A few weeks ago, I spent my entire weekend at Jillian's. I only went home to eat and sleep, shower, change my clothes, get prettied up again, walk my dog, read a book, watch WB TV shows I taped off Channel 24 late night throughout the week, and do four loads of laundry. Other than that, though, I was at Jillian's the entire time. I never ate there -- having learned last year from Chicago's ESPNZone that is' more fun to spend your money on the games than the grub -- but I did have several beers (I was there almost 48 hours) and played so many mind games I wondered if I was turning into a boy (that might be unfair, but I'm not retracting).
At any rate, Friday night my friend and I walked in and made a beeline for the skeeball. Why? Because I love skeeball and have ever since Chuck E. Cheese brought its ballpit playground and animatronic dinner theater to my backyard. And because I'm not good at many things, I think I can afford to brag: skeeball is my game, yo.
Turned out to be my friend's game, too, even moreso than mine. Soon tickets were flowing like the Mississippi after a hard rain and we became hooked, going from game to game, scamming for tickets.
We played basketball, found out that we sucked so much we would never win any tickets there, and didn't play that again. Same thing with the rifle-firing range (and usually I'm so good with guns). But if we weren't getting tickets, we weren't interested.
So there we were, walking around with streamers of tickets hanging out of our jeans pockets and Jillian's employees kept asking us if we wanted to trade them in for a voucher. But that's no fun, walking around with a receipt. You win tickets so other people can see you've won tickets. It's cool (not to mention that several people saw all of our tickets and gave us theirs).
But maybe it wasn't as cool as we thought. People, mostly girls (and I could be making this up, because I'm paranoid, but I don't think so), kept looking at us funny, as if the whole point of Jillian's wasn't to play games, and win tickets, and overstimulate all your senses. Although I don't know what else it would be -- fighting the crowd at the bar and drinking yourself into a stupor?
We ended up walking out of there with stamp rings, slinkies, fake tattoos, whoopee cushions, fuzzy pens, bubbles, and bottle openers Not a bad way to end an evening (I can think of others, but as it was, I was happy). The next night was sort of a let-down. Mostly because I already had all the prizes that I wanted and there didn't seem to be any reason to win tickets. Instead, I played car games and air hockey and virtual bowling (but not basketball). And it was fun, but it wasn't a rip-roaring, rollicking good time. Something was missing.
Which brings me to a side story. My gym, which shall remain nameless because I sweat there, started an incentive program that basically amounts to a kindergarden star chart. Every time you work out, you give yourself a dot on a chart on the wall. After so many workouts, you win a tee-shirt.
Now I do not want a tee-shirt. Let's be honest, unless it's sleeveless and skims my navel, I'm not interested. But even taking that into account, I became obsessed with the whole program. I rearranged my schedule; I went to the gym whenever possible. And I'm proud to say that this week I finished.
Okay, actually, as of this writing, I'm not quite done. I have one workout left. But I will
finish. Oh yes, if by Sunday, the last day of the program, I haven't gotten my last dot and I am on my deathbed, fever of 107 degrees, mucus oozing out every pore, I will somehow stagger onto the treadmill (actually, if I were on my deathbed, I would go to the gym, put my dot on the wall, and then slink back to bed. And I have very high morals, this is how important this is to me).
The sad part is that somewhere along the way It stopped being about physical fitness. It was all about the dot. (Actually it was also sorta about trying to look like Lara Croft before the movie comes out. People have told me before that I bear a passing resemblance to Angelina Jolie -- you know if I'm in a very dim room, and I turn my head 45 degrees to the left, and do a sort of surly face, I'm a dead ringer.) I figured if I could kick up the gym-going a notch, people would start mistaking me for her at restaurants and I'd get all the good tables -- not that I really know what a "good" table is -- and everyone would fall in love with me and life would be grand. But because that goal is a tad unrealistic, it was more about the dots.) That's even how I thought of it: I'm going to the gym to get my dot.
This is all to say, never underestimate the power of incentives. Oh, and that the next time I go to Jillian's (probably this weekend. I can't seem to stay away -- I think I may have been hypnotized by all the flashing lights), I'm going to win all the tickets I can and I'm going to wave them in people's faces if they look at me funny. And then I'm going to redeem every single one of them. (The tickets, that is; not the people. I'm certainly no Billy Graham).
But I don't plan on doing that because I want people to look at me, or think that I'm some sort of skeeball master (although they wouldn't be wrong in thinking that), but because I like having something to show for what I do, whether it's tickets, or check marks, or even . . . free tee-shirts.
I might never wear it, but at least I'll know that I earned it.
( Mary Cashiola writes about life every Friday @ memphisflyer.com. You're invited to come along.