My secret weapon

Yale Hollander is a dad, husband, legal professional and writer whose works have appeared in a number of local and national publications. He is currently a trustee of the St. Louis Jewish Light, however the opinions and viewpoints he presents in this blog are strictly his. Follow him on Twitter @yalehollander.

By Yale Hollander

Say hello to my little friend.

Unholstered, it gleams in my hand, all black and shiny, small yet powerful. Clipped and holstered at my side, I walk with purpose and confidence. 

I’d love to be in a better position, one that made my constant companion unnecessary, but that’s not the life I currently lead. On those very rare occasions when it isn’t at my hip, it’s on my nightstand, never more than an arm’s length away and at the ready the second I get out of bed.

There are millions out there like me. We’re on the streets, in the supermarkets, the shopping malls and, yes, even schools. We read the papers and watch the news. We are well aware of the death tolls — senseless deaths that could have been prevented with more vigilant civilian intervention. 

Over the past several years I have become fed up. Extremely fed up. So fed up that I reached a tipping point and bought something I never thought I would need to buy. And, unless things change drastically and permanently, I doubt I will ever be without one. I have become one of “those people.”

Yes, friends, I am a FitBit user.

In the very rare event that you have not encountered a fellow user, FitBit is the brand name of a line of “personal fitness devices” — those little gizmos that track all types of physical activity. There are a number of companies manufacturing them now and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like mine, are simple little doodads that fit in a pocket or clip on to a belt. Others are mounted on bracelets or are integrated into wristwatches.

The complexity of these doohickeys also varies. There are devices that will measure your pulse, gauge the quality of your sleep, count the number of stairs you climb, just about everything short of asking you to stick out your tongue and say “aaaah.” Mine is considerably simpler. It counts the number of steps I take, translates that to miles traveled on foot and estimates the numbers of calories burned. 

All of this data is then uploaded via a wireless portal called a “dongle” — no, really — that’s plugged into my computer. From the dongle, the information works its way to the FitBit website, where several other brave souls known as my friends, family and coworkers have agreed to share our stats in an effort to push and/or taunt each other to better fitness habits. 

My dad, the 78-year-old guy who still plays racquetball three days a week despite a balky hip, has a FitBit and never hesitates to inquire about my well-being whenever his step count exceeds mine for a week. 

I am preoccupied with “getting my steps in,” and not just because I’m a 46-year-old man trying to avoid being shamed by his father. I bought, and actually use, a treadmill. I park farther away from the door when I go out. And, although my productivity at the office increased when I recently switched to a paperless system, I was disappointed to lose several hundred steps a day by not making repeated trips to the printer room. 

As I mentioned earlier, I’m far from alone. There’s a whole subculture of FitBit freaks (and I use the term liberally, regardless of brand, not unlike “Kleenex” or “Sanka”). You’ll recognize us by our behaviors. Not only are we the ones who are constantly shuffling our feet or bouncing up and down while engaged in a standing conversation, we’re also the ones who are stealing glances at your wrists or your hips, trying to figure out whether you’re “strapped.” And, if you are, please be prepared to let us know how you like your particular device. Many of us are always in the market for an electronic appendage that can provide more data in a prettier format.

Many of us, other than me, that is. 

I’m perfectly content with my simple little step-counting sidekick. I have no reservation about broadcasting the number of steps I’ve taken today, but I’d prefer that the bag of fried cheese curds I had at lunch remain, shall we say, un-dongled.