With classes and grading being done, I got up bright and early to get a couple of miles in. There are five treadmills in the workout room, and three were in use when I got there:
X X _ X _,
so I took the one in the center:
X X M X _. (By the way — we’re facing away from you.)
The two on my left were occupied by an elderly couple, falling in my mind under the heading of Ancients. No, older than that. Think geological time, and they moved with correspondent speed, along the lines of continental drift (as opposed to my own merely glacial pace). I think that’s great, by the way; we all move through our lives at one minute per minute, and if I’m taking more steps in the current minute than they are, well, they had a hell of a head start on me. And it seemed appropriate that they were moving slowly and carefully — they reminded me of Eben Flood’s jug from the Robinson poem: “He set the jug down slowly at his feet/ With trembling care, knowing that most things break.” They walked with trembling care for their 15 minutes and then headed back into the world.
But there’s usually an Ancient or two there when I am — I’m usually there before 8 a.m. or in the noon to 1 pm range. Their pace doesn’t strike me as odd, but what startles me sometimes is when I see one of these guys on the treadmill in a plaid button-up shirt with full-length chinos or even blue jeans. It’s like the formality of an earlier age in a way, reminding me of my youth in the 1970s, when men would wear coats and ties for an airplane flight. Or (also in that era), when we had “school clothes” and “play clothes”, even though on my parents’ budget, there wasn’t a vast difference in splendor. And as I see them, I wonder if they think to themselves, “Well, time to hit the gym — guess I’d better put on my short sleeves and Dockers, because I’ll be busting my hump.” And do they then doff their morning coats and formal trousers before putting on these workout clothes?
None of this is to say that I’m an exercise in sartorial excellence — as my dad once observed, I could be dressed by Savile Row’s finest and still look like I had been dragged behind a rag wagon. And I’m sure people find it funny that I’m wearing cargo shorts with a belt as I go through my paces, particularly for the first ten minutes or so, when I’m having to pull said shorts up a few times each minute (after those first ten minutes or so, I’m generally sweaty enough to keep the waistline in place.). But like those Ancients, I try to remind myself that I’m fortunate to be moving at all, step after step, minute after minute, regardless of how silly the costume may be.