I’m in our building’s heath club at 6:30 a.m.
The pool behind me is placid. The weight room on my left is deserted. I have the cardio room all to myself. I am walking on the treadmill at 3.8 miles per hour, because this is the maximum speed at which I can easily read a book on my Kindle and exercise at the same time.
My solitude is interrupted by a couple — a young man and young woman — who come bounding down the stairs and spring into the cardio room. Both are blond. Both have large white teeth. Both wear skin-tight Nike-branded unitards over their taut ivory skin. Both have been Stairmastered to death.
My presence seems to surprise them. They glance at me, glance at each other, and then slink to opposite sides of the room. The young man, muscles rippling, mounts the elliptical machine right next to me; his partner (a girlfriend? a sister?) climbs onto another elliptical machine about ten feet away on my left. As though choreographed, the pair drop their water bottles into the cup holders, pull out their iPods, push earbuds into opposite sides of their skulls, and start their workout.
I keep reading.
The young woman clutches her chest. “Ron!” she yells. “Ron!”
Ron turns to look at her. “What?”
I glance in her general direction, wondering if she’s having some kind of coronary event. She nods at the television. “The game,” she bellows. “Did you see that recap?”
“Yes!” Ron shouts. “Told you so!”
The young woman adjusts a control on the machine. “What do you think Ricky will say about that?” she hollers.
Ron shrugs. “He’ll say it was a fluke.”
Their conversation continues along these lines for several minutes — both of them wearing earplugs, both of them yelling to each other (over me!) at the top of their lungs.
I keep walking. I put my Kindle down on the treadmill’s shelf. I take out my iPod. I put in my own earbuds, crank up the music, retrieve my Kindle, and continue my read … without breaking my stride.
They keep talking, but now, at least, I can’t hear them. Eventually, the guy glances at me, glances at the girl, and, using large, exaggerated lip motions, mouths, “Let’s go.” They shut off their machines, snatch up their water bottles, and leave the room.
I keep reading. I keep walking.
I can’t escape the feeling that — without even knowing that I was competing — I’ve won some kind of game.