I was equipped; I had a water bottle and my kindle.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
"I've never been here before. Wondering if you have exercise bikes?"
"You bet. A whole bunch of them, up those stairs and through to the back."
I rode and read for an hour with the font size so large there was one sentence per page.
It was my first time in a gym that didn't say, "Ladies Fitness" on the door. There were men in this gym. I was intimidated.
Back in the parking lot.
My kindle battery was dead, so bringing that prop was not an option.
I brought my book-club book instead. It's 450 pages. Weighs about 10 pounds. And is hardcover. "A Gentleman in Moscow".
I had my reading glasses in my pocket, because I'd need them; you can't adjust the font size on a printed book.
I had my water bottle.
And a small towel.
I was a little embarrassed carrying such a honkin big book into the gym, so partway through the parking lot, I wrapped my towel around it, and tried to figure out a cool way to carry it that wouldn't seem lame. Or obvious.
A few steps later, I stopped. Who takes a 450 page, ten pound, hard copy book about turn-of-the-century (not the current turn-of-the-century, the one before that) Russia TO THE GYM? Who brings reading glasses TO THE GYM?
So I turned around and put the book and specs into my truck.
I made my way back to the building, a little bit worried about what I was going to do, for an hour, you know, while I rode an exercise bike?
"Maybe I can catch Pokemon..."
I turned around and went back to my truck to get my phone. It would be a great accessory.
Eventually I made it to the exercise bike area.
There was one other person riding a bike; I remember seeing her there on Tuesday too. Peddling on the easiest level, playing candy crush on her phone, plugged in, listening to music. She didn't even look up when I took 'my' bike.
I started peddling, then took a pic of my machine and sent it to a friend. "Look what I'm doing..." to which she replied, "You go, girl"
I checked to see if there were any Pokemon about, but there wasn't.
No new messages.
Not much happening on Twitter.
I scrolled through Instagram, liking a few pics.
And in less than 2 minutes I was bored of my phone.
I put it in the holder and kept peddling.
This was going to be a long hour.
"What's your favorite machine?"
A young girl (10? 12?) sat on the bike beside me and started to peddle.
Her: Wow. You've done 7 laps already.
Me: I have? How can you tell?
Her: It says. Right there.
Me, blindly looking at the panel: Where?
Her, putting her finger on my screen: Here.
She looks me over.
Her: You're doing really good for someone who isn't very fit.
Me: Thank you.
Her: What other sports do you do?
Me: I walk. And catch Pokemon.
Her: YOU DO? That was so popular when it first came out.
Me: Right? I think me and my friend are the only ones catching them now.
Her: What's your friend's name?
Her: My mom has a friend named Wendy. Her nickname is Wendy's. Do you know why?
Me: How about you? What sports do you do?
Her: Basketball. And football.
Her: I just throw it. I don't tackle.
Me: Spring break for you?
Me: What grade are you in?
Me: Is that elementary school or middle school for you?
Her: My school goes from Kindergarten to Grade 7.
Me, a little out of breath, for all the peddling: So, you'll have a grade 7 grad this year?
Her: Do you have a daughter?
Me: Nope, I have three sons. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Her: I'm an only child.
Her: Oh wait. No I'm not! I have a baby sister. She was just born. I forgot.
Me: Oh wait! Me too. I have a daughter-in-law. One my sons got married. She's a hair stylist.
Her: I want a hair cut. (She's dark skinned and has about 18" of long black hair pulled back into a pony tail.)
Me: When's the last time you had it cut?
Her: About a year ago. Split ends. Have you ever dyed your hair?
Me: My daughter-in-law dyed this under part last year; blue, purple, turquoise... What colour would you dye yours?
Her: I'd get my hair straightened, and then cut to here (she points to shoulder) and then I'd add blonde, but not all the way to the roots...
Me: Sounds beautiful.
Her: Do your other sons go to high school?
Me: No, they're finished school. They're all in their 20's.
She stops peddling.
Her: What? HOW OLD ARE YOU?
Me: Really old.
Her: OK. I'll take that as I should mind my own business.
Me: I'm 55.
Her: You are so much older than my mom! I think she's around 30 or something.
Me: How old are you?
Her: I'm 12. What's your favorite word?
Me: Hmmm. What a good question. Not sure I have one. What's yours?
Her: Audacity. Like, "I can't believe you have the audacity to do that!"
Me: Brilliant word.
Her: I got it from a movie.
Me: Well done.
Her; Want to go over to those machines?
Me: I'm not sure how to work them,
Her: We can figure it out together.
I get on the machine, (arms go forward and back, feet go up and down) (thighs burn in 2 seconds)
Her, on the machine beside me, laughing: You're going backwards.
Me: I am? How can you tell?
Her: Well. Just look.
Me: How do I go forward?
Her: Uh. Press down like this.
Her: And if you move your arms faster, your legs don't have to do so much work. See? I'm pretty good at this. Probably because I'm 12. And little. And do more sports. But you're doing great.
We hang out on those machines
FIVE MINUTES and my legs are on fire.
Her: I want to try the weights over there.
We are looking across the gym beneath us (where there are a dozen men
Me: I don't think those guys have left that area all evening.
Her: I know. They just want to work on their arms and chests. They'll never come over here.
Me: Why not?
Her: This is the leg area. Guys never work on legs.
Her: Let's try these other bikes. I think they're easy.
We adjust seats, try different levels, and continue to talk about anything that crosses her mind.
The gym closes at 10; we've got 3 minutes left.
Her: What did you think of me when we first met?
Me: That you are tiny and cute and brave and strong.
Her, nodding: All of those things are true.
We packed up our stuff, exchanged names, and made arrangements to work out together again next week.
Three things I'm thankful for:
1. New friends.
2. New experiences.
3. Thigh burn.