by Josh Lorenzo
When the temperatures are extreme, I head indoors to utilize the treadmill at my gym.
I have a favourite treadmill, even though all 4200 that my gym offers are the same. The one I prefer is perched on the second floor, in front of a tree, but with enough visibility for me to cast judgment on the individuals eating at the ice cream shop on the opposite side of the street. I’m 40 years old and have fully embraced my judgmental nature.
Inevitably, I set the timer for 10 minutes because: a) I hate running and b) I really hate running. Ten minutes allows me to commit to something without really having to commit to it, and if by chance I am feeling good after the time has expired, I can extend it. Actually, that happened once, seven years ago. I ran for 11 minutes that day.
Behind the treadmills is a row of stair climber machines. Several older ladies control this part of the gym, like intimidating drug dealers on a corner of a city street. They don their pink headbands and roll their eyes when I pass by on my way to the treadmill. It is my suspicion that they intimidate me only as an act and are quite pleased when they get to stare at my calves as I run in front of them for ten minutes. You’re welcome, ladies.
During one of these sessions, an annoying man decided to use the treadmill directly to my right, even though there were several available options far away from other runners. He immediately set his pace one mile per hour faster than mine. The audacity of this individual was simply frustrating! So, I did what any man in my position would do. I increased my speed by two miles per hour. He glanced over at me and sneered, increasing his speed again.
This brazen game of chicken continued, with the older ladies behind us whispering to each other and snickering like teenaged girls at a high school dance. They were undoubtedly discussing who had the better calves. Clearly, it was me.
Five minutes passed and I was 36 miles per hour over my standard speed. If a police officer had happened to be at the gym, I would’ve been cited for speeding.
My annoying foe seemed to be keeping pace, or even going slightly faster (it was impossible to read his speedometer, as my pace made it difficult to look to my right without falling off the treadmill and really embarrassing myself). Ten minutes passed, and this guy was still running. I can’t quit now, I thought to myself. What would the ladies behind me think? I added four additional minutes. If I were successful at completing this, world records would be shattered!
At the thirteen‐minute mark, my counterpart slowed his machine, finally stopping after a 30‐second cool down. He wiped his face and gave me an acknowledging head nod.
Once he receded from my line of sight, I pressed the stop button. I thought I detected the smell of burning rubber coming from my exhausted treadmill. It had never been pushed so hard before.
The ladies behind me smiled. I smiled back, even giving a confident wink to their ringleader.
“You really showed that 70‐year‐old,” she said. They all laughed.
Josh Lorenzo is a part-time humour writer, featured in various places, such as McSweeney’s and The Washington Post. He writes a regular satirical column, “Don’t Feed the Animals” at Political Animal Magazine. He also has a blog at www.theauthorofsarcasm.com. He lives is in suburban Maryland with his wife and two children.