Thursday, August 27, 2009

Conceding the fight for the elliptical machine

The early morning crowd at the gym is pretty consistent. There are Clarice and Michael, and Margaret and Narvon, both friendly, sweet retired married couples who wear matching t-shirts every day. There's George, who regales the group on the elliptical machines with his most recent gorging at the area's buffet restaurants; Ruth, an elderly preacher's wife who speedwalks around the track, and Charles, who makes a point of speaking to every person there. Except for the slender woman whose name I don't know because she doesn't talk to Charles or anybody else but walks on the treadmill with great intensity while listening to whatever is coming out of her headphones, also with intensity.

And then there's Evelyn.

Evelyn is an older woman who is waiting for the door to open at 5:30 every morning. She actually arrives closer to 5:15, just in case she can badger the attendant into opening a wee bit early, which she sometimes does. Heaven help the staff person who doesn't get around to opening the door until 5:31....

Once allowed entry, Evelyn makes a bee-line for elliptical machine #1. She's usually there first anyway, but the rest of us know not to claim that machine if Evelyn is delayed in any way. She spends 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, then 20 minutes on the recumbant bike, then either walks on the treadmill or heads off to the swimming pool. I don't know how long she actually stays because I need to leave by 6:30 to get to work on time.

But suffice it to say, Evelyn is there more more than an hour a day, every day but Sunday (or election days -- she volunteers as a poll worker), and has a routine from which she does not vary one iota. The rest of us are welcome to work around her routine if we like, but we WILL bend to her wishes.

Now, there are only four elliptical machines at this gym and the race for the other three can be fierce at 5:30. I can occasionally be one of the contenders, and I have been known to find Evelyn's commandering of elliptical machine #1 annoying. "You're retired, for heaven sake," I have grumbled to myself. "Couldn't you come an hour later when the elliptical machines are all open because those of us with jobs have gone on about our days?"

Today, however, I was walking on the treadmill as Evelyn, in the recumbant cycling stage of her daily routine, chatted with a fellow on an adjacent stationary bike. The male bike rider asked Evelyn her age -- oh-oh, I thought to myself. I've seen Evelyn in fighting mode, this will not end well. But instead of the fireworks I anticipated, she responded proudly that she is 92.

Ninety-two. Nine decades plus two years. Four score and 12 years ago.

When I presumed she was a mere youngster in her 70s, my attitude toward her attitude was not particularly charitable. I don't know why it makes a difference that she's 92 and not only still upright, but still upright and at the gym for an hour or more six days a week. But it does.

I don't necessarily aspire to live to be 92, but if that's how it goes for me, it will be my great fortune to be able to be pounding on the door of the gym to hurry up and open at 5:30 a.m.

And in the meantime, I'll patiently wait my turn for the elliptical machine.

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