Tag Archives: FSU Leach Recreation Center

Groucho and I

I agree with Groucho Marx’s philosophy:

“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

I have never been a member of a club or sorority.  My image has never graced the Society Page.  No sports team, small or large, from elementary through high school, has ever accepted me as a player.

However, for half a century, I have had one persistent goal:  to be an excellent swimmer.

My quest began on a summer morning, in 1962, when I was ten years of age:  It was the final day of swim lessons and it was my turn to demonstrate one lap of “free style” to the other students and to the instructor.

I was never afraid of the water and I never worried about appearing foolish, either.  I confidently “gave it my all” and churned through the water.  I assumed that I appeared competent — although, of course, I could not see myself.  When I finished my lap, I popped my head up and was surprised to hear and see . . . that the other students were . . . . laughing . . . hysterically . . . at  . . . me.

I joined in the laughter.  What else could I do?

I was dismayed and disappointed but I was not destroyed.  On that summer morning, I resolutely determined that becoming an excellent swimmer would be my life goal.  I would never again give any person an opportunity to laugh at me  . . .

. . .  about swimming, anyway . . .

Over the years, I took adult swim lessons from FSU Swim Team Coaches and private lessons from members of the FSU Swim Team.  There were many interruptions during those years.  However, about five years ago, I was accepted onto the Masters Swim Team:  I did not compete but I received excellent training and I relished the camaraderie.

I told you all of this so that you might have reason to exult with me:

I am now a Bona Fide Member of the Florida State University [FSU] Leach Recreation Center!  

Thanks to My Professor, our vehicle has a Faculty “Clicker & Sticker,”  which allows access to the gated Faculty Parking Lot, right next to Leach.

Also, thanks to My Professor, I have an FSU Identification Card, which allows me access into Leach.

AND I have my own locker in the Women’s Faculty & Staff Locker Room.  

I am almost 60 and I have achieved the goal:  I am not a fast swimmer but I am a competent, long-distance one.

My Professor usually finishes his laps before I complete mine, so sometimes he climbs the stairs to the “balcony” and watches me.  He assures me that I appear “masterful, elegant, and proficient.”  

These days, I rarely think about that morning, fifty summers ago.  No doubt, my fellow swim lesson buddies are now enjoying their Golden Years, as I am.  I wish them well and hope that they are healthy and fit.  I do not resent their past immaturity in the least.  On the contrary, I am grateful to them:  They were the catalyst — the jump start — for my quest to earn swimming success and fitness.

Those unaware young students gave me another opportunity, for which I say “Thanks:”  They gave me my first practice at learning to laugh at myself.  Laughter may not improve the unfortunate events in my life but laughter, the “good medicine, ” certainly makes them more bearable.

And my hearty thanks to you, Mr. Groucho Marx:

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.  I can choose which it shall be.  Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet.  I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

“Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough.”

[Quotes by Groucho Marx]

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Filed under Fitness

Not A Word


Dear Readers,

In my previous update, I mentioned the musical, “Funny Girl:”   The film version came out in 1968 and Stephen took me to go see it on one of our first dates.

When Barbra Streisand [as Fanny Brice] belted out her final, heart-breaking, plaintive song, “My Man,” at the end of the film, Stephen was transported, in his mind, to the stage musical, where he evidently thought he was a member of the audience at a live performance:  He broke into vigorous applaud, right there in the silence of the movie theatre.  This continued for several seconds, as I held my breath, watched him in amazement, and valiantly tried to conquer my giggles.  This was my first clue that I was dating a man who could be so “caught up in the moment” that he could forget everything else in the world around him.  In spite of my astonishment, I said not a word.

Pre-marriage, his mother told me this true story:  One summer day, Stephen was home from college and offered to shop for the week’s groceries for the family.  The routine at that particular grocery store involved  these Five Easy Steps:

1.  Pay for your groceries;

2.  Leave them in the shopping basket [in the care of a curbside clerk;]

3.  Find your vehicle;

4.  Drive to the curbside;

5.  Clerk will load up said groceries.

What could be easier?  

Well, when he arrived back home, his mother said, “Stephen, where are the groceries?!”  He evidently got distracted after Step Three.  So, he raced back to the store to reclaim his groceries.  If this incident was a warning,  I chose to ignore it and held my peace.

Ironically, several years elapsed before I realized that I had married the quintessential Absent-Minded Professor [AMP].  This explains why he is able to focus laser-sharp intensity and concentration on his work.  He is able, to an astonishing degree, to shut out superfluous distractions, like breakfast and lunch.

