Anyway, after I finish pumping iron, I’ll hop in the gym’s shower to wash away all of the blood, sweat and tears I’ve built up over the course of the last hour and a half or so. Mostly tears. I cry a lot in the mornings. It’s just a thing. Don’t worry about it.
It was right before one of these showers where I discovered one of my favorite gym characters: the man who hates closed doors. In case you’ve forgotten him, this was the guy who liked to poop with the stall door thrown wide open, and who also showered, once again, with the door open. Different door though, thankfully.
I created a whole backstory for this guy in my head. I decided he was probably a war vet (he’s got a crew cut and wears gray combat boots) who was probably held as a prisoner for an extended period of time and who developed a deep-seated pathological fear of shut doors. Seems obvious. Oh, addendum to that story: I overheard this guy on the phone the other morning talking to what I can only assume was his young kid. Yup, wrinkle.
That kid’s life with dad-who-doesn’t-close-doors must be a goddamn nightmare, by the way. Oh look, there’s dad having sex with mom again. There’s dad taking a dump again. Maybe we should go to your house to play video games next time.
Last Friday though, I had a bathroom encounter which made dad-who-doesn’t-close-doors seem like Ward Cleaver. I walked into the bathroom on that morning, post workout, to find a lady standing there. An honest to god lady.
The woman in question was an older lady, an employee of the gym I go to. Did I mention that? I go to a gym? Five days a week. Not a big deal. Not a hero. Teachers and that one particular cat. The lady is on the cleaning crew and has been filling in for the one guy who usually works in the mornings. She was just in there. In the men’s locker room, vacuuming the carpet.
Now let’s hit the brakes for a second. This isn’t going to turn into some weird, dirty thing ripped from the pages of Penthouse Magazine. Please. I’m an engaged man with two young cats at home to think of.
I did the only thing a man can do in a situation like this: I fell back on my Tyrannosaurus Rex training and hoped that would carry me to safety. More specifically, I froze. My hope was that she wouldn’t be able to see me while I assessed the situation I’d gotten myself into. I glanced, hopefully imperceptibly, to my left. There were urinals. I had not accidentally entered the women’s room, unless my understanding of women’s rooms was totally off point. While I was relieved to know that it wasn’t I who was the invader, I still had a crisis to deal with and I could only stay still for so long before I risked her catching my scent.
Picture the locker as kind of an uppercase L-shape. She and I were currently position on the one line of the L, the locker containing my clothes and shower essentials was on the other line of the L. As I planned my course of action, she noticed me. Perhaps it was my scent, perhaps I’d been moving too much, I had no option. I walked passed her and give her a friendly nod of the head like her presence had in no way thrown me into a violent existential crisis.
Now at that moment, I had two choices: Grab my stuff and flee the locker room and potentially the country or carry on, business as usual. Both seemed like equally good ideas. But then again, the engagement and the cats. Fleeing was out.
I selected an amended version of business as usual. I bought everything I would need for my shower, including a change of clothes, into the stall with me so there was no chance this old lady would get a gander at my nether-bits. I became the polar opposite of dad-who-doesn’t-close-doors. I became, essentially, Howard Hughes dad, which, if I’m being honest, is probably a fate I was already destined for anyway.
So I showered, I dressed, I wandered out of the stall fully clothed and made my way passed the lady – and an increasingly growing number of confused-looking other gentlemen – to the sink, combed my hair and left.
I didn’t complain to management about this invasion of my privacy because I was able to find a fairly-easy workaround and also it seemed like this lady just had no concept that what she was doing was less than appropriate. She wasn’t in there leering at anyone, at least it didn’t feel that way to me. She just knew the carpet needed to be cleaned and she was the cleaning staff, by George. In that way, maybe she’s a hero too, just like the teachers and that one cat. Or maybe she really is just a dirty old broad.
I don’t know. There’s really no life lesson here other than avoid going into public bathrooms with me because weird shit seems to go down when I'm in one.