No Shoes, No Service

I am not often in a bad mood. I mean, a seriously bad one. I am often (too often?) in a subdued mood and that can seem like surly to others who don’t know that I try very hard not to have any personality whatsoever in most circumstances.
For example, we have a new man at the office, Hugo, whom I will be working with fairly closely. I’ve now been at the same company, at more or less the same desk, doing the same job for the same clients for five (long) years as of June 1st. I’ve seen some changes, as one does, and I’ve had my position rearranged because I found that I’m not very good at managing people — or being managed — and would prefer mostly to be left alone and I fail to recognize why anyone else would want to be showered with praise all the time and need things like, oh, cost of living increases or platitudes and recognition from higher-ups and shit like that. Me, I’m happiest when I am left to my own devices, doing decent work for three hours a day and spending the other five or six looking at web sites and updating my own pages and playing in Photoshop making logos and interfaces and T-shirt designs that will never see the light of day.
So Hugo and I, we’ve spent some time together as I familiarize him with the neighborhood (“Yes, the coffee’s okay, but don’t go for lunch, they’re salads are, like, $9 and they always cheat you on the chicken.” “Burger Island probably has the most reliable burgers. The thing that irritates me is the set-up. They put all the napkins and condiments on this shelf that gets blocked by people waiting in line, so you get your food and then sort of have to keep pardoning yourself to get some ketchup packets — and, frankly, you need about 20 packets for your fries because they’re so small, Jesus!”) and walk toward Market Street for him to catch BART to Oakland where he owns a house with his partner, and me to get on the nightmare that is MUNI and ride three stops to Van Ness where everything smells like urine.


