People Watching

several people in hoodies and warm clothes with binoculars
National Park Service Photo by Jacob W. Frank

Originally posted January 10, 2018
I’m a regular at the gym now, so I notice other regulars. Some of them have stories in my head, some of them don’t. Some stories have changed. Everyone has some kind of impact on me one way or the other.

There’s Pops, for example. He never looks like he wants to be there. Like not even a little bit. He’s an older man, definitely overweight. He walks slowly, moves slowly, and looks crabby. He does the elliptical, the stair stepper maybe? and the treadmill and a bunch of different machines. I’m so super proud of him for coming as often as he does! He’s always alone and always determined in everything, but with a look that says, “this is not at all fun and I won’t pretend I want to be here.” I had a goal to make him smile. Then I just had a goal to have him acknowledge me. I made it in between the goals. Pops will make eye contact with me and nod and maybe even mouth, “good morning.” I like Pops a lot. He used to be a white supremacist that had no family and no friends. He’s not now. He’s a widower that has grand kids and maybe great grand kids that he wants to be around for even though they drive him absolutely batty because they’re wild and obnoxious and their parents should spank them more. Umm… that’s my story for him. I know none of this for fact.

There’s the dancing lady. I don’t have a story for her. She just makes me genuinely happy every time I see her. Because she, unlike Pops, LOVES to be there. I don’t think I’ve seen her on any of the weight machines, just the treadmill, two different kinds of ellipticals, the stair stepper. But whatever she’s on, she is moving! She listens to music and my wave her hands around. She may walk side to side on the treadmill and do a little clap thing. I’ve recorded her just because she makes me happy but I realize how creepy that is and I’ll never share it. But ask me if you want to see it. It’s the happiest thing! She’s not married and has no kids of her own but has a gaggle of nieces and nephews and god children and she’s always the favorite auntie.

There’s the super woman. She was my first gym crush. She looks a little on the heavy side but she is an absolute BEAST. She’s not scared or intimated by anything there. She’s doing everything available. I never see her consult a notebook or an app but she clearly has her plan for each day she’s there and she just goes and goes. Cardio machines, weight machines, free weights, cables, those kettle thingies, jump rope, whatever. She doesn’t really acknowledge me in a friendly way. I don’t mean she’s at ALL unfriendly, but she’s looking down and determined to her work. No time for visiting. The first time she spoke to me, I gaped at her with my mouth hanging open a few seconds before I could comprehend what she said. It’s like your hero talking to you out of the blue. She offered me info on better form for a new exercise I was trying. She helped me! She’s done that twice now. The second time, I admitted I was following the little pictures in an app and I appreciated her help. She laughed and said she just watches the guys. For form, I mean… not because they’re hot or anything. She didn’t say that last part, it just was implied. I… I don’t have a story for her. She’s just my hero, is all.

There’s the friendly hispanic guy. He’s the absolute sweetest and he IS there to make friends. He talks to all of the regulars and goes out of his way to notice people. If he hasn’t seen you in awhile, he wants to know how you’re doing. How was your Thanksgiving? And you’ll hear about his, too, don’t worry. He’s proud of everyone’s hard work and HE works hard. He’s very well built and when he runs on the treadmill he goes for days. I can’t make a story for him because it’ll end up being corrected over and over as I learn more about him. Not that we talk every day or anything. Shoot, we’ve only smiled and waved really since the beginning of the year. He was thinking of going to Gold’s Gym but they were not very nice there.

There are the two stoic friends. They don’t talk much to each other or anyone but they’re always together and always taking turns on sets. They could be sisters but other than similar skin tone, they’re nothing alike. One is tall and big boned. One is shorter and much more petite. They know what they’re doing and they get it done and often I wish they were my friend, too and we could all three alternate on machines and work out together because they make a great team and I’m jealous.

There’s visor lady. She wears a visor and maybe sunglasses even. The visor is pulled WAY down over her face. You can’t see her face at all. Her long black hair comes down the side and sometimes over the top of the visor. It is impossible to make eye contact. She’s incredibly famous and doesn’t want to risk the paparazzi finding her or people storming her for autographs so she finds it necessary to stay incognito. But it’s all in her own mind. She lives by herself and is a little coo-coo. Don’t try to talk to her. It’s better this way.

Oh and 80’s hair! I don’t have much to say about her except that she is my age and, well… she has 80’s hair. AT THE GYM! It is NEVER pulled back in a ponytail. It is ALWAYS teased up and sprayed. It baffles me. She’s a travel agent. That’s all I’ve got.

Almost forgot hispanic poser. He’s on the short side. Very built. Loves to watch himself workout. Never on cardio machines like the treadmill or elliptical. Rarely on weight machines but there sometimes. Mostly with free weights and cable machines. And he works HARD. And he really likes to watch himself. Did I mention that? He’s the one that I had a little gleeful internal happy dance about when I had to raise the weight after him on the leg press. But I’m under no illusions that I’m at all stronger than he is. He’s very strong. And he likes to watch himself. That’s because his girlfriend is mean to him. Always griping at him for things he doesn’t do. He doesn’t make enough money. He doesn’t help around the apartment. He doesn’t take her on dates. But the truth is, he tries really hard. She’s just mean. So he comes to the gym to feel better about himself. This is why I’ll never point out that I had to raise the weight on the leg press.

I see a lot of the same workers there, too. There’s the guy that never seems to notice when I’m at the door before it unlocks and makes me wait 10 or 15 seconds and then feels really bad afterwards because it’s always him and always me. And they guy that always leaves the inner door OPEN I guess because he doesn’t want to have to buzz people in before it unlocks. There was the morning guy that was always so positive when I first started coming. He complemented me for showing up so consistently and working so hard and just made me feel good about myself before I even started my workout. I haven’t seen him in a month though. My favorite is the girl that blames anything and everything on me being late. She’s split her pants, spilled milk on herself, started her period unexpectedly even. All because I was late to the gym that morning. That’s not even my story for her. She really says that. And she broke her foot on a day I wasn’t late and blamed me because she said she expected me to be late. She makes me laugh. She got a promotion though, so I won’t see her after next Wednesday. Unless I go to Dallas.

So I people watch, and make stories up for people to help with the monotony of the elliptical, treadmill and stationary bike. It’s fun but it makes me wonder if anyone has a story for me…

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