I awakened feeling slightly indignant about the premature jolt into consciousness, yet somewhere deep within my aging sack of meat, grateful for another day spent above earth's mossy peat pile.
And while a lot of us roll out of the sack with our senses muted and dormant, still numb from the Sandman's double-wrapped sleep condom, I swung my toasty toes onto the cold hardwoods, again feeling instantly vulnerable to the slightest sensory assault.
Which is why my gym and me may not be such a compatible match.
I slammed the locker and glanced at myself in the mirror before heading to the aerobic area. Not good. During the night, my hair had wadded into swirly little islands, as if the remaining strands had gathered to seek comfort among the others who'd been left behind during these follicular End Times.
Doing my best to even out my unsightly pate, I shuffled into the cardio room, a cramped bandbox which formerly served as a church basement. Ample headroom surely existed when the structure was originally built for hosting five-foot people who sat on folding chairs and ate macaroni salad, but the strapping athletes who currently inhabited the space commanded a significantly higher ceiling to accommodate their frothy exhalations of carbon dioxide.
Since only two exercisers are required to thicken the air and cloud the windows, the three treadmill runners and one rower gave the room the bouquet of a dorm room the morning after Taco Bell Garlic Gordita Value Meal Night.
Seriously, when I walked into that sweaty cave at the Y this morning, I swear the pH balance matched the atmosphere of Uranus and one of the joggers was actually a streptococcus bacterium that had grown legs.
Overcome with the moist essence of human exertion, I strode over to a window to release some of the greenhouse gasses into the Seattle ozone before commencing my workout. I cracked the window, felt the relief of a cool draft against my cheek, and retreated to an unoccupied elliptical trainer.
I turned. Scowling down at me from his Stairmaster stood a man roughly my age. "Would you mind closing that? It's very chilly in here."
Holy shit, I thought. Since when was eighty degrees and one hundred percent humidity considered chilly? What is this guy, my grandma? "Um, can I leave it open just a little? See how the windows are fogged up?"
"I suppose," he crabbily barked. He may or may not have realized he was scratching his crotch as he said this.
I returned to the window and decreased its opening from two inches to one. Our eyes met once more, and although he still appeared unsatisfied, I ignored it. Whatever, I surmised. Apparently, this dude hasn't had his Cap'n Crunch, Now With Xanax Berries yet. Crabby old bastard.
Mounting the elliptical, I breathed deeply and set the machine for thirty minutes. I balanced myself and cleared my head. Then I realized what had just happened:
The encounter which had just transpired was not just with a grumpy old man. It was an exchange between two grumpy old men.
Sweet Jehovah, when did this happen? As a younger guy, I'd always told myself that as I aged, my burgeoning wisdom would cultivate tolerance and understanding; I'd grow in my zen-like patience and acceptance of others. My flexibility would carve out a dwelling as deep as the wrinkly lines on my sagging bottom.
Um yeah, obviously not.
Last week, a woman sat in front of me on the bus, digging at something so deeply on the back of her scalp, I thought that any minute her middle finger might emerge from her eye socket. I watched her with laser focus, burning slowly with a blue ire. Her behavior consumed me whole. Finally, I snapped out of my trance long enough to tell myself, Dude, just ignore it. You won't acquire HIV from some lady scratching her head. Just read your damn book.
I couldn't let it go. I maniacally fantasized of things I wanted to say, like, "You know what? Whatever it is you're trying to accomplish with your fingernail obviously isn't working. But it's your lucky day, because Safeway is having a sale on cheese graters so take my club card, stop spreading your toxic dander to everyone here and get the hell off this freaking motor coach!" The crowd would erupt as I lobbed my parting shot, "Come back when you're ready to never come back, Typhoid Mary!"
Didn't say any of it, though. At least there's still a little filter there.
It just seems like I used to be so much more patient with things like kids and restaurants and other drivers. And I suppose acknowledging it is the first step toward recovery, right?
Now please stop sniffing and blow your nose, already.
- Seattle, Washington,
- August 28
- I'm a middle-aged dad, clinging to my daughters' waning youth and my sanity.
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