Hugo does most of the talking, because I find that I’m more comfortable if I can force new people I meet to talk about themselves so I don’t have to. This isn’t necessarily related to my recent break-up, which seems for whatever reason to color everything I think or do or say lately, and is more “just a thing.” Put me on a panel at a conference, I can talk up a storm. Give me a Web page to pontificate on, just watch my dust. Ask me something in a one-to-one conversation live and in person, watch me stumble and hem and haw and embarrass myself with petty talk about nothing very interesting at all. So it’s just safer for all concerned if I can keep the focus on the other person and steer it clean away from me.
My mood today is surlier than usual for a couple of reasons. First, I woke up to summer rain here in San Francisco. Hardly unusual, but for me, rain means I have to do all this bargaining with myself about how I am going to manage the day. That’s because I normally ride my bike to work, and lately I’m trying to hit the gym more often and get really, you know, fit and buff and good looking because putting oneself back on the open market when one is in one’s 40’s and homosexual and living in San Francisco is, in a word, daunting. No one wants you when you pass the big four-oh except men who’ve passed the big five-oh because we’re still the younger man in the equation, and younger means desirable and desirable means everything.
So when I awoke to the alarm at 6AM and lay there contemplating laying there for about another hour instead of getting up and brushing my teeth and packing my backpack with my work clothes and climbing onto the Cannondale for the 10-minute ride to the gym, I was thinking that I’d much rather not go, but would likely feel better having gone, and since I didn’t go yesterday than today I really should go in order to achieve the fit and buff thing I am aiming for. But then as I passed the open window in the back of my apartment, it was noticeably wet outside, so then I had to figure out how wet it was, exactly, and would I be riding between showers, or in that sort of heavy drizzle we get here, and did I need two changes of clothing instead of one — because the outfit I would wear on the bike would get soaked so I’d need to change into different gym clothes and then they’d stink and I’d shower and change back into the already wet bike clothes and ride to work and then change again into my work clothes — and so on.
And who can negotiate all that at 6AM? I was all set to go back to bed when I suddenly caught my naked reflection in the mirror (Damn it!) and decided, yes, better go to the gym, old man.
As it happened, the rain was that heavy drizzle we often get here in San Francisco, as if we are suddenly living inside a thick cloud and everything is heavy and wet and dark. The streets kick up their grime all over my ass and back and legs and I get to the gym looking soggy and unattractive, which is exactly how one wants to look upon entering a large building filled with active, fit, attractive men surrounded by mirrors on every flat surface.
I decide that today is a “back day,” meaning I will work to build one of those V-shaped tapered torsos I have absolutely no chance of building. I will spend approximately 45 minutes pulling on cables and levers and machines all designed to target specific back muscles so that I will hurt and feel like shit tomorrow in exactly those parts of my body. I will then spend another 15 minutes on my “bi’s” or biceps, except everything at the gym is abbreviated to its shortest possible name, followed by my least favorite and most favorite activity, the elliptical trainer.
It is my least favorite thing because I hate “cardio,” which I suppose should actually be abbreviated to “card,” or “car,” or “cuh” if one were to take the gym-name rule to it’s absolute extreme. It’s so boring to be on that machine for half-an-hour going nowhere fast as sweat drenches every inch of my body. I have my iPod and literally thousands of songs to choose from to help pass the time, but inevitably my mind wanders and I keep looking at the timer and realize I’ve only been on the wretched thing for four minutes, not fifteen.
It’s my most favorite thing because the cardio machines are set up against one side of the gym and they’re all slightly elevated to afford an unobstructed view of everyone else out in the machine jungle all shoving their already perfect bodies to new levels of perfection, so I become the audience instead of the performer and can pick a target and just watch him workout and avert my eyes at the appropriate time so he never suspects I am silently lusting for him.
As I am on the elliptical (the “ell?”) a song comes on the iPod and, like almost every fucking song I listen to lately, I am reminded of him. The ex. And the relationship, and what went wrong, and was it all wrong, and was it my fault, and fuck no it wasn’t my fault, and god dammit why am I back here again, thinking about him, what happened to that guy I was watching on the cables with the eyes and the smile and the shoulders and man am I sweaty and fuck, what?!? Only eleven minutes?!? Fuck!
See, lately I have been going through “The Angry Stage” of the break-up. This is where one attempts to form reasons for why you would never, ever go ack into the relationship you were crying over losing yesterday. So you dredge up all the things that irritated you and frustrated you and angered you about the other person, and make up lies to yourself about how great you were and how you’re a catch and wasn’t he just a stupid insane doodyhead for letting you go. So now I am getting angry and frustrated and feel like I am fat and ugly and sweaty and awkward and who, really, wants me? What the hell am I doing up here on this torture device? Why am I putting myself through this when I could be home in bed asleep, for crying out loud!
But, I persevere, I finish the 30-minute workout and burn up 500+ calories and get my heart rate into the 80% region and go through the cool down and wait until the machine rewards me by telling me I just went the equivalent of 3.14 miles without actually moving an inch and dismount and head to the lockers to shower and change.
I’ll just mention at this point that I also try to get into the locker rooms at a not-on-the-half-hour time, because the chances that I’ll have to stand naked in the shower room waiting for an available nozzle are lessened. I do all I can to avoid being naked in front of other people. I think it’s best for all concerned. So that way I’m not embarrassed standing there trying to look comfortable naked and also not checking anyone else’s nakd body out because I find that practice creepy and annoying when I observe others doing it. (I mean, we all do it, but some do it rather more obviously than others, like opening the shower curtain and peering out to see who’s just come in naked and standing there and… but you get the point.)
When I get into the locker room, there’s no one else in there at all except one other older guy, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s dressing at the locker right next to mine. And, wouldn’t you know it, he’s the type of guy who spreads himself out all over the place, opening up an adjacent locker to hang his towel on, laying another towel on the floor, his bag in front of more lockers, clothing all over benches, I mean this guy had arranged himself to be as conspicuous and annoying as possible, which would have been a minor annoyance except, as I pointed out, he was right next to my locker.
So, he’d hung his towel on the door of the locker below mine, which meant that I couldn’t open my locker. So what I did, being in an already bad mood, and seeing that even as I stood there next to him he made absolutely no move to rearrange anything to make a little room for my needs, was to open my locker anyway, which made the locker door below mine also open wider, which happened to scrape across his shoes which were on the floor in front of my (not his) locker.
I said, “Is this your towel?” He said, not even looking up, “My shoes.” I looked at his shoes and the locker door crushing them, feeling a little self-satisfied, and repeated, “Is this your towel?” Again, he responded, “My shoes.” So I’m thinking, ‘I couldn’t give a shit about your fucking shoes, you annoying stupid creep all spread the fuck out all over the god damned locker room, I just want you to recognize that I am standing here and that you need to simply move this one towel among all the other shit you have all over the god damned place and allow me the little amount of space I require to get my towel out so I can take a fucking shower and never see your ugly face again.’ Instead, I said, “I’m sorry,” and closed the locker door slightly, taking it off his (butt ugly) shoes and said, for the third time, “Is this your towel?” adding, “Because I can’t open my locker,” and did not add, ‘you cretin.’
Finally, he reaches up and takes his towel off the locker door, opens the locker door on the other side to re-hang it and obstruct someone else’s locker, the fucktoid, still not moving anything aside or even saying something lame and meaningless like, “Sorry,” which we all say when we’re in someone else’s way and then make a modest effort to move stuff around because we’re not all inconsiderate jerk-offs.
Unusually, I feel inside me during this little interaction, a seething need to punch him hard. I really, really wanted to punch him, and suddenly, in a flash, an entire drama played itself out in my head:

