i was at the gym the other day, having just a hell of a time. i was running on the giant industrial treadmill at about 6 mph, a nice steady pace. my goal was 3 miles. i was feeling good. listening to miles davis' "filles de killimanjaro," getting completely lost in the incredible drumming on that album. miles and herbie hancock were taunting each other back and forth with trumpet and keyboard, each shooting off turrets-like blasts, back and forth, back and forth, each only about a half measure long and so loud and overfilled with notes, sounding like an old man trying to catch his breath but only coming up with spastic coughs. it was great. i was about 12 minutes into my run, about a mile and a quarter, when the machine just stopped. didn't slow down, nothing gradual, but instantly came to a complete halt. i was not focusing on running at all, everything was going smooth, until i about busted my sternum on the front display of the treadmill and nearly flipped myself over the top. well, looking like an idiot, i quickly tried to find the problem so i could get back to my run without losing any more momentum. so, i got it started back up again and was about 7 minutes into it when the same thing happened. my reaction was the same. i was angry and frustrated and looked like a complete fool when the girl next to me said "yeah, it was doing the same thing to the last person" (i'm not sure why you wouldn't tell the new person about this problem).
so, i got on another machine, finished my workout and headed to the locker room. when i got there, and old man, probably mid-60's, and very heavyset, was standing in front of my locker in only his tightie whities. i stalled a bit, avoiding eye contact, headed to the bathroom, filled up my water bottle and went back to find him in the same spot, still in his underwear, but now with a t-shirt on. i finally struck up a little conversation with him, mentioned that he was in front of my locker, and he moved and we kept talking. the conversation was empty, but it was nice. my favorite part was after i was complaining about the treadmill and that nobody warned me, he said, "well, they say that the problem with common sense is that it isn't all to common."
i felt good, then. the saying, well, it was cliche and not very enlightening, but it felt good just to have this little bull shit conversation with this guy, both standing in our undies. it is something that i really have been missing up here, the simple camaraderie with people, talking cause you're both people and, why the hell not? people walk around the gym and don't acknowledge anything but themselves. they ignore you and pump their chests out and admiringly stare, pseudo-intimidatingly at themselves in the mirror, ignoring everybody. i realized through this conversation that when i am really tired during my morning janitor shift at the ice rink, frustrated that nobody seems to be able to hit the urinal and i have to mop their piss off the floor and clean tobacco chew off the locker room walls, it is still important for me to at least, acknowledge people. just say good morning to them when i pass them in the hall, slow my pace a bit and linger, just in case they need to indulge in a little bull shit conversation. everybody is in a situation. not the same situations, but maybe they just bombed a test, or their baby at home is sick, or they broke up with someone, or maybe they are just ornery because its so cold outside, but they are in a situation. that is kinda what brings people on the same level with each other. and maybe just being acknowledged throughout their day instead of feeling invisible may make that situation a little easier to cope with. even a little bullshit conversation, at least somebody is realizing that you're there.
im not pretending to have advice to spread, or to insist everybody begin talking more, i just made a realization for myself. this old man helped me to remember something about being human that i left somewhere in high school. i felt good when i was finished in the locker room. but i felt inclined to linger a bit. i was sad for this man, knowing that he was headed into the gym to exercise and knowing that for the next hour or two he would be completely ignored and snubbed and labelled and probably discouraged. though i felt so much better, i left hoping that sometime on the way home, whether at the grocery store or at the fuel pump, somebody would engage in a little bull shit conversation with him.