My trip to the gym today was a bizarre one, from the moment I stepped out of my office building into a ridiculously loud cacophony of birdsong. For a second, I thought maybe some students were filming a movie and running a high-volume recording of birds. Nope, just a zillion returned migrators in the trees out front.
I avoided any sort of Tippi Hedren incidents, and made it to the gym. There I discovered that the new fluorescent lights (like many, but not all, others around campus) were producing a horrible low-pitched whine in my hearing aids. (I can barely go to meetings in one campus building, the light-induced whine is so bad.) Luckily, I don’t wear my aids when I work out, so this didn’t bother me for long. As I changed, someone’s cell phone – entombed in a locker – started ringing, a crazy 120bpm rhythm with a rising melody. It rang for an appropriate number of seconds, went quiet, and then started again. Quiet, then ringing again. In a hurry to get the hell away from it, I tied my shoes in the hallway.
Down in the fitness center, I chose a treadmill offering equally good views of two different TVs. I figured that both would probably be airing the usual sorts of noontime crap, but that it would be different crap, and since I could look back and forth between them, that I would consume just half as much crap. Sure enough, the right-hand screen showed first a soap opera (all dark-haired men with lantern jaws and blonde women with Victoria’s Secret cleavage) and then live coverage of the AIG hearings on Capitol Hill (all pasty white guys gesticulating wildly and talking sternly back and forth).
Thankfully, and in utter distinction from those two sorts of drivel, the left-hand screen was tuned to a show on the History Channel: the history of ice cream. It was educational and entertaining! I actually learned quite a bit about the differences between regular ice cream, soft-serve ice cream, and frozen yogurt, and about the corporate niches of Dairy Queen, Ben & Jerry’s, and TCBY. (I also learned about the insane “Vermonster” sundae at B&J’s. The 20 scoops of ice cream just start the craziness.) Actually, come to think of it, the show was basically an advertisements for those companies and their products, a point reinforced by actual ads for DQ between the segments of the show. Well, DQ ads and ads for debt-relief agencies. Which are basically just two forms of commentary on American indulgence.
As the show wound on, its educational aspects were replaced by an insanely strong desire for ice cream, and lots of it. I ended my workout just as the show ended and headed back to the locker room, where, of course, the cell phone was still ringing, and ringing, and ringing. Again hurrying to get away from its satantic ring tone, I chose the nearest shower stall and cranked on the water – and discovered that the shower curtain was a good four inches narrower than the space between the sides of the stall. It was like showering in a hospital gown. I hurried through my shower and went back to the locker room, where the owner of the cell phone – someone who did not look like the sort of person who likes 120bpm music – was happily chatting away. Naked.
I’ve never gotten dressed so fast. I was heading out the front door of the gym within five minutes, back toward the still iced-over Lyman Lakes and my office.