Saturday, April 5, 2008

Like A Treadmill Cowboy

I had 15 minutes to go in my elliptical machine workout when in the mirror I saw a large man walk up to the treadmill beside me. He seemed bigger than he was because of the stiff leather jacket he wore, with fringe on the sleeves and several metal embellishments. The jacket looked as though it could fully stand on its own with no bodily support from its owner. He wore a grey hat that looked like a cross between a cowboy hat and a fedora, but grossly inappropriate for the traditional wearer or either of those fashions. He removed the jacket and hat and set them on the out of order treadmill next to him. I wondered what he would have done with his things had there not been an idle piece of machinery next to him, since the 300 empty lockers downstairs clearly weren’t a secure option for such valuable pieces.

His black hair was secured around the forehead by what looked like a black ace bandage wrapped once or twice straight around his head. The hair beneath the band fell in soft waves almost to his shoulders, but was short enough in the front to reveal the dangling silver cross earring that swung from his right ear. He began a brisk walk and as he did his clothing began to shift with his body, as did the fancy earring. The large white T-shirt he wore hung down to the knees of his dark grey tapered leg sweatpants, the elastic bottoms of which just met the Velcro straps of his black hi-tops. The neck of the shirt was cut out Flashdance-style so that it draped at a saucy, flirtatious angle over his rounded, creamy shoulder. The sleeves and sides were also cut, revealing the white, dimpled flesh from his armpit down to the bunched elastic waistband of his sweatpants. After ten minutes of walking he stepped down and walked over to a machine on the Strive weight training circuit. I’ve mentioned the Strive circuit before, but I don’t know if I’ve fully explained how passionate many people are about this training. Avid Strive athletes are very touchy about keeping up the flow of their set. I almost came to blows once with a 53 year old librarian because I failed to stay two machines ahead of her, thus throwing off her timing. When this man arbitrarily sat down at the 5th machine on the circuit and began grunting out 15 pound reps he was abruptly chastised for butting in by a svelte salt and pepper-haired man in wire frame glasses. He gave the man a blank look while mumbling an apology. He feigned interest in the posted rules of Strive etiquette on the opposite wall until the collective focus of the room shifted away from him. As soon as everyone was back to checking their heart rates and numbers of calories burned he quickly exited the room, his glistening shoulder proudly leading the way as though he’d been planning an 11-minute workout all along. It was difficult to maintain such an air of self possession when, 30 seconds later, he returned to the room to retrieve his urban trail boss outerwear from the non-working treadmill. I think we all knew he wouldn’t be back.

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