got it.

But we can’t use it? ‘Not without the jaws of life or a magic wand, nope.

And that’ll be that. At least until the physical universe re-melds itself into a configuration where the bag that’s too long to come out of the trunk slips briefly into another dimension or warps in some powerful local gravitational field, and works its way out of the trunk. Until then, my hands are tied.

By physics. I should have known that evil bastard would get me in the end.

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