The following epic tale is based on real events that took place on December 31, 2010 at the Oakdale LA Fitness. While the identities of those involved have either been altered or omitted to protect the innocent, the pain endured will live on forever.
It is a quiet winter morning, seemingly like any other. The snow resting atop the unlit neon letters of the LA Fitness sign serves as a stark reminder that the coldest months of the season still lay ahead. Our hero, still fighting a noble battle against the remaining yawns of the previous night’s slumber, walks through the front doors of the gym, a place where mere mortals may enter, but only gods and goddesses will exit.
A kind smile from the receptionist greets our hero, as if to say “Welcome to LA Fitness. I am way too hot to even entertain the thought of sleeping with you.” He reciprocates with a cagey smile of his own, steals a vengeful glimpse of her award-worthy cleavage, and takes his first steps towards the most dreaded, but necessary, part of his day.
Just beyond the front desk exists the first sign that something is wrong on this day. A mere five feet away from our hero, a woman much too old to be wearing tight-fitting workout clothes huffs and puffs with all the might of a fairy tale wolf while she lifts a modest amount of weight. Her form? Lacking. Her effort? Commendable. Her tight yellow shorts with a distinct butt-crack sweat stain? Not cool.
Struggling to remove the image from his mind with his mental Brillo pad, our hero quickens his pace towards the locker room, averting his gaze from those he passes in the hopes of avoiding further damage to his mental state.
Before he can reach the entrance to the locker room doorway, though, he is assaulted by his mortal enemy –Talky McTalkerson. Ever since Talky witnessed and asked about our hero’s modest forearm tattoos, he has believed that there is no such thing as a poor topic of conversation between the two. This time around, Talky decides to entertain our hero with the harrowing tale of how he spent the previous evening attempting to remove an ice build-up from his front steps.
Our hero becomes hypnotized by the monotone drone of Talky’s delivery. With each paralyzing word, he drifts further away from his goal of finishing his workout in under an hour. Staring at Talky’s sweat-stained Grateful Dead t-shirt provides a brief mental reprieve, but the damage inflicted by Talky’s increasingly pointless tale of ice removal cannot be undone.
Then, finally, as if arranged by a higher power, another club member calls out Talky’s name. Turning to address his acquaintance, Talky makes a crucial tactical error. The brief interruption provides the break our hero has been looking for. He uses this brief distraction to excuse himself from the conversation and finish his quest to the locker room.
“Okay, we’ll talk to you later.”
It is a lie, but a necessary one.
As our hero’s first steps into the mens locker room become reality, he scans the room for its least-crowded locker section. He spots a section of lockers that has only one kind-looking elderly man meandering about it, so he makes a decisive move.
Setting his bag down on the provided bench, he gives the old man a cursory nod, sits down and proceeds to untie his boots. The old man, having just finished his workout begins to shed his workout clothing. Before our hero can react, he is a mere three feet away from 180 lbs of unashamed, naked old man. Far too much naked old man for anyone to endure, particularly at this early hour.
The brazen old man seems to bathe in his own nakedness, as if to say to the world “No one does naked like me!” He reaches into his locker to begin the process of redressing. But rather than start by putting on underwear, the old man decides to ratchet up the level of discomfort in the locker room and begin with his black socks. The first sock goes on in a matter of seconds. As the second sock begins its fateful journey onto the wrinkly old man’s foot, however, something happens.
As if rained down upon the world by a vengeful God, a sound like many heard before it hijacks every available air-wave. It is a hateful noise. A noise best heard from a distance. A noise that, in normal circumstances, would elicit hysterical laughter from our hero. However, these are not normal circumstances.
The sound reverberates throughout the room with little regard for human safety, bouncing off lockers and disrupting our unsuspecting hero’s once-peaceful state of mind. Then, with the second sock pulled up to its completion, the old man speaks.
“Oops. Guess I let that one slip out.”
The obviousness of the statement fails to make an impact with our hero. Perhaps the sound of the old man’s fart has rendered him punch drunk. Perhaps the disturbing image of the perpetrator wearing nothing but a pair of calf-high black socks has overridden his ability to mentally digest the words. It is a mystery for the ages.
Then, it hits. As if on a time-delayed fuse, a pungent aroma equal to that of a thousand burning, hair-covered eggs fills the air. A smell so strong that, if exposed to it, animal rights activists would murder endangered monkeys to avoid exposing them to such hell.
Not wishing to make a scene, our hero presses the pause button on his undressing and walks away from the invisible cloud of ass-rot. Hoping to give himself a one- or two-minute reprieve from the villainous assault, he steps into the washroom area and pretends to wash his face. The cold water refreshes his senses, but does little to cleanse his memory or prepare him for his return to the crime scene.
As he reenters the locker area, our hero witnesses the gassy perpetrator attempting to explain away his guilt to another man within range of the still-powerful smell.
“Wow, guess I had too much coffee this morning.”
The other victim offers a weak laugh and says, “That’ll do it.”
Our hero is at a crossroads. Does he tap into every last remaining reserve of strength, block out the smell and awkwardness, and dive head first into his workout? Or does he cut his losses, relace his shoes, and live to fight another day. The choice is easy.
Moments later, as he walks past the front desk, the receptionist casually throws a “Leaving so soon” to our hero. All he hears, though, is “I’m still too hot for you.” Turning to catch a farewell glimpse of her cleavage, he says “Not my day” and gives a wave.
Stepping into the cold, fresh air outside the gym, our hero pauses and embraces his freedom. His workout would not be completed on this day. But while he would be a weaker man physically because of it, he felt a renewed sense of emotional strength.
Perhaps his workout was a success after all.