Archive for February, 2007

Tales from the Gym – Acoustic Impropriety

It finally happened – someone farted in the sauna. It should come as no surprise, really. Whenever multiple human beings are gathered together in a small space with a great deal of silence and subsequent acoustic scrutiny, the pressure inevitably grows too great for someone to bear. What’s more startling than the act itself though, is the lengths people will go to in creating alternative explanatory noises: a quick cough in the same register, a noisy shuffling of belongings – or in this case, the perpetrator racheting up the volume of the story she was recounting to a friend, giving the rest of us something more interesting to remember. I think the urge to create alternative possibilities is reflexive really – and shows kindness for others. Creating other plausible explanation eases the minds of unwitting witnesses – gives them multiple options to choose from, and a short-cut back to psychological ease. When I was a kid we had a familial exhortation – “barking spiders!” Barking spiders were the standard and default alternative explanation. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the presence of a social fart – so long, in fact, that when the lady down the bench held forth, I very nearly yelled “barking spiders!” at her and the room at large. Fortunately, I restrained myself. But I can’t help but wonder what would clear out a sauna faster – flatulence, or the threat of arachnids with both means and motive to bark?

Add comment February 27th, 2007

Tales from the Gym – Sartorial Subterfuge (partially) Solved

I watched Ocean’s Twelve tonight and I think I might have the beginnings of a theory to explain the recent spate of bizarre gym-wear to which I, and my readers, have been witness. Ocean’s Twelve is about a bunch of loveable thieves who are variously happy-go-lucky, thoroughly cool, deeply insecure, or inexplicable. There’s a scene where one of the younger thieves, named Linus, believes he’s ready to move up within the organization of twelve – ready to take on more of a leadership role. Not convinced that he’s mature enough, but willing to give him a chance, the two real leaders of the group – Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan – take him into a meeting with a potential client who is named Matsui. The ensuing negotiations go like this:

Ryan: “A doctor who specializes in skin diseases… will dream he has fallen asleep in front of the television. Later, he will wake up in front of the television… but not remember his dream.”

Ocean and Matsui nod thoughtfully. Linus looks baffled. Matsui asks Linus if he agrees… after Linus takes too long to answer, Danny Ocean picks up the thread of the conversation.

Ocean: “If all the animals along the equator were capable of flattery… then Thanksgiving and Halloween…would fall on the same date.”

Ryan and Matsui nod as though they have just been enlightened. Now it’s Matsui’s turn.

Matsui: When I was four years old… I watched my mother kill a spider with a tea cozy. Years later, I realized it was not a spider. It was my Uncle Harold.

The hapless Linus is completely lost – so much so that when he can no longer evade his turn in the conversation, the best he can do is quote lyrics from a Led Zeppelin song. He’s made the wrong choice, as we later learn – apparently the lyrics to “Kashmir” actually translated into a grave personal insult to a member of Matsui’s family. Linus is kicked out of the restaurant, while Ocean and Ryan continue negotiations with Matsui alone.

The link?

Well, I think it’s clear. Certain people at my gym are communicating in a similar manner. The tartan-wearer on a treadmill was seen and noted; those who were in on the conversation understood perfectly. One of them responded by hanging a brown and maroon striped wig, in place of a towel, on her shower hook. Again, notice was taken, and someone who understood replied by wearing nothing and a raspberry beret into the sauna. The question now is, do I acknowledge what I see happening around me? Should I, like Linus, attempt to join the conversation? Dare I admit that I don’t know what they’re saying? I think there’s only one way to answer all of these questions. There’s a green velvet Renaissance Festival dress in a box in my closet, and I just ran out of gym clothes…

Add comment February 25th, 2007

Tales from the Gym – Sartorial Subterfuge, Day Three

I came to the gym today expecting the next installment in the unfolding mystery – and I was not disappointed. As I was making my way out of the sauna, I crossed paths with a lady who was just coming in. She was completely naked, except for the raspberry beret perched atop her head. I suppose it too could have been described as maroon, but I challenged anyone who was rocking out to the top 40 in the ‘80’s to call a reddish-pink beret by any other name. I can’t confirm whether or not she walked in through the out door, but she did wear her birthday suit and a beret into the sauna which attests to her non-conformity. Now, people are never completely naked in the sauna; nearly so, yes, but not completely. And no one ever wears a hat, not even the plastic-people – they may wrap themselves from ears to toes but the head is always uncovered. I think covering one’s head in the sauna could result in instant apoplexy, since 90% of the body’s heat escapes through the head (according to a random and totally unverified website). Perhaps unmitigated nudity was necessary to offset the risk of wearing a wool-covered head into a sauna. But what could motivate such risk-taking? What kind of challenge could only be met through such audacious fashion choices?

Add comment February 23rd, 2007

Tales from the Gym – Sartorial Subterfuge, Day Two

In between working out and dehydrating in the sauna we are required to douse ourselves in the showers. They are, fortunately, real grown-up showers – as opposed to those mystery-less group showers of junior high and high school gyms, and (for some of us) college dormitories. Grown-up showers have a single shower head and a door for privacy; of course they have no room for drying off without soaking your towel on the dripping walls and faucets, so everyone dries off in the hallway, somewhat defeating the purpose. But I digress. I was wandering through the showers the other day, vaguely noting the towels and swim suits hanging from shower-side hooks like so many lumpy tapestries when I was startled to see hanging – in place of the requisite towel – a wig. And not just any wig. This was a thick head of false hair that would have tumbled to mid-back. The wavy tresses were a deep brown, and nestled within them were broad vertical stripes of maroon. And not a sort of merlot color that you could conceivably imagine growing out of a human scalp – I mean an unambiguous, illuminated-from-within, too-pink-to-be-purple maroon. Yesterday there was the reflection but no person to cast it. Today there’s a wig with no head to wear it. I’m sensing some deeper meaning in all of this…

Add comment February 8th, 2007

Tales from the Gym – Sartorial Subterfuge, Day One

Jogging along the treadmill, I spotted a doubly-refracted and most unlikely gym-colleague. Doubly-refracted because I was looking at the mirrors ahead and to the right of my stationary jog, which were refracting the mirrors in the back and to my left. Most unlikely because, somewhere within all those mirrors, a woman was strolling along her own treadmill wearing an ankle-length yellow and black plaid tartan. She was also wearing black sweat pants (underneath the tartan), white tennis shoes, an eggshell-colored turtleneck and a black button-up-the-front vest. We ran along our respective treadmills, she and I; I occasionally swiveling my head around my neck trying to spot the real woman rather than just the reflection. Obviously, she was nowhere to be found. Yet tantalizingly there she was, for a solid twenty minutes, cruising serenely along the conveyor belt in her ankle-length tartan – apparently in some alternate gym-reality twice removed from my own. She grew warm after awhile and unfastened the top few buttons on her vest. I grew afraid after awhile that I would become dizzy from all of the neck swiveling, be projected off the back of the treadmill, and crash into the mirrors. At which point I would either be completely embarrassed in this reality, or I would actually go through both sets of mirrors … and be really embarrassed in some alternate gym reality where everyone works out in their tartans.

Add comment February 5th, 2007