Monday, February 19, 2007

Gym Mystery and Guilt

I went to retrieve my gym bag after my workout today and came across an old woman sitting in her bathing suit, quietly weeping.

It took me a while to notice that she was crying, because her sobs were very tiny. In fact, I might not even given her a second glance, save the fact that she was parked on the bench right in front of my locker. It was either undress with my lap in her face or go discreetly around the corner.

When I did so I could openly glance at her. At first I looked in askance at her through my annoyance that I'd had to move, then it was frank as I realized she hadn't moved and I was concerned she might be dead. It was only after those first two emotions registered that I realized she was out and out weeping.

And when I mean weeping, I mean slow, rolling tears of misery and over tiny, stifled gasps of air. It wasn't just a "my husband's out of viagra" cry, it was "I'm dying of diabetes and my autistic son will be turned out on the streets" cry (or atleast, that was one of the scenarios in my head. I also briefly envisoned her embroiled in a torrid love affair with Dick Cheney, but then - why would she choose to moon about it at ratty ol' Sport 'N' Health? Anyway...)

I feel like these types of awkward moments happen to me a lot - or at the very least, they bother me more than most people. I think it's because at these moments, I feel like it's my duty as a good person to 'DO' the right thing. (I mean, come on, WWJD people! That last word is a verb, right?) I feel like it's a test that St. Peter is going to re-broadcast at my passing as evidence that I was, put nicely, wasting space.

"See? Remember that time when you asked that homeless man if he wanted an orange? Stupid. He didn't speak English."

"If you'd only given that kid a pencil at the Mua Mission, he'd have written twelve novels by now. Your selfishness deprived the world of another Chinua Achebe."

"Oh yeah, remember THIS time? Your mom was so lonely - all she needed was a call from you to cheer her up. And here you are sitting in front of the television with your heathen boyfriend."

"And that lady in the locker room? She needed was a ride home. You gently handed her some kleenex and then secretly wished she'd be gone when you got back from the sauna."

She wasn't incidentally. She wasn't gone.

But she was clutching my kleenex.


k8 said...

Good for you for being a nice lady and handing her a tissue. There's nothing more you could have done without opening a hugely uncomfortable can of worms.

I'd also like to add that you're lucky she had a bathing suit on. Lately, it seems that every old woman I come across in the locker room is some kind of exhibitionist... and TOTALLY nude. Just walking around or sitting at the makeup mirror or COMING OUT OF THE STALL. It would seem that at Lifetime Fitness in SLP, MN, the older you get, the less inhibited you are--and the more saggy your boobies.

jb said...

m -- i agree with kate that you actually probably did just the right thing given the situation. don't beat yourself up about that at all ... i suspect you had a bigger affect on her than you think you did.

and kate -- i totally hear what you're saying. i work out in the gym on campus during lunch, and everyday after the work out i encounter my flagrantly naked coworker changing in the locker room. and she's also old and saggy and uninhibited. and now when i see her in the office i get absolutely creeped out.

Megan said...

Small things are big deals. Who knows what she was crying about, but if we spend our days thinking about what else we could've done for every single person that could possibly need help... well, you'd never get anything done, including helping the people that your career, daily life, and general direction are best suited for.

In other words: you did what you could, and it's a whole lot.

nate-nate-bo-bate said...

If I was crying in gym locker room (probably about Brangelina or something) and someone handed me a tissue, it would make my day. Now, I'm no elderly woman, but I'd say you did right by that gal. If she was so low that she was crying in a gym locker room, just the simple act of handing her a tissue is something that she's still thinking about.

Also, Kate, it doesn't get any better in the men's locker room. There are waaaay too many guys that are more than comfortable with a pair of flip-flops and little else. These guys are even cool with shaving (their faces) in this state. Very. very uncalled for.