June 07, 2007

Another Page From The Story Book

It was later than usual when I got into the men's locker room at the YMCA this morning.

The day started off with a horrendously grueling speed session on the bike that included two 1o-minute rubber-leg inducing time trials up the side of a mountain. As if that alone wasn't enough to cause my previously ingested oatmeal to de-ingest, I capped off the time trials with a stomach-churning handful of two-minute repeats. Suffice to say, my cadence wasn't the only thing repeating on me.

Knowing that my calf isn't quite yet strong enough to run and that my evening was going to be busy with a conference call, I decided to do some aqua jogging in the morning. It ain't no road running, but at least it's closer to it than sitting on my couch watching endless Prefontaine videos on YouTube.

So round about 8:30am, after finishing the bike ride, eating a Clif Bar to help settle my stomach (mental note, bad idea) and cramming the day's clothes into a gym bag, I arrived at the YMCA ready to do a whole lot of nothing in the deep end of the pool.

I planned to whip out a monotonous 30 minutes of aqua boredom, but once I got going I struck up a mighty fine convo with my new friend, Andrea. Clocking in at about 67 years old, thin and fairly fit looking, Andrea became my aqua jog Muse.

What with her personalized jogging belt and sporty looking water resistant outfit, Andrea was clearly no hack at this pool jogging nonsense. When I realized that she had been aqua jogging for three years, I figured I'd struck gold. Here was my time to find out the proper method to decrease my fool-like demeanor in the slow lane. I started throwing out the questions....

Is this supposed to hurt my hamstrings so much? How much am I supposed to lift up my legs? Should I flex my feet? What do I do with my hands besides play tiddle-dee-winks? How do I stop looking like such a dork?

Andrea looked at me with a stunned silence. An aqua jogger in the headlights, if you will. It was the kind of look that displayed a deep-seeded fear while at the same time emanated questioningly, who the heck is this guy and why is he talking to me. It's the kind of look you see on the streets of New York City if you ask a random person a random question.

Ummm....., she hesitated, not knowing whether to be friendly or ferocious. I don't know.

Oh, I replied, somewhat disheartened.

I bought a book on aqua jogging, she continued, but haven't ever bothered to read it. I just get in the water and go.

Ah. So much for the Muse. Not feeling there was any learning curve to be ridden, I quickly changed the subject. How about that Scooter Libby, eh?

For some reason, Andrea didn't run away. Or did she.... After 20-odd minutes of me pool-jogging my way behind her, like a homeless (and fairly buoyant) puppy looking for a friend, she somehow managed to drop me. One minute we were moving along at about .01 mph, with me yappin' away about nothing remotely important, and the next minute she was sprinting to the other end of the pool, leaving me to suck in the exhaust of her back draft. (And, by the way, when I say "sprinting", I mean moving along at about .02 mph).

I tell ya, you don't have to slap a guy in the face for him to get a hint. I shut my mouth flappin', and continued on my lonely water jog. Looking at my watch, I realized I was nigh on 30 minutes - my give up time. Thanks to the unfailing support of my new friend Andrea, what I expected to be a soporific exercise in futility, kinda breezed on by like it ain't no thang. What the hell, I said, I'll push this baby to the limit. I kept on a-joggin.

As the watch hit 45 minutes, I had enough. I climbed out of the water, removed the jogging belt and waddled on my rubber legs into the locker room. I looked at my watch. 9:45am.

I haven't really spent a lot of time in the men's locker room, and definitely not this late in the day. I'm usually stumbling into this room pretty early in the morning. On top of that, I really try to get in and out as quick as humanly possible. You never know what type of disease may leap from the confines of this petri dish of disgust. I fear to even imagine the types of viruses emanating from the shower stalls. Truth be told, in the 10 years I've been a member of the YMCA, I have never, not once walked into the toilet area of the men's locker room. I'm too scared. But I try not to think about it. And I try not to touch anything.

I hopped into my favorite shower and quickly washed the chlorine off of my body. I went to my gym bag, grabbed my electric shaver and cautiously sauntered over to the sink to erase this stubble from my puerile face.

As I gazed into the mirror in preparation for the morning shave, I had the opportunity to scan the locker room. I suddenly realized there was a lot of old.

Of the twenty-odd folks in the room, I was without a doubt the youngest by about 30 years. It was a sea of white hair, balding heads and roly-poly paunches. There were canes leaning against walkers and geriatrics leaning against lockers.

There was the man on my right who appeared to be washing his suede shoes in the sink. He'd put one of them under the flowing water and scrub away, then reach for the other one, rinse, repeat.

There were the antiquated biddies with barely enough strength to walk. They'd shuffle into the locker room ever so slowly with masterful micro-steps like Tim Conway in his Carol Burnett days, forever searching for Mrs. a-Whiggins to make things better. Too weak to carry a gym bag, they'd pull a suitcase on wheels packed efficiently with all of their outdated exercise needs.

There was the group of Slavic men, huddled around each other in their Slavic aisle, like an ancient Russian Steam Bath, without the steam or the bath. They lounged in luxuriating pleasure, half of them with towels draped around their Slavic waists and the other half sitting on plastic stools, basking in their Slavic nudity. Slavic stomachs hung heavy, like watermelon in hairy burlap sacks, calmly resting on sturdy Slavic legs. They didn't speak to each other, just mumbled and grunted, yet somehow their meaning got translated with faultless clarity.

Brgchn mmmgn.
Bolach plusaksi.
BA-HA-HA! one of them would laugh with a rumble that would make Santa Claus jealous. The others wouldn't even crack a smile. The mumbling would commence....
Chachta. Chachta chachti chachta.

I heard a crash on the floor. I gazed beyond the Slavic conclave towards the balding loner sitting in the middle of the aisle. His hairline had receded to the conventional U shape, so prevalent atop the grandfatherly pate. The head bare and smooth as a crystal ball, with a tuft of fur to line the edges.

He sat there staring at the man who had just entered the locker room, ignoring the fact he had just dropped his hair brush onto the floor. Oblivious to the fact that he had no need for a hair brush in the first place.

Not you! he yelled. I don't like you! You shouldn't be here!

The victim was silent, moving quietly to his locker and beginning his morning preparations.

They may like you upstairs, the hostilities continued to fly. Not me. I don't like you.

It was as if he were talking to himself, nary a soul paid him mind. Nobody seemed offended. Nobody cared.

That's one thing about getting older, the outraged aged began speaking to nobody in specific but perhaps everybody in general. You don't hold you're feelings back. If I don't like something, I say it. And I don't like you.

I glanced to my right and the man who had been washing his shoes in the sink, oblivious to the miscellaneous locker room mayhem, now stood with his left foot on the ground and his bare right foot in the sink. Splashing under the running water, he rubbed and scrubbed and cleaned his previously soiled feet. In the sink.

I couldn't help but laugh at this ship of fools. A motley crew of mayhem.

I smiled a content grin and with a happy heart turned on my razor and began to cut away the meaningless little pieces of my life.


No Wetsuit Girl... overseas! said...

"For some reason, Andrea didn't run away. Or did she...." I love that!

I wish you could bring a camera into the locker room so that we could SEE all these crazy characters. Actually, on second thought... maybe not.

Andrea said...

Gotta love the Y. We could go on and on about the characters we see there. To avoid such encounters, I've decided to overtake one of the "family locker rooms" despite the fact that I'm a family of one. Thanks for the laugh!