For twenty years I have been working out at least twice a week. I actually hate it, even if I see plenty of people there that I know. What I love is the feeling of self-righteousness when I leave!
I march with determination to a stairmaster machine. There are only two at the YMCA where Charley and I belong. Neither of these machines will acknowledge my presence digitally, because I refuse to "walk" the stair all the way down before "walking" floorward with the next foot. Instead I do quick half-steps in an attempt to ignore the aloof mechanism. I am penalized by having to clock myself.
I like quiet when I go there. I do not want to listen to Stephan the Romanian dispensing stock tips from his treadmill for a discussion with the people on either side of him. I do not want to listen to Tom's tales of romancing the brunette in the sauna after he got off work the previous evening. I do not want to get involved in Tulia's decision to leave an abusive relationship to join a church group, where she might meet the love of her life.
I begin my stair-stepping when a disruption explodes in front of me. A woman has monopolized the treadmill and two other members are waiting. Both of those waiting have signed in and have seen that the woman has been on for forty minutes - a violation by ten minutes!! "How long have you been on there?" the man asks. Perhaps a workout will dissipate his aggression!
"I'll be finished in five minutes."
"You can't be on that long! There's a time limit of thirty on that machine." The man goes to the attendant.
Patrick doesn't want to ruffle feathers on his watch. He explains in quiet tones to the woman, still treading, that she'll have to relinquish the machine because others are waiting.
"Then I'll take my business elsewhere!" the woman yells at him. Patrick shrugs and retreats to the front counter. The woman remains for the last five minutes she came for.
I proceed to a big rubber ball. I choose the red one, smaller than the others, because I believe I'll get more benefit from sit-ups on a smaller ball. I have no idea where this idea came from. I place my towel over the top and begin twenty-five of these babies, resting before I attempt the next twenty-five. As I begin the second set, I feel the towel and my butt slipping downward. I ignore this, because I just want to finish the damn things! Before I know it, I have landed on my back on the floor with the towel next to me.
I slink off the floor to the area designated for free weights. The YMCA has undergone a transfer in management. The new manager is a young man, intent on attracting members from the body-building set. In tank tops, with tattoos rippling like pythons over straining muscles, these young men have taken positions on every bench. I don't want to be anywhere near them as they grunt and heave. I retreat to the far end of the gym, where one small bench remains vacant. I pick up my miniscule five pounds of lead and conceal them against my thighs.
Once finished with the free weights, I enter the center of the gym. It is here that Jason, our new manager, has redesigned the space so that the weight machines "float" across the center, giving the illusion of a larger gym.
The problem is that people over sixty do not want to be out in the middle of anything. We want to hug a wall or hide in a corner. I climb on the tricept machine and am staring into the eyes of a guy twenty years younger, just six feet in front of me. He is running a marathon on his treadmill, while he watches me struggle.
I wipe the machine and figure I'll return to that one later. I proceed to the leg extension machine. The woman who has relinquished it is five feet ten and weighs approximately two hundred pounds. She wears black gloves without fingers and a bandanna around her head. The bandanna is dripping onto the floor. I head for the paper towels and disinfectant spray. Once I've wiped the machine down (Patrick should be monitoring!), I try to dislodge the metal arm holding the foot pad. I want it to fit my legs, not hers. It won't budge. She has jammed the arm. I strain until I have deep ridges in my palm. "Damn Amazon!" I seethe, heading for Patrick.
When I finish there, I wipe the machine again. Because Jason is now the resident interior designer, there is literally one foot between machines. I slide sideways between the leg extension and leg curl machines to hang my workout chart from the clip on the side. Just as I am in the shape of a wedge of Iceberg lettuce, the Amazon heads for the leg curl machine. I do a U-turn to the mats to start my stretches.
The mats are wet. I have my towel, which I place under me while in the yoga "prayer position." But I hesitate. Is it sweat or is it disinfectant on the mats? I don't take any chances. I spray them and wipe them dry, just in case. I do it again when I've finished. I was going to clean some kitchen shelves when I get home, but I've done enough wiping. I wash up and head to McD's for a frappe!