Note to self: After blogging, be sure to totally switch into Normal World mode before venturing forth.
I worked on a blog entry before leaving the office for the YMCA the other day. It was the first workday after the time change, and a Monday, to boot. It’s depressing when it’s dark at 5 pm. I was grumbling to myself as I walked into the building.
The Y’s lobby has a circular front desk. One half of the sphere greets the outside world. You swipe your membership card in the card reader at the 3 o’clock position, pass through the gate, and emerge around the back half of the desk sphere. On its Formica surface, one (usually, hopefully) finds towels.
The towel situation is a bit of a crapshoot. Sometimes you come around the bend of the desk to see a mountain of clean, white towels, waiting to be folded by the staff. Sometimes the towels rise in neatly folded stacks. And sometimes, there are no towels.
This happens quite frequently in the 5:15 time slot during which I invariably arrive. I think everyone else is skipping out of work early, because often the parking lot is full and the towel counter, empty when I show up.
The thing is, the place is a steambath.
Scientists and environmentalists have worried for years about the rapid deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. How thrilled they were to discover the ecosystem of the local Y exercise room exactly mirrors that of the rainforest. They have been able to successfully transplant rare species of orchids and other plants that need that delicate balance of heat and moisture. If the low hanging plants sometimes interfere with one’s workout, it is a small price to pay to save these precious resources. The spider monkeys are a different story.
I try not to dwell on the fact that the heat is coming from the working bodies all around me, and the humidity is the evaporated sweat of all these strangers. That I am breathing it in. Recognizing this as one of those tipping points that could send you over into Howard Hughes-level germ phobia, I don’t think about it.
Suffice it to say, you need a towel here.
Today, as I swiped my card, I craned my neck to check the back desk. Did I see white? Yes! But that is no guarantee. I’ve seen towels from this vantage point before, only to have them snapped up by exercisers passing through the gate before me. Or sweaty young boys sprinting up from the basketball court down the hall, grabbing the last towel before my aged legs can totter around the desk.
There is white on the desk, but not much. It may not even qualify as a pile – more of a short stack. There isn’t anyone entering in front of me, and those behind must follow me. I’m passing through the gate now, my mind busy sifting through possibilities, plotting angles and velocities from the hallway. I have a definite shot at this.
I navigate around the arc. I reach, trying not to grab, trying not to show desperation. My hand closes around one corner of a towel and I reel it in. It is mine!
As the towel clears the desk I see only Formica underneath. Lo and behold, I have snagged the last towel!
This is where the disconnect from Normal World comes in.
My hand continues its upward trajectory until I am holding the fluffy whiteness aloft, high above my head. I actually throw my head back and laugh. Not the “moo-hoo-wah-hoo-wah-hoo” creepy laugh mastered by my dad, and copied by Dr. Evil. But a full-throated, community theater actors interpretation of Triumphant Laugh. “ha ha ha. HA HA HA!”
If the young woman working the desk were one of the high school Barbies these places usually employ, I would have been on the receiving end of one of two, stock looks.
1) utter blank, bored, incomprehension
2) “whatever”, eye-rolling disdain (underlain by bedrock of “I can’t believe my parents made me get a job to pay for tanning sessions. And at the Y! Sure, there are some cute guys, but mainly snotty kids and sweaty old people!”)
But the woman working today was a little older. She got it. She had the grace to laugh in return and said, “Sometimes it’s the little things.”
post script: I went through the weight machine part of the workout brandishing my towel in an obvious way, pressing it to my still-dry face. Preening like our daughter Lizzy showing off her new, Lisa Frank rainbow folder on the first day of 2nd grade.
post post script: I was up to speed and sweating after only a few minutes on the treadmill. I reached for the towel hanging on the arm of the machine, only to discover it had fallen to the floor. It was too far away to reach. Its pristine whiteness was begrimed with Y dirt. For the next 20 minutes I swiped my stinging eyes with my sleeve.