I totaled my treadmill, totaled the car and changed my life.

I totaled my treadmill, totaled the car and changed my life.

The treadmill had worn itself out twice before, and both times my husband valiantly stepped up to replace the motor, install a new tread and tighten connecting wires. This time, when the machine stopped like an exhausted horse, he shook his head. This thing has gone 36,000 miles, he told me. It was done for.

About the same time, I totaled the car. I totaled the car. I keep saying this because even now, I don't believe it in a deep-down way. I was backing from a tight parking space, foot on the brake, craning over my shoulder and turning the steering wheel, when the car suddenly shot backward at high speed and crashed into the car parked behind me. The noise of the collision was deafening. I shouted out loud. Then, with a cold feeling that felt like gelatin pouring over my head and shoulders, I slowly pulled my car back into its original parking place and walked into the building I had just left to report the disaster.

I was responsible for the accident, of course. But I will maintain to the end that I did not deliberately remove my foot from the brake, where it was keeping the moving car in check, and stomp on the gas pedal, which I would have had to have done to make the car leap backward the way it did. I told the insurance people this. I told the car maker. I wrote letters and emails and talked on the phone. I had a small, localized fit, and then I let it go.

It all worked out and everyone was extremely nice, from the police officers to the owner of the car I hit. We bought a new car. And I will never again put any car into reverse without tensing all my muscles. That's a life change right there.

Another life change: This YMCA membership. The Y is in a quadrant of the county with which I was almost completely unfamiliar, because until recently it was farmland. Now the former fields have streets and sidewalks and houses and people. It's a new world. I navigated it, at first cautiously and then with confidence. I feel like Francisco de Coronado, explorer of the Southwest.

The car I'm now driving has several features we wouldn't have included on a list of automotive must-haves, among them heated seats and satellite radio. It does not have a compact-disc player. You wouldn't think a life could be so affected by what a car has or doesn't have. You would be wrong.

Heated seats are nice. That's all. They're very nice, once a person gets used to the slightly alarming feeling of warmth spreading out down there. Big life change, as is learning to survive without a car CD player. It seems cruel to get people accustomed to listening to CDs in the car, then take away their players. My "Hamilton" CD is as useful now as a typewriter cover, and I'm forgetting the sound of Pokey LaFarge's voice. This life change is alarming, like the ominous disappearance of honeybees.

The departure of the treadmill has turned one of our upstairs rooms from a workout space with sleeping options to a bedroom that no longer smells like a high school gym right after the wrestling match. It's like that dream when you discover a room in your house you've never noticed before.

Finally, thanks to the Y's locker room, I have surrendered all vanity. Humility is the only quality that offers sufficient cover when making one's sweat-drenched way, post workout, to the shower. To join a public exercise facility is to recognize we are members of the family of man, and not the most attractive family in the animal kingdom.

Speaking of the treadmill, my husband was about to throw it out the window -- literally; that was the fastest way to dispose of it -- when he paused. Thinking he might replace the main circuit board after all, he put his hand on a side rail as he bent to inspect the motor, and the side rail fell off.

"So it's a good thing I didn't buy a new motor," he told me.

You're telling me. Look at everything I'd have missed.

Write to Margo Bartlett at margo.bartlett@gmail.com.