December 15, 2005

The Fear Of Bowling

Morning Workout
Main Set: 2,000m time trial

Random Comments: The woman in the lane next to me was doing yoga in the pool. It kept me going, every lap wondering what pose she'd be in next. Honestly, though, I was scared she'd finally drown doing downward dog. What a sad way to go.


There's something intriguing about a bowling lane. Even more, it's that area between the "foul line" and the pins. It's like a no man's zone, an area that only a bowling ball is allowed to encroach. Beyond the foul line is like Area 51: you know it's there, you can see it's there, but there's a mystery that surrounds it. You feel so guilty stepping over the foul line. Even if its just one toe that crosses it after the ball so delicately leaves your fingers. It's wrong to step over that line - cheating, even. When I was a kid, there would be a buzzer that would go off if you crossed the line. They might as well have added electric shock to it as well - it was that daunting.

But it draws you in. The rebellious part of you, the one that drove you to steal the pack of gum from the corner store when you were younger, that's the part that pushes you to cross that foul line in the bowling alley. And once you do? Once you boldly step over the invisible boundary and find yourself standing all alone mid-lane, you've got a whole network of conflicting emotions stirring your synapses. The first phase is the feeling of guilt that overcomes you. Quickly you look around the bowling alley expecting everybody to be staring at you in disbelief; anticipating the burst of activity as a SWAT team bursts through the doors, red lasers beaming from their guns, all pointed at your body as the bullhorned commander tells you to step away from the bowling lane slowly and carefully and nobody will get hurt.

The guilt and fear is balanced by the second phase: the sense of freedom. Standing there mid-lane, you feel a sense of being in unchartered territory, standing where no man has stepped before.

It's a crazy thing, the bowling lane.
Which leads my to my swim this morning.

I went back to the Sports Club LA to swim because... well, how could I not? This gym is a practical petri dish of unbelievable stories. There should be a blog just about the Sports Club LA experience - it is that astonishing.

So I go to the pool alone today because Cat decided to run in the morning. Please remember a couple of things that I mentioned a few days ago about the pool. First of all, most of the lanes are lanes built for one. Meaning they're about 4 feet wide so there's no way two people can swim side by side. Secondly, there is a current in the pool, as if there were only one proper direction to swim. When you swim in a northerly direction, you feel like you're flying. When you turn around, it's like a salmon swimming up the waterfall. Without the bears eating you, of course.

So I decide, today, to swim in one of those lanes-for-one, which, as it turns out, are about as wide as a bowling lane. I jump in and begin swimming. Suddenly the current grabs me and I feel like I have an outboard motor coming out of my ass. I'm going that fast. The lane bouys are so close, I focus on staying straight down the middle, not wanting to fall off to the sides. There are dotted lines on the bottom of the pool, so I focus on those as they stream by me in a practical blur. I look up and see the wall approaching rather quickly. I can't slow down because the current has got me. Suddenly and so quickly, I feel just like a bowling ball careening down the lane. I completely understand what it is like to step beyond that foul line - to feel the fear and exhiliration as I scream towards the pins. And when my hands hit the side of the pool and braced my bodies impact, I swear I heard the sounds of the pins falling. The sweet sounds of bowling pins careening off of each other.

It was a strike. I turned around and swam the other way.

After 45 minutes I finished my swim and got out of the water. Earlier this week when I got out of the water, I passed by an elderly gentleman napping by the side of the pool. And when I mean napping, I mean laid out on his side, a towel draped over him, eyes closed, snoring. I found it odd, this man just sleeping by the pool, but decided not to ask questions. Today when I walked to the pool, I noticed a cushion sitting by the side of the pool - it looked like a cushion for a recliner, but without the recliner part. I didn't pay much attention and just walked by. Yet when I finished my swim and started walking away from the pool, I saw yet another man laying by the side napping - on his side, towel draped over him and yadda yadda yadda, same sleeping story. I suddenly remembered the cushion and realized that the Sports Club LA actually lays out cushions by the lap pool for people to sleep on. What kind of messed up nonesense is that?! I couldn't believe other people found this normal, so I looked around the pool to see if anybody else was in shock. As I gazed around, my eyes came upon the pool attendant polishing the metal railing that surrounds the pool. This, by the way, is the railing that nobody touches. I had seen this guy throughout my swim, but it didn't really sink in until now. This young chaps entire job, I realized, is to keep polishing the metal railing. Of course nobody would find the pool-side sleeper to be odd, for here I was in a culture that accepted a full-time rail-polisher as normal behavior.

In mild shock, I went back down to the locker room to shower and change. Funny thing about the shower room at this club, they don't have towels. In fact, you have to walk out the door of the shower area, through a hall, and in the door of the locker room area in order to get a towel. Does anyone find that odd? Is this just me? I mean, of all the places you know for a fact that somebody is going to need a towel, it'd be by the showers. And yet they don't have even a piece of tissue within 100 feet of the shower heads. Will the wonders never cease.

After a few laps back and forth between shower and locker room, I finally get clean, dried and dressed. I decide, before I leave, to grab a smoothie at the gym's breakfast bar so that I can sit and gawk as the hoity-toities come and go. Within the first two minutes in walks the lady in black tights, black tank top and knee-high ugs. Because, of course, knee-high ugs are the perfect gym accessory these days. And before I can catch my breathe, in walks the woman in red pants, red top and red shoes to match her red workout bag, because heaven forbid you don't color coordinate your ass before going to the gym.

Ten minutes of this and I couldn't take it anymore so I strolled into the parking structure - which for a second I mistook for a Mercedes and BMW dealership - hopped into my car and left. Of course, I payed the $2 parking fee. No matter who you are, everybody's got to pay the price.