Jan. 2: The indulgences of the winter feasts are at an end, and I have arrived at Everest Base Camp along with my Life Fitness Elliptical Cross Trainer.
My Sherpa guide, Dorjee, joined by his extended clan, gaze in wonder as I mount the apparatus and bring the instrument panel to life. Dorjee points at the "calories burned" meter, which reads a dismal "zero," and shakes his head. Laughter.
Jan. 5: The Himalayan village is atwitter with my activities as I acclimatize, first with care-free "Foothills," then more strenuous "Rockies," and finally breathtaking "Kilimanjaro." A group of Swiss climbers passes by and snickers. But I can only laugh in return at the meager task that these portly fondue-eaters have set for themselves. To merely climb the tallest mountain in the world is child's play.
Jan. 6: It is time to activate the Life Fitness Elliptical Cross Trainer's Virtual Trainer. Her snow white form appears in a corner of the screen and beckons me forward. I feel Dorjee behind me, looking over my shoulder, nay, looking through me, into her glimmering eyes. But when I tell him to assume the portage position, he bridles.
"A man must never hide his face from a woman," he says.
"But the Life Fitness Virtual Trainer is no woman," I tell him. "She is a guide and an inspiration."
"She is... goddess?" Dorjee asks.
The apparatus is mounted upon Dorjee, and I in turn mount the apparatus. The instrument panel flickers and then reengages at a lower luminescence. It will be a time of adjustments for us all...
Jan. 10: Though my strokes are a vigorous elliptical smoothness, Dorjee stumbles over the sharp outcroppings, and the apparatus teeters as we traverse a crevasse. The burn meter has me churning through a remarkable 17,000 calories a day, and my trousers feel a refreshing looseness for the first time since October. The wind is blowing harder, but I have engaged my headphones, and the Virtual Trainer drowns out the howling with her encouragements. Dorjee asks why he cannot listen, too. Is he not worthy?
Jan. 12: Endorphins kicking in. Loving it! Dorjee not so much.
Jan. 13: We come upon the accursed Swiss near the South Wall. I ask why they have failed to summit. Ribald laughter. "We have already been to zee tippy top, mein herr!" utters one of the blond-headed brutes. "Now we are going down!" Mocking me, he approaches the apparatus and begins lasciviously fingering the Life Fitness Virtual Trainer's image. Swiftly Dorjee lands a blow across his face.
Jan. 14: A fierce storm has enveloped us, and progress is slow, all the more so because we have reached the part of our journey where I am obliged to reverse my stride and pull instead of push -- this lest my muscle tone develop unevenly. In the distance somewhere, an insistent electronic beep sounds.
Jan. 16: The hours of reverse strides have left us disoriented and confused. The sub-zero temperatures seem to have impaired the display, with the calorie counter only sluggishly inching forward. Dorjee stares at the screen and sees that the Life Fitness Virtual Trainer has also ceased her encouragements. Tears flow from his watery-brown eyes, and I fear that he is broken. And then there is that incessant beeping...
Jan. 18: The summit is in sight! "Beep!" blares the accursed apparatus, but I push on, for not only are we approaching the famed Hillary Step that leads to the final pass, but my total burn goal of 500,000 calories is also within sight. My stomach gurgles as the last yams of the solstice festivals burn away. Dorjee offers up his abundant yak dumplings, but I refuse: the glistening fat speaks of untold thousands of calories, calories that I have given my very soul to shed. I am so close to my goal. "Beep! Beep!" the apparatus sounds. Ach, I cannot. Ach, one more stride. Mother of god, help me. "Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep!"
The storm's mists suddenly clear, and I rise from the console only to see that Dorjee has vanished. The Himalaya drop away, and I am instead surrounded by a dozen identical apparatuses, each swishing under the locomotion of firm American buttocks. A sharp stab from a pointed finger jostles my shoulder.
"C'mon buddy." The club manager is impatient and irritated, his cerulean spandex almost aglow with rage.
"Can't you read? 30 minutes per machine. Sheesh, guy thinks he's the only one in here who needs to lose a few after the holidays."
(Illustration by John Donohue)