Thursday, February 15, 2007

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.

6 comments:

Alex said...

I worked for two years at the IWU gym just to see someone take a spill of any kind on a treadmill and it never happened. If only I could have been that girl next to you. But if i was that girl i would have told you that the machine didn't work because i am not just your friend but i am a nice person.

Jason Heron said...

I can completely understand what you're saying, but I'm coming from the other side, not wanting to talk to a whole lot of people, not wanting any bull-shit, and knowing that I'm wrong. I shut others out for no good reason. I can't give an excuse. I can only start every sentence in this comment with 'I,' which says something about me, I think. I know my life is lacking connection to others. I know I justify it by telling myself I devot my time to Hannah and Margot and a handful of good friends. I know this is rationalization. I hope God helps with this sort of stuff, and I suspect God does, but I'm not feeling too chummy right now - not even with old guys in underwear.
Signed:
Grumpy

jason shrontz said...

yeah, i see your side of it, too. in fact moreso than the side of conversation i was writing about. i think that that was why i felt it was worth writing about. cause i hate chit chat and shallow conversation so much, but at the same time, i started getting angry and bitter at my community because they don't even acknowlegde people for being people. i guess that bull shit conversation is a somewhat weak form of acknowledgement, but its more of an acknowledgement than passing me in the hall at the ice rink, and then going into the bathroom to shit all all over toilet seat and not flushing. though, i guess that is a form of acknowledgement too, knowing i'm there and will have to clean up after them. the problem with my post, though, is that there is no guarantee, and little hope, that someone wont say "good morning, hows it going?' then go out to the parking lot and key my car. ya know? but, somewhere in there, i still have the conviction to have faith in mankind. i'm not sure why. but every once in a while ya get that one person that'll help ya jump your truck when you're in the parking lot and its blowing seven below zero, or the person that'll throw ya a quarter when you're at the grocery store and 23 cents short. i think one of those acts affects me way more than being snubbed. probably because we've come to expect being snubbed. i dont know. i gotta go, though. talk to ya soon. maybe. maybe i'll just ignore you and piss all over your floor. depends how long this cold lasts up here.
shrontz

Anonymous said...

Jason , I tried to leave you a note last week and typed it and for that is a labor of love, and I went to send it and puff it was gone no anonymous messages .Thanks for changing it . Back to my thoughts ....I think that you were in the right place at the right time and we all need to reach outside our comfort level to others that may need someone to talk to them even if it is shallow ..and sometimes bull. We get too busy and havn't anytime for that . Someone at the bank this week called me on this very matter and noticed that I seemed busy to talk so your comments were what I needed. Love Dad TB

Jenn swift said...

I'm making note of the really great music you have listed here and the fact that you were talking about Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock... just great. Last week I went to a master class piano workshop led by Robert Irving III, Herbie Hancock's following piano player with Miles... unreal. I had one of my piano student's with me (16 yrs old). We're at a jazz venue. He says, when I tell him who this guy is and who he sat with, "Who's Miles Davis" *gasp* - look aroun the room, point across the room to album cover, "That guy. You should go hide now." Deplorable.

How've you been?

The treadmill did the same thing to me last week during something Imogen Heap. Really annoying.

jason shrontz said...

Hey jen, great to hear from ya. i've been doing very well. how about you? cant believe your student didn't know miles davis! did you slam his fingers in the car door on the ride home? i would've. i've been listening to "filles de kilmanjaro" and "sketches of spain" a lot lately. love them both.
also, its funny that you mentioned imogen heap. i had never heard of her until my wife started listening to frou frou. apparently she was in or is imogen heap, or something. she didnt have any of her albums, though, so for her b-day last week i bought her a gift card for itunes so she could buy them. (i despise itune's store--something about having the music and not the packaging really bothers me, but considering they dont have cds in the UP, its either itunes or steal)

hey, glad you found this blog! i'll make sure to check yours out too. sorry about your treadmill experience, though. i can relate.

jason shrontz