Friday, October 30, 2015

A Hole in the Water

Carolyn J. Rose

 Every day that I can, I hit the pool for deep-water exercise. Sometimes I run and jog on my own. Sometimes I take a class. Sometimes I chat with others while we work out. Sometimes—usually when I’m stuck on a plot problem and want to concentrate—I paste on my I-want-to-be-alone face and attempt to avoid distractions.

Because I stick to a schedule, I run into the “usual suspects,” swimmers who are sticking to their schedules. Some come for the social aspects—generally they talk more than they exercise. Others are more concerned about the physical benefits—they work as hard as they’re able. Some are preparing for surgery or recovering from it, trying to improve or retain flexibility, or hoping to trim flab and build core muscles.

Sometimes I introduce myself. Sometimes they do. Almost always first names only. Sometimes we remain nameless. I think of them as the man with the fierce butterfly stroke, the woman who never stops talking, the man who rests after every lap, the woman who comes with her sister, the man who always has a tan, the woman who either hasn’t read or doesn’t care about the notice asking us to refrain from wearing perfume.

There are some swimmers whose routines have overlapped mine for a dozen years. There are some who come for only a few months as part of recommended physical therapy. There are others who get a new work schedule, move, or head south for the winter. There are even a few who want more than the public facility offers and leave to join a club.

And there are still others who don’t return because they can’t. Because their health has failed. Or worse.

Those are the ones who leave a hole in the water.

Those are the ones who make me painfully aware of mortality.

Those are the ones who make me wonder how many more days of swimming I’ll have before I leave a hole of my own.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

That Guy

By Mike Nettleton

 At some time or another, we’ve all encountered “that guy.” And, because I’m an equal opportunity ranter, let me point out “that guy” is often a woman. You know who I’m talking about, right?

“That guy” is always perched on the last weight machine at the gym. The one you need to complete your workout before heading for a soothing and well-deserved shower. He sits staring into space, as if trying to puzzle out how he arrived there and what he intends to do next. His eyes meet yours and he nods, then continues his existential questioning. A minute passes, two, three, stretching now into five. Dripping with sweat, with your brain shrieking “please God, strike me dead on the spot,” you consider asking him if he’s going to actually move the weights from their resting position, but finally give up, towel off, and slink away to find hot water. 

Later, defying all odds, you encounter “that guy” again at the supermarket. Or, perhaps it’s a different “that guy” wearing the disguise of a 50 something heavy- set woman who’s standing behind her cart in the soup and rice aisle as you turn the corner and try to enter. Spotting you, she immediately swivels her cart to the diagonal, bends at the waist and finds fascination with a row of chicken stock on the lowest shelf. “That guy’s” (gal’s?) rear end bobs up and down, to and fro, hither and yon to punctuate his (her) efforts. The aisle couldn’t be any more blocked if someone had backed a semi with two trailers in, shut down the engine, pulled out the keys and left the building. If there was a shower in the store, you’d be toweling off and heading for it now. Later, you cross paths with “that guy” in the 10 items or less checkout. He’s pushing through two crammed carts while burying the clerk in a waterfall of expired coupons and trying to cash a 4-party out of state check.

The most dangerous place to encounter “that guy” is behind the wheel of an automobile. “That guy” is the one in the left lane, driving 15 miles-per-hour under the speed limit while the right lane is clogged with a tightly-packed never ending stream of cars. “That guy” has a lifelong love affair with his left turn signal, employing it several dozen streets before turning left, turning right, or going straight through the intersection. 

It pays to be alert when spotting “that guy” approaching a stop sign on the cross street just ahead of you. Your “that guy” Spidey sense will tingle. You’ll glance again to see “that guy” (again a random sexual assignment), texting, singing at the top of his lungs while demonstrating “jazz hands,” blow drying his hair, eating a meatball sub, or examining the polish on her (his?) toenails. Worst case scenario: “that guy” will be involved in all of these behaviors simultaneously. There’s not a chance in hell “that guy” will even consider his brake pedal as he careens across in front of you.

“That guy” is the one who camped his monster SUV cattywhumpus across two slots in the crowded shopping center parking lot. “That guy” is nearly as dangerous in the role of pedestrian, ducking out from behind a parked car to skitter across the street in front of you, then scowling when you have to go into a screeching skid to avoid turning him into a flesh and blood hood ornament.
“That guy” can also be a telemarketer who tries to convince you he’s a close personal friend while phonetically stumbling through  your last name, rendering it unrecognizable.

“That guy” walks her drooling mega-dog through the neighborhood, sauntering away from the steaming mega-load the beast has dumped on the street. “That guy” fires up his lawn mower at 6AM on the only morning you can sleep in. “That guy” never lets facts get in the way of his own loudly-expressed opinion.
Here’s the most sobering thing about the whole “that guy” phenomenon. At some time or another, in the eyes of other people, all of us will take a turn being “that guy.”

Oops, time to go. I just noticed my left turn signal’s been on all the way through this blog.