This is where I work:
It’s off the main drag, around the corner and attached to the back of a hotel with faded awning and carpets. Next door is a chipped-white-ceramic-mug diner, open just until 3, because the hotel guests like to go elsewhere for supper. “Tired management, poor advertising, hidden from the highway,” explains my boss when I ask him why this is so.
You don’t say, imagine that, I think, but keep it to myself.
Apparently it used to be the go-to restaurant in town, but now I just see a lot of white hair passing in and out of the doors. Half of the time the bell rings on the door at my work, it’s somebody who’s mistaken us for the restaurant. Oh well, it keeps things interesting, trying to explain to the elderly patrons that this is not, in fact, a diner.
I work in a gym. A fitness centre; a meat shop, whatever you want to call it. It’s ten ’til four, and usually this would mean that I would be vacuuming. I’ve just finished dusting the already-spotless equipment, when the door ding-dongs and in bustles a gentleman, presumably from the hotel, because I can see a pink ‘Hotel Guest Pass’ ticket sticking out between his fingers. I ask him to sign in, he hands me his ticket, and I show him to the gym.
Not two minutes later, he is back at the desk, a worried look on his pink face. “Excuse me, but where is the sauna?”
Sauna? You wish. I wish.
“Sorry sir, we don’t have a sauna.”
He gives me a blank, uncomprehending look. “No sauna? But, I need a sauna!” What am I supposed to do”
I am about to suggest turning on the shower in the handicap washroom as hot as it will go and closing the door, but somehow I can’t imagine this being a satisfactory solution on any level. So I simply repeat myself, “Well, I’m not sure, but we have no sauna. I’m sorry.”
He mumbles something and walks back into the gym. Problem solved. I turn my attention back to the TV – the Olympics are on, and I’m completely enraptured by the women’s moguls competition. I tell you, the only time I can ever imagine myself being remotely interested in women’s moguls is during the Olympics – it amazes me every year that this event can make me care so much about a competition I would turn the channel from any other time.
“Hey,” I hear a voice, and look over to see Bill standing there. “That guy you just let in, he’s using the pull-up machine all wrong. Maybe somebody should show him how so he doesn’t get hurt or something.”
“Er – yeah…” I agree, wondering how on earth somebody could hurt themself on that machine. I guess you never know. Stranger things have happened, and I suppose I don’t really want to be held responsible on the off-chance. The thing is, I don’t actually know how to work that machine – or any of them, really. I never work out. I hate working out. I think working out is about as much fun as having an enema on your birthday.
But I don’t tell this to Bill. He is, after all, the one paying to be here.
Ookay. I step into the gym, wondering what exactly I’m going to say. Thankfully, Bill sidles over to me: “It’s okay. He’s off that machine.”
The door dings. I make it to the front and my heart sinks. Oh no. It’s Kevin.
“Hello,” I smile at Kevin and immediately look back down at my computer screen.
“Heeeey, how’s it goin? Have a good weekend? You do some partying?” Kevin grins widely at me in a conspiratory manner. For whatever reason, Kevin has this idea that I am a huge partyer; that I am out at the bar, boozing and schmoozing every weekend, all weekend. I have no idea why, but I cannot shake it out of him.
“Uhh, nope,” I answer. “Just hung around at home. And went to church,” I add in for good measure. Please, just go work out now.
“Ahh. I see, I see.” That stupid grin is still on his face. “Has Evan come in yet?”
“Nope, not yet.”
“That slacker. He’s always trying to compete with me, to see who’s bigger.” Kevin rolls his eyes and leans on the counter. “He weighs 180, and I weigh 210. And he thinks he can do all the same exercises as me.”
“Uh-huh,” I smile. Go away now. I don’t care.
But Kevin doesn’t go away, and I have to hear all about how Evan must have been desperate to marry the girl he did the other weekend, and how Kevin hates always being asked to model because of his fine muscular physique, and how he hates in when his wife shows up at the gym at the same time as him, because this is his time.
Finally, as I think I’m all “uh-huh-ed” and “I see-ed” out, Kevin skips off into the gym to show off to whoever will pay attention to him in there.
I happen to glance outside. It’s already dark out – I can barely make out the group of sketchies smoking under the bridge. I catch the tail end of Olympic men’s cross country skiing, tidy the gym and turn out the lights. It’s time to go home.
Thank goodness! Having nothing to do all day is surprisingly exhausing.