I think I have commitment issues. I don’t want to say so definitively, but I’m pretty sure I do. At least, sometimes.
Is it normal that the “submit” button on online race registrations serves as virtual ipecac? (“Click and vomit!”) Because if not, I may need to seek help from a professional.
I think it’s the finality of clicking “submit” that gets me. I don’t mind the merciless interrogation of the rectangular drop boxes quizzing me on everything from my name, age, and T-shirt size to the number of marathons I’ve run, my preferred toothpaste, and the fuel economy of my car. I don’t mind freely submitting my Mastercard or the three magic numbers on the back, which I think serve no other purpose than to keep the guy who writes all the “What is this?” pop-ups in business. (Security, schmurity.)
I picture the “What is this?” guy sitting at a desk somewhere, waiting for his next assignment. “Hey, Larry!” a hypothetical mission would begin, “We’ve got a job for you. You know those three numbers on the back of credit cards? We think they have potential. See what you can come up with and get back to us by Friday.”
It really is quite a touching act of humanitarianism.
Larry’s crowning achievement, of course, was the CAPTCHA. Brilliant. I’m still convinced the CAPTCHA was inspired by cataract commercials on morning television. You know, the ones that begin with the terrifying suggestion, “Does your television look like THIS?” Of course, it does look like this because the commercial is blurred, which leads the entire viewing audience to believe they have cataracts. I’m sure Larry was watching daytime programming when he brainstormed the CAPTCHA. The CAPTCHA is just text with a cataract filter. It’s also the single biggest reason I feel like an idiot whenever I try to purchase something online.
I have yet to successfully complete a CAPTCHA on my first try. I am directed to “type the above words exactly as they appear on the screen.” Compliantly, I do. But upon hitting enter, I am repeatedly prompted to “Try Again.” Eventually, the CAPTCHA deities ask if I am visually impaired and suggest I use the verbal prompt. I can’t win the CAPTCHA game. I don’t get it.
At any rate, I don’t mind the humiliation of failing the CAPTCHA test. It’s clicking “submit” that gets me. It’s so final.
It’s an action without retraction.
People talk about the “point of no return.” But here’s the deal. The very phrase “point of no return” implies that there are previous points of return. Gyms offer trial periods. Magazine subscriptions give you three free months. Actions that have a “point of no return” by necessity have, at some time or another, a point of turning back. Hence the phrase a “no risk trial.”
But there are some activities that, by their very nature, are themselves points of no return. Once you start, there is no turning back. Like streaking.
Aside from the fact that streaking is punishable by jail time, I can think of few things worse than being an indecisive streaker. I mean, really. For a streaker, the starting line and the point of no return are one and the same. Once you toss your slacks and run gung-ho towards the Green Monster at Fenway, you’re committed. You can’t change your mind in centerfield.
I think that’s why I have such a hard time registering for marathons. I can fill out every blank on the form, but I just can’t make myself hit the “submit” button. It’s those darn finality phrases: “Non-refundable,” “Non-transferable,” “No-matter-what-you-do-you’ll-never-be-able-to-undo-this-action.” It freaks me out. For every marathon for which I’ve actually registered, I’ve “almost registered” fifteen or twenty times.
And so, once or twice a year, the cursor waits patiently on my screen, hovering silently above the “submit” button. Once I hit submit, there is no return. No clicking the back button, no premature closing of the registration window lest I risk my credit card being charged twice (a particularly cruel threat). The submit button is my crossing of the Rubicon.
Panic. Remorse. Nausea. A small ping informs me of a new addition to my inbox. The confirmation email. My commitment is sealed. It is final. I’m running across centerfield at Fenway. In my birthday suit.
I am officially registered.
Alas, the nausea and anxiety wears off eventually, and I’ll find myself almost excited about the upcoming race. I’ve started training (always a good sign). And I can genuinely say I’m glad I hit submit.
At least, I’m pretty sure.
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner. Her second book, Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story, will be released in 2014. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.