Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Jumping Hurdles

When I was in high school, I was the manager for the boys’ varsity track team. Somehow I got the idea that when I reinvented myself at college, I could tell people I did the low hurdles. I was going to lie to be someone I pictured myself to be but wasn’t.

I don’t think I actually did the lie, but Wikipedia says, “Low hurdle races are a now, generally defunct form of track and field hurdle racing.” I find it fitting that now in my Third Third, my first third aspiration is … defunct. But low hurdles are still in operation for women’s track, so I guess I’m all right (if I were to reinvent myself).

I think of low hurdles as obstacles in my path that seem more do-able than impossible. A high hurdle – a whole foot higher – might stop me dead, like a wall. But the low hurdle is a challenge to get past. And what’s a low hurdle for me might be just a blip for you.

As I was preparing to leave Toronto, my sister phoned. My month there had been a 10-out-of-10, but I was in the middle of my hurdle accounting: I had to get on the plane ... with less than fifty pounds in the suitcase. I told Elizabeth the trek to the airport was rife with hurdles:
  1. I had to pack less than fifty pounds in the suitcase without a scale to measure. And I had accumulated a lot of paper: theater programs, books for my friend Mark on Toronto’s urban planning, four magazines on Toronto’s culinary treasures for my friend Judith, library handouts, maps, more maps.
  2. I had to get the suitcase on the 65-Parliament bus, and if the old style bus came, it would be hard to get in the front door. I needed the new kind of bus to pull up to the stop.
  3. For some strange reason, Toronto’s subways only have escalators that go up and stairs that go down. Usually that’s no problem, but not with fifty pounds of suitcase. I could always bump it down one step at a time, à la Winnie the Pooh, “bump, bump, bump.”
  4. And then, here it was, the Big Hurdle, the one that chilled my blood: weighing in at the check-in with my suitcase. What if it were more than fifty pounds?!?
Some of you might be thinking: what’s the big deal? So you pay extra or you move some stuff around.

No, hurdles are personalized. This was my Big Hurdle, maybe not yours. You may have problems going to live in an unknown big city all by yourself for a month, but that’s a blip for me. My Big Hurdle was facing an airline agent with a suitcase to be weighed. It kept me up at night.

My other sister said, “Mail stuff.” I had already been that route. Canada Post, even with its lovely pink mailboxes all around town, cost A LOT. It took me $30 to mail a 1-pound picture book to a friend. A woman I met said there’s a service called Chit Chats; they drive your stuff across the border and mail it in the U.S. for way cheaper. My sister said, “Use Chit Chats.” Uh, oh, new thing, new thing! That’s another hurdle alert!

When I think of my Urban Infusion months, I think of my first time using a borrowed cell phone, my first time using VRBO and Airbnb, my first time using Lyft, my first time not knowing my geography, my first time all alone; and they were harrowing. But they were low hurdles and I made it over. Once you make it over, hurdles become blips; but they still start out as hurdles.

Chit Chats was a hurdle.

So I prepared: I isolated my paper products in a bag inside the suitcase, so if it was too heavy, I could move it to carry-on. I chickened out and left the culinary magazines behind in the apartment. I departed the apartment a hurdle-fearing nervous wreck.
  1. The right kind of 65-Parliament bus came.
  2. As I approached the stairs of the subway, a man reached out, grabbed my suitcase, and took it down the stairs.
  3. At the airport, I mustered my courage and thought, “Project confidence. Be friendly, and she’ll let your overweight bag on.” I slid the suitcase on the scale: 47 pounds exactly.


  1. Coming back from 3 weeks in Scotland last fall 48 lbs. Lots of heavy hiking clothes and rain gear. Was all prepared to do a repack and possibly abandon cheaper stuff but just made it.

  2. How nice of that Canadian man to help you. They are so polite. There's even a t-shirt:


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