My yearly physical was coming up, and that, of course, meant the dreaded, horrible, humiliating weigh-in.


I consider the scale at the doctor’s office my enemy. The yearly ritual is the same—I stand on the base of the scale as the nurse keeps sliding the little cylindrical weight to the right as the pounds add up. And each pound is marked by a little notch, like the notches on an outlaw’s gun.

This year I desperately wanted to beat the scale and get below 200 pounds. When I was in high school, I weighed 165 pounds. How did I gain so much?

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s because I eat like a horse—I was hoping for another explanation.

Anyway, to get below 200 I had to use my own rituals—and nothing as ridiculous as going on a diet.


1. Wardrobe – I wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt to my examination because they weigh less. I do this even if it’s below 50 degrees outside.


2. Parking – I park two blocks away from the doctor’s office. The first reason is that he doesn’t validate. And most important, I hope to lose an ounce or two by walking to the doctor’s office. (If it’s below 50 degrees, I run to the doctor’s office.)


3. The Sample – I ask to give my urine sample before I step on the scale. I figure that’s another 3 or 4 ounces—5 ounces if I drank a lot of black coffee that morning.


4. Emptying My Back Pocket – I remove my wallet. It’s a fat one. There’re expired credit cards and coupons from stores that have gone out of business. These artifacts are part of my life but will not be part of my weight.


5. Emptying My Left Pocket – I take out my keys, cell phone, and change. Hey, they definitely add up.


6. Emptying My Right Pocket – I take some Kleenex out of my pocket. OK, that’s a little crazy, but it fits my personality.


7. Removing Clothing – Don’t get excited; I’m just taking off my shoes and belt.


8. Trying to Cheat – I get on the scale and slightly lift my left foot into the air, thinking this will bring my weight down. The nurse starts to giggle and says that technique doesn’t work. I put my foot back down on the scale.


9. Exhale – OK, I’m really not sure if air weighs anything, so I looked it up on the internet.

This is what I found: A column of air 1 square centimeter has a mass of about 9.8N. Lung capacity of an adult male is about 5.8 liters.

In other words, I still have no idea if air weighs anything. But just to be safe, I do exhale, letting all the air out of my lungs.

The nurse then begins her ritual of sliding the small cylindrical object until she’s satisfied that she has my correct weight. And miracle of miracles, I’m under 200 pounds.

OK, it’s just barely, but I did it. I inhale, taking a deep victory breath.

Uh oh, I’m back to 200.

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