When all goes according to plan, I work out on my lunch hour at gym near the office. I have nice little routine that fits into the hour, including a quick shower and the walk there and back. I occasionally get back five minutes late, but as the energy boost allows me to continue to produce while my colleagues doze off, I don't feel guilty about it.
Anyhow, this gym is (like every other damn thing in Evanston) distinctly yuppie in tone. The crowd is usually me, six or so sorority girls, a collection of women who could be extras on Desperate Housewives, and assorted straight businessmen who are generally either teaching or studying at the university's business school.
The businessmen are always outnumbered three to one by everybody else. But as is their way, they still manage to dominate the place. They shout personal conversations from one end of the room to the other, they loll about on machines while others are waiting to use them, they spread their belongings across the floors and benches of the crowded locker room. And although this is a gymnasium and not the offices of Merrill Lynch, they always insist on keeping the television facing the cardiovascular machines tuned to one of the financial channels.
I don't know how it happened, but as I was climbing onto the whateverthehell machine (it's good for the glutes), I noticed that the television was showing HGTV or some similar network. A sweetly plump lady in a patterned blouse was planting herbs under a grow-light, assisted by a green queen in bermuda shorts and sandals (nice legs).
So instead of closing my eyes and blasting the "Hi-NRG Opera" playlist on my iPod as usual, I watched the show and I think even learned why my last rosemary plant went buns up on me even though I didn't overwater it. Most pleasant.
But this is really not about me, it's about the businessmen. Their reaction to this unthinkable state of affairs was extremely amusing.
There were three of them (out of about 14 people on the machines) and they were visibly upset and being deprived of their choice of channel for an hour. Two of them appealed directly to the crowd in general.
The first wandered in, looked at the television, and asked, "Are you watching this?" (A peculiar question to ask 11 people whose eyes are trained on the screen.)
We replied in chorus, "Yes."
The second came in about five minutes later. "Would you mind if I changed this?"
Again we replied, "Yes."
He shook his head and heaved himself onto a bicycle next to the first guy. They were near enough that I could hear them grousing. "What the f--k is this?" "Hell if I know."
The third guy came in and just walked over and reached up to change the channel.
"Hey!" shouted a woman on a treadmill, "We're watching that."
He turned around and look blankly at us for a minute, then turned back around and reached for the buttons again.
"I said we are watching that, do not change the channel," said Treadmill Woman, with more than a hint of firmness in her tone.
The guy turned to me - I was on the machine closest to the television - and said conspiratorially, "You believe this s--t? How long until these bitches clear out so we can have the TV back?"
I leaned over and whispered, "Soon, I hope. I want to flip it over to Lifetime so we can catch the Designing Women marathon."