Elaine Doll-Dunn, Psy.D.

(Consistent with the marathon number in this continuing saga of fitness options, Milli and I will explore 26 methods of movement that promote physical/emotional health and well-being. Milli will be the ‘vehicle’ of this particular episode because who’s gonna argue with a car?)

Perhaps I should explain the ‘name’ thing. Growing up on the prairie, with neighbors twenty miles away, one sibling and no television; inanimate objects take on a persona. I think due to the loneliness of the area and the era, both my sister and I developed a penchant for making friends of whatever was at hand. I only name a few things now, but as a child I had a whole stable of stick horses; I kept them all in the barn and had them appropriately monikered…I still remember my favorite; he was a hefty limb from a fallen cottonwood named “Speed”. (I loved riding him; he had so much spirit and could go all day. He did kick, however, and I had to be careful walking up behind him.)

This remuda of stick horses was as real to me as the live horses I rode every day. I felt the same love, responsibility, and respect for these animals of my imagination, as I did for those of my reality. So, maybe that explains why I have a car named Milli, a bike branded Bonnie, a tree trunk turtle tagged Richard, and a ceramic cow called Cash.

That being said, I have this to tell you about Milli. Her predecessor, also a PT Cruiser (Petey; surprised?), was a fine automobile, but he developed Tourettes. Sad, but yes he did. It began with the door locks going up and down unbidden and intermittently, then rapidly accelerated to horn honking at embarrassing intervals and in inappropriate places! Like, behind police cars at stop signs, down the highway beside big trucks, in front of church after I had gotten out and locked the door….you get the picture. Well, nothing to do but trade him off, can’t medicate a car….enter Milli.

All was fine for a while, brand new wheels, fresh warrantee, zero mileage, squeaky clean…life was good. Then one day while tooling down the road, the air-bag light came on. Gave me a bit of a start, because I hadn’t had a wreck. My limited knowledge of air-bags being that they blow up in your face as the result of a collision and that that occurrence is actually the lesser of two evils. I hadn’t had evil #1 yet, and thought perhaps evil # 2 might well precipitate evil # 1. Had visions of that thing blowing up in my face and me hitting the ditch or some sturdy immovable object.

Next trip it was the engine light, it came on strong and bright; then with a sudden jolt the cruise control quit working. So I whipped into Junek’s while this display was going on, marched into the service department, and invited the crew to observe the symptoms. To a man they gathered comfortingly around Milli’s private light show. “Hmmmm!” I got. “Hmmmm.” Some chin stroking, some brow wrinkling…

I don’t like “Hmmm”. I like, “Oh sure, it’s blah, blah, blah…happens all the time, adjust here, spray here, tinker here…there ya go!” But no, I got head scratching, and “Hmmmmm.” Hate that with a new car.

The diligent staff responded with all speed and courtesy. Called here, checked there, e-mailed Chrysler, consulted a seer… Ultimately ferreting out the concern, the faulty part was duly ordered, installed, and the mystical problem corrected post-haste. (There was some suggestion of haunting…I will ignore that.) So Milli has a new part, my concerns are assuaged, and no more unsolicited light shows.

The fitness lesson from Milli is this: If your peak-condition body exhibits unusual behavior, don’t delay going to the experts. It could be as simple as a new part, and early detection increases the survival rate/trade-in value.

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