Friday, February 12, 2010

All in a Lifetime's work

Plastic gloves on. Windex in hand. Rag in other. I walk past cardio machines. Woosh woosh, woosh, woosh. Pat, pat, pat, pat. Clap, clap, clap. Whiiirrrrr. I watch as spandex-clad supermoms kick it up a notch and New Years resolutions are being fulfilled. I look at each person, working themselves to weakness as they zone out on one of the 10 TV's in front of them. Oprah's talking to Celine Dion on TV 4. Women are planted in front of that one on bikes and ellipticals, donning headphones. I look but not too long. No one likes a starer when they're getting sweaty. I walk past, standing almost taller being on display. I seem out of the ordinary. Most are inside their box, calm within the confines of their workout machine. Feeling my breath with each in-suck of air, my blinks are delayed. I continue to walk, smiling.

I make it to "Man Land" where 'roided-out strangers pump up iron. GraHHaaaA. Arggggghhhhhh. AWWWhhhhaaaaa. I survey the mirrors. Smudged hand prints spot the reflections as I peer through the imperfection. I see the same guy I see everyday. He's in his mid-20s. Wears glasses most days. Today, he doesn't. Yesterday, he stared at me while I washed an interior window that separates the gym from the weight area. He noticed that I wasn't staring at him, rather the smudges on the glass. After a minute, I felt his eyes burning on my face. I glanced past the smudges. His cheeks turned red as he smiled. My eyes shoot to my feet. I'm not ready to look him in the eyes yet.

Today, I try harder. I admire his dedication. I admire all of their dedication. He's here everyday along with this beautiful late-30s suburban housewife who wears designer jeans and always smiles warmly at me when I stock and re-stock towels in the locker room. I'm starting to recognize a few faces, but I wonder, "Why do people come to such a busy place only to be alone?" It's a solitary collective. Earbuds galore. Like a monastery full of monks taking a vow of silence. Each right next to each other, living life together, but alone. It's not as admirable at a gym. Each person is doing their own thing. Minding their own business. Working at their own pace. I find it slightly depressing. Sure, no one wants to be hit on at the gym, but for a hang-out, an everyday occurrence, no interaction just leaves me hollow. Mundane. I want to change this, but I work in the back of the house, mostly in silence. I'm not different, excet I'm praying in my silence.

In the back now, washers suds up a new batch of "dirties." 8 dryers spin 50-plus towels. 4 baskets hold them while they're unfolded, and again when they're reconstituted. I think about all the people using them. These towels see more life in one day than many should in a lifetime. If these towels could talk, I know exactly what they'd say.

102.1 blares out country music. I don't know the lyrics but most songs put me at the verge of tears. Somebody's daughter died. Somebody left somebody loveless. Somebody can't wait to go to war. Somebody has an unrequited love. Somebody's working through a broken heart. It's all too close. When my co-workers leave, I turn it off. I don't need anymore distractions. The clock is enough. Mostly I focus on the time. I think, "One half-hour to my break," "One hour to cleaning showers," and, "Three hours until my shift is over." I look around the club for an opportunity to get out of the laundry room. There, I'm trapped between walls of clean white towels as I fold, and I can't escape my mind.

I work with a smile on my face. I know this is a blessing. Even cleaning out sanitary garbages throw it on my face. I know that without this job, I don't pay the bills. Without these hours, I don't eat. I am blessed to be working. I am happy to do anything. I find pride in scrubbing toilets, knowing I'm doing it for something greater than myself.

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