Archive for March 6th, 2007

Tales from the Gym – Greek Tragedy in the Sauna

Today the TARDIS/sauna took a group of us to Athens circa 500 BC; at least that is the only explanation I can come up with for the emotionally virtuosic Greek tragedy I witnessed. It all began as it often does – I was lying on a bench in the otherwise empty sauna, eyes closed, contemplating the universe. Ten minutes into my reverie the door swung open and a group of women walked in, talking and laughing. One of them interjected, rather stridently, “… That one! I leave to get a drink of water and that one takes my place!” As I was the only person in the sauna when they entered, I could only assume that she was making reference to me. Being falsely accused and referred to as “that one” made me both indignant and nonplussed. Fortunately, the two emotions cancelled each other out and, rather than feeling compelled to act on either, I decided that feigning sleep would be an appropriate response.

Everyone settled onto their benches and Strident Lady began sharing beauty tips. She explained that it is essential to remove one’s makeup before entering the sauna; otherwise the heat opens the pores, the makeup gets sucked inside them, them forms a thin layer of goop underneath the skin that will never, never come out because now it’s like a wax tattoo. ?? She repeated her directive three times to one woman in particular until finally the woman replied – “What, do you think this is make-up? These are my eyes. These are MY EYES. I don’t know what you’re looking at me like that for.” Strident lady replied, “Oh I don’t know… I’m just saying that you should really take your make-up off, and it looks like make-up to me.” The accused fought back, “Quit looking at me like that! I can’t help if I have dark lashes. I was born this way!” Strident Lady replied “I don’t know… I’m just telling you what I see…” The volleys flew back and forth, escalating in intensity, until I was afraid they might come to blows. But then Strident Lady changed the subject.

“Do you know my husband died today?” The sauna collectively gasped. “He fell down downstairs and I heard a big thump. I ran down there and there he was – unconscious! I called 911 and said ‘come help me; my husband just died!’ Then they came and took him to the hospital and fixed him up. Now he’s better.” We all exhaled, tried to relax our rigidly tensed muscles, and sank back into the benches. But there was more.

“I don’t have any kids. My kids are my dogs. But I had to give them to the doctor, they were too sick. It broke my heart. I’ve had them since they were two week old babies. Imagine – giving your children away because you can’t take care of them anymore. That’s what I had to do.” We all wiped away a tear.

Strident Lady asked everyone in the sauna where they were from; I got passed over because I was still miming invisibility. When one of the other ladies said she was Italian Strident Lady began wailing. “My best friend was Italian! Oh how I loved her! Oh how I miss her! She was Italian, and so the US kicked her out. No reason at all, other than that she was Italian! Now she can never come back ever again. I can’t find her. My best friend in the world, lost to me!” Granted, my eyes were closed, but I think we were all nearing emotional exhaustion at that point. There was a great deal of silence, and a bit of sniffling.

Strident Lady then bid everyone a cheery goodbye and left the sauna. Immediately the other ladies began grumbling. “She’s always like that…” “Can’t think a thought edgewise when she’s in here.” I come here to relax; not to get beat up and interrogated…” Then everyone else left the sauna as well.

Stealthily, I opened my eyes to make sure all the ladies were all gone. All but one. And she was looking right at me. No turning back; I had to admit that I was conscious and accept the consequences. As I picked my way down from the top bench she smiled broadly and said, knowingly, “you slept!” I managed a sort of limp chuckle in response and added “yeah, it’s really relaxing in here.”

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