The Other End of Sunset

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A day in the life

I started this morning at 4:45 am.

That's really early for me. It's early, I think, for anyone but newspaper delivery people and donut makers, but I could be wrong.

At any rate, it's really early for me.

And it was dark. Not as cold as it has been lately here in the Bay Area. (Of course, it doesn't really get cold here. Not like in, say, Wisconsin. But cold. Like it is 50 degrees sometime. Practically snowing. Sometimes I actually have to wear a jacket. Horrors!)

I digress.

Why was I up at such a ridiculous hour? I had a radio interview to do, live, by phone, to a city in a different time zone. (It went fine, thanks for asking!)

After I finished, I drove to the office. It's about 10 minutes away from where I stay. And man is it lonely, and a bit creepy, on Highway 101 at that hour. Like, where are all the people? Wow. It felt a bit like that Twilight Zone episode -- you know, the one with the bookworm, with glasses, who survives the nuclear war in a basement only to come out, thrilled that nobody is around, until he drops his glasses and faces a lifetime of "alone time" without any books to read. (OK, that is a scary thought.)

I wonder about newspaper delivery people. Maybe they park their cars and jog to the houses on their routes to drop off papers. Do you think they get lonely? Or scared? Or are they so jazzed to be alive and outside that they see only the possibilities for the next few hours, as the sun rises, and the birds wake up, and people start to enter "my" world. I wonder.

But that's not the point of this posting.

Right after I got to the office, I went to the gym. (Well, I talked to an engineer that was here first. I was worried about why she was at work. And why she was wearing the same clothes as the previous day. Indeed, she had been working all night. I asked her to go home. Anyway, back to our regular story.)

At the moment, our gym is pretty darn small. It gets crowded. I expected that at 5:30 am, it would be empty. Mostly, I was right. There was a guy finishing up lifting as I got there. No problem.

While I was there, I noticed an odd behavior. A woman walked into the room -- which is empty -- and carefully set out a magazine and a water on one of the elliptical trainers. And then walked out to go stretch or something. She was gone for a while, and came back, and got onto the machine she had saved.

I guess I (sort of) understand the idea of saving a machine. But the place is empty. Who are you saving it from? (And, I don't really understand saving it anyway, but I was trying to be nice.)

As I was sitting there pondering this behavior, it happened again. This time a guy.

Now I'm starting to believe that somehow, the social norms at the gym have changed, and nobody told me. Perhaps I missed a release of the Gym Rule Manual(tm). Or maybe there was a speech in which some major government official said that (a) it's ok to save equipment, even in empty gyms and (b) we might think about getting out of Iraq someday. That would explain it, right?

I think people in gyms are funny, much like people in Southwest Airlines lines. Like often in crowded gyms, people will "work in a set" -- you know, when you are done with one set, they step onto the machine and do a set, and then you switch again.

And there are people who don't like this whole "working in" thing. They will do such social tricks as.... try to avoid the other person's eyes. Or elaborately stretch on the machine, requiring at least 50% of it's hardware in order to stretch ... some muscle that I can't identify. Or try to look tough. Because it's clearly a personal affront that the machine can be used by someone else during a rest set. It's some sort of possession thing.

I think it's funny.

And then there are the people who don't really want to work out, they want to wear exercise clothes and look at themselves in the mirror. Or maybe look at other people? Dunno. These are (almost always) men. They manage to work a set of curls, and maybe a press or two, into an hour. Dude, what are you doing here?

Maybe gyms are great places to meet people. I've never done so, but I could be weak here. Or maybe there's some sort of strange cosmic energy that comes out in gyms, and so simply being in a gym has some odd health benefit. Like owning a dog.

But really, man, can't you find somewhere else to spend your time?

For those of you playing the home game, my workout lasts a little longer than it takes to listen to Green Day's American Idiot album, but a little shorter than it takes to get to the middle of a tootsie pop without biting....