An unusual scene at a SOMA gym this morning as San Francisco resident Lance Arthur became enraged by a fellow gym member’s after-shower routine and began to kick, beat and scream at the man until gym attendants intervened to stop him. This is the first known instance of gym-rage that ended in a hospitalization, and Arthur is being tested for steroid use. “We’ve never had a problem like this before,” desk attendant That Good Looking Latin Guy Who Wouldn’t Give You The Time of Day said. “Members sometimes get a little aggressive, but usually they just jerk off in the sauna or go do a few more curls and get over it. I guess this guy was a little more tightly wound or something.” Mr. Arthur, who maintains a Web site which illustrates that he doesn’t have much of a life, was heavily medicated and could not be reached for comment. An associate described him as “unusually quiet” and “mild-mannered,” adding, “it’s hard to believe it was him. I guess he was just a ticking time bomb of repressed rage, like most bloggers.”

I stood in the shower and let my seethingness unseethe. When I thought about that guy, I pictured Milton from “Office Space,” except this little mild-mannered greasy guy was concentrating all his attention on his shoes, even though they weren’t all that exceptional and I think my opening the locker door on them added to their character in the same way that a haircutter recently added to the character of my ear with his scissors. I figured, standing there naked in the hot water scrubbing at my scalp with Body Shop “Arber” hair and body wash which I bought on sale during a travel lull at the Denver Airport, that we all place different values on different things, and who was I to judge the man who, finding a locker room all to himself, decides it’s about fucking time he can finally spread his crap out all over the place rather than be confined to the 2 square feet of space usually allotted?
Maybe that was all the pleasure he was going to realize for days, drying each toe on his carefully placed floor towel, admiring the job he had done on his brown work shoes, now scuffed by some rude and obnoxious brute who didn’t have the decency to wait five little minutes for him to get the space between each toe completely dry before donning those special shoes. The freak.
By the time I had washed away all the street grime and gym sweat and music-induced relationship aggravation and returned to my own locker, he was long gone. Perhaps he felt my rage building, so attuned to the feelings of others that he had to shut his own off, not realizing the irony of the situation. And then there I was, back in the familiar, with some Bear to my right telling his friend loudly about his upcoming July 4th trip to P-Town, and the sale at Home Depot, and how his partner was, and the guy to my left standing naked in front of the full-length mirror as he slathered his perfect body in moisturizer, displaying his assets for anyone who wanted to look. More guys stumbled in from the rain, looking like wet dogs, humbled by nature’s simple ability to reduce us all to whimpering, seething jerks whom life treats so unfairly. Rain! Stupid rain.
My bike seat was wet and I tried to wipe it off with the sleeve of my high-tech scuba-inspired Puma jacket, but everything just runs off its surface so I sat my jeans-clad ass down on the puddle and thought, eh, whatever. So I have a soggy butt. There are worse things in life.
Like that fucking whore in the Tercel who cut me off three minutes later at the signal crossing 9th street as if I didn’t even exist, splashing my entire left side with filth. The cunt.

June 8, 2005

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