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There'll be no healthy living in this chair, kid

By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2003

At last, after a wait of 4 1/2 years and 26.2 miles, I got to hear it.

One of my young, well, younger, colleagues, got out of his chair Tuesday and made the "Dad Noise."

For those of you not in the know, the Dad Noise is a sound made by some middle-aged-to-elderly men whenever they get on or off a chair or the floor. It is a combination groan, scream of agony, plea for pity and demand for respect of age and experience.

It was called to my attention a few years back that I had started making it. This time it was Chase Squires, who used to be the Kid Who Wants My Job until I noticed that he is now the Middle-Aged Man Who Wants My Job.

Since I announced my plans to retire, he has stopped bringing me fatty foods, unscrewing the stairwell light bulbs and sneaking up behind me with paper bags to make loud noises, and pretty much satisfies himself with conspicuously marking off days on a calendar and measuring my desk and file cabinet space.

I thought things were getting ugly a few months ago when his demeanor changed. Usually a happy-go-lucky guy with a great sense of humor and a complete disdain for healthy living, he began eating salads and some kind of god-awful vegetarian chili that should be investigated as a deadly weapon by federal security forces.

And he began frowning a lot.

We thought it was a health scare at first, but it turned out he was exercising, losing weight and, eventually training to run in the Hops Marathon in Tampa.

Hoping to improve his disposition, we left candy and doughnuts in the refrigerator, and I would loudly announce that it was "Miller Time," whenever leaving the office after burning the midnight, well, mid-afternoon oil, but Squires stuck with it.

Since I am a marathon veteran -- having watched dozens -- I offered him the expertise that has given me the ramrod-straight, wire-thin, runners' physique that I have today. Okay, I would be weight-height appropriate if I were only 4 feet taller.

I actually did go on a running binge a few years back, although there are some who would call what I did jogging, and there were some so unkind as to point out that I was frequently passed by pregnant women pushing twins in strollers, but the principle was the same.

I lost a pile of weight, developed good eating habits and was in pretty good shape for a while, but, unlike Squires, I got over it before any serious damage was done to my reputation or wardrobe. In other words, I didn't run out and buy a bunch of 36-inch waist underwear during the two or three weeks that I actually could have worn them.

Office conversations, which used to center around brands of cigars, conspicuous consumption of beer and names of good ribs and wings places, suddenly shifted to long soliloquies on the attributes of various kinds of shoes, good ways to carbo-load (and none of them in the fun way that we used to) and the best methods of treating the kind of knee, hip and foot injuries to which distance-runners are prone.

Gee, it was so exciting that the tech services guys finally had to ask me to stop banging my head on my computer screen because it was rattling the hardware.

The great day came and went last Sunday, and I have to admit that I was impressed with Squires' 4-hour, 33-minute performance. It certainly outstrips the time I walked 50 miles in only five days, stopping to sleep in motels and eat prime-rib dinners en route. I might be able to cover 26 miles in the same time he did if I were in my van and west Pasco traffic was light enough, but I try to limit my footwork to malls, grocery stores and bar rails.

In fact, my most recent exercise program involved upgrading from a Winn-Dixie to a Wal-Mart supercenter where I can put in an extra 20 yards between the Ho-Hos and the frozen burritos.

Grudging admiration aside, I presented Squires with a box of cigars and tried to tempt him with a low-cost five-meal-a-day cruise to the Yucatan.

He resisted the cruise if not the cigars, but if he ever wants to fill this chair, literally, he will have to do better than that.

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