I strive on a fairly regular basis to reduce my natural obliviousness to things (it’s a guy thing), but I do not always succeed. Take Tuesday’s workout, for instance. I’d been avoiding the gym during the latter phases of its renovation — it was actually closed for a few days last week — so when I showed up after work, it took awhile for me to get my bearings. Someone had moved the scale in the locker room, for one thing. And the stretching area that once shared space with the cardio machines had expanded into its own room (not that I’d ever spend any time there). I couldn’t even locate the towels at first glance.
Eventually, I got myself situated on the only Elliptical Death Machine that was available and swung into my normal routine: pumping away while enjoying the mute ravings of that investment guy with his sleeves rolled way up on CNN. It had been another mysterious day for the Dow, apparently, and he was gesticulating a bit more wildly than usual.
I looked down at the time on the EDM’s control panel — after about five minutes I like to shift it into second gear, upping the resistance from 10 to 15. My heart rate was rising in a way that nicely countered Wall Street’s decline that day. So I cranked away. I’d been doing some morning body-weight and kettlebell exercises during my days away from the gym, but no serious cardio, so it felt good to be back on the EDM again.
About 15 minutes into my workout, though, I began to notice an intermittent high-pitched beeping noise. At first, it appeared to be coming from the ceiling nearby, and I wondered whether a smoke alarm somewhere had been set off by mistake. It certainly was annoying, but I figured someone at the club would eventually locate the origin of the sound and flip some switch. Meanwhile, the TV investment guy was working up quite a lather over some particularly under-priced stock, waving his arms around more excitedly than usual, desperately trying to get our attention.
I ratcheted up the resistance to 20 and shifted my focus a little toward the effort required to push through each stride on the EDM. The rhythm of my stride, I began to notice, roughly coincided with that annoying beeping sound — which, I also began to notice, was really more like a high-pitched squeak than a beep. When I slowed my stride, the frequency of the annoying squeaking sound also seemed to slow. When I sped up, it sped up.
I don’t tend to look at my fellow sweat-a-holics when I’m doing cardio. I figure it’s no business of mine what they’re wearing or reading or what annoying sound their machine happens to be broadcasting throughout the entire club while they’re striding, oblivious, toward endorphin-land. So, I didn’t really notice whether there was any discernible sense of relief that flowed through the crowd when I climbed down from the EDM a bit earlier than I had planned, toweled off and walked sheepishly toward the water fountain in the suddenly quieter room.