In the locker room I see cute little high school girls with slim waists and fake-bake tans and cell phones stuck to their ears and long, straight hair, wearing Daisy Dukes that say "cheerleader" on the butts, and tight camis. And I kill a swift longing for my own long-gone sixteen-year-old self, and try to recognize the face that looks back at me in the mirror by the door.
And today everybody on the track is going left from the door and I step off lively to blend in with the power walkers and the runners from the college, who are doing power laps.
Ahead of me is a lady who usually walks with a friend, and I see them all the time, talking earnestly and continually, and always passing me, and I stare at them, because they rarely laugh or even smile, and I wonder, what the HECK do you talk about everyday that is so dang serious? Today this lady is by herself, very strange, and even odder, when I pass her, she smiles. I like her haircut, but don't know her to tell her so. And I walk on.
From the track you can see the foyer, the machines, the gyms, the spinning room, the gymnastics room, all on the inside; and out the windows, the park, the pond, the parking lots. Today I'm not seeing much outside--too foggy. Last week, I watched two kids walk on the icy pond, wondering if the ice were thick enough to hold them (it was).
But there's plenty to see inside.
Mostly today I am noticing all the conversations. In the foyer there's nearly always a group or two of people chatting way, sometimes, for the whole half-hour I walk. Sometimes it's two or three women--maybe they're waiting for kids to be done in dance class, or tae-kwon-do?--and sometimes it's a man and a woman, like one day last week. They talked and talked, laughing, looking serious, focused. How did they know each other? What were they talking about? I wished I had a pair of the Weasleys' Extendable Ears.
Today I watched a lady talking to a guy on a stepper machine (they were really into their conversation, too, and it went on for over half an hour) and I wondered, how the heck does he have the breath to work that stepper and talk at the same time, for so long?
And I watched the coach of the college kids encouraging them, calling out times as they passed, and then talking to each runner as they completed their laps and peeled off into the open area.
I watched two people sitting on the bench by the stairs not talking to each other, as an older lady and a middle-aged man waited for someone to get done with ... something.
The two young women with heavy hips who'd walk, then jog, then walk, then jog, talking all the time. Would they be short-termers, New Years' resolution-type people, working out at top speed for a month, then dropping out as busy-ness overcomes them? Or would I be seeing them into the spring, getting smaller and smaller? (And running faster and faster?) Stay tuned.
And here are those high-school girls from the locker room, me passing them, as they amble around the track, more focused on their social life than their walking speed.
And towards the end of my many laps, the crowd starts to gather in the spinning room, or, as I think of it in my head: the torture chamber. Because when those people get spinning, they all look like they are about to die, cheered on by the unbelievably perky, well-turned-out instructor and accompanied by a wide sampling of energetic '80s music. Today I spot someone I know adjusting her bike before the class, but I refrain from rapping on the window to get her attention. She might be in her last few moments, and I don't want to scare her. I'm glad my walk gets done before the spinning starts--that class wears me out, even though I'm just passing by.
A half-hour of observation and I'm done--back in the locker room it's mostly moms and little kids, stripping down to swim, the room full of instructions like "Take your shoes off" and "Put your clothes in here" and "You have to go potty! NOW!"
I'm ready to go--I've not had any conversations here, except the made-up ones in my head. Next time I'll remember new batteries for my radio, and maybe I won't be so interested in other peoples' lives.
Or, maybe I will.
How about you? What conversations have you overhead?