Some distractions, unfortunately, are less superfluous:  Although this has happened only once, he was working feverishly one morning, in his FSU office, when a student called from a nearby classroom and asked,  “Dr. Payne, are you going to show up to teach class today?”

And decades ago, when our children were small, Stephen was on car-pool duty when he became lost in thought, drove all the way to the university, parked, turned his head around, and found two confused preschoolers, peering back at him from the back seat.  He explained to them that he had taken a “short-cut”  to preschool and I think they even believed him.

While driving, in fact, he does some of his best thinking and he might divert the car toward his FSU office, on a Sunday morning, when we are supposed to be headed to church. However, I don’t say a word, reasoning that he doesn’t need a “front-seat/back-seat driver.”

There are, of course, several Sunday mornings that Stephen is able, quite on his own, to negotiate a straight trajectory toward church, a route that is less than two miles, from “door to door.”  Yet, he is, by no means, safe — even then — because his mind might begin to wander . . . at any minute . . .

For instance, there was the morning, during the Worship Service, when he mentally “checked out” during the Induction Ceremony of The Order of the Daughters of the Holy Cross. *

The ceremony continued for several minutes and concluded with an invitation for all the new Daughters of the Holy Cross to stand, come forward, and receive prayer, a blessing, and a Daughters of the Holy Cross sterling silver cross necklace.

At the familiar words, “We invite all those …. to stand,” Stephen came out of his stupor and his head popped up.  Perhaps he imagined that we were ALL being invited to stand, to witness a baptism or a marriage.

I said not a word but I surreptitiously and firmly grasped the elbow of his sleeve.  He struggled three times to free himself, so that he could rise to his feet.

Finally, on the third attempt, he surveyed his surroundings and decided, no doubt after some quick self-examination, that he would not volunteer to lead the procession that Sunday morning, with banner aloft, as the first [and only] male member of the St. Peter’s Anglican Church Order of the Daughters of the Holy Cross. 

Now, early in the morning on his FSU teaching days, we drive together to the FSU pool to swim laps.  After we park, I don’t say a word if he grabs his black professor attaché case instead of, say,  his black swim-gear bag, as he barrels toward the locker room.

And, only last week, I watched him race ahead of me toward the locker rooms, in preparation for swimming laps.  I was right behind him when I saw him reach for the door.  It was at that moment that I hissed, “Where are you going?!”  

Normally, you see, I don’t interfere with his circuitous wanderings but I was loath to read the headlines the next morning:  “Male University Professor Arrested for Entering Women’s Locker Room;  Wife Claims He Is Absent-Minded.”

However, if he rushes out the door in the morning to go to work and forgets his lunch, I just store it in the refrigerator and eat it at noon.   If he forgets his wallet, I pilfer some cash and go out to lunch.  If he forgets his cell phone, I ignore the insistent rings and let all the messages go to voice mail.

I come downstairs on a relaxed Saturday morning to join him for espresso.  We chat for a while and then I say, “I’m going back upstairs to get beautiful.” But he is already lost in his book and he is dull and slow to respond.  So, I repeat myself, a little louder, and he responds, perfunctorily:  “Uhh … yes … but … you already are beautiful!” or “Umm … oh … well … that won’t take very long!”

On other Saturday mornings, I watch, with veiled amusement, as roars out the door, to go to Home Depot or Lowe’s, on a frantic quest for home improvement supplies.  I know he will be back soon, to retrieve his wallet.  Sure, I could call him, to save him embarrassment at the check-out station, but he has also roared off without his cell-phone.

You remember, perhaps, that I am currently a subject in a Research Study at FSU.  The routine includes these Six Easy Steps:

1.  Report to the Faculty Parking Lot Gate;

2. Wait for the FSU students to open the Gate with an electronic “Clicker;”

3.  Proceed through the Gate and pause;

4.  Open car window and receive a [one-day] “Faculty Parking Sticker;”

5.  Display “Sticker” on dashboard;

6.  Park.

Well, last month, I had my own “Clicker”  and “clicked” myself through the Gate.  I paused and showed the student helpers my own “Sticker.”

Incredulous, the helpers asked: “How did you get your own Faculty ‘Clicker’ and ‘Sticker?’ ”  

I shrugged my shoulders and blithely replied, “I sleep with a professor!” and drove on past them . . .

. . . Which proves that there are some perks to marrying a professor, even an absent-minded one.

Coram Deo,


[Written by Margot Blair Payne, April 2011]

 * “The Order provides a community in which you can fulfill a lifetime vow to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The Order’s four-fold vow consists of Prayer, Service, Study and Evangelism.”  [From the website.]


Filed under Absent-Minded Professor, Courtship & Engagement, Marriage & Wedding