Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oh So Many Workouts

I woke up roughly--i.e., in a rough manner--to the strains of my wife's displeasure with her wardrobe. There are days like this, despite the improving weather. I finished the coffee she kindly made for me, stumbled into the living room, and fired up the Wii. I selected My Fitness Coach from the main menu and drilled through to my workout file.

I wasn't able to recall my dreams, though I know I had them. It's been a long time since I removed my mouth guard in the middle of the night, too: it guards against bruxism. My teeth used to be slightly longer and more attractive than the nubbly little things that peek through my smile now. Last night I resolved to set up some steel-cut oats in the slow-cooker but completely overlooked this, just as I forgot to grab the oversize pomelo sitting on the dining room table for the past week.

Maya, my personal trainer, came up on the TV and greeted me briefly before chastising me for missing my workout schedule. I hung my head and took it, then selected a 30-minute cardio workout, in the hope of waking me up. Ten minutes into it I was wide awake, flinging my limbs from exercise to exercise, leaping over the step bench, rolling out the stability ball, straining through narrow pushups, &c. Sweat beaded up in my eyebrows, my sleep-oiled hair sent probes of locks into my eyes, and my skin felt like it was on fire. I'm so out of shape.

I had a long poo, took a quick, hot shower, and threw on Irish-appropriate (or at least Anglo) clothes for the day. I happen to own a green-and-black Guinness-themed rugby shirt: that'll do. The cats milled about as I packed my satchel with books for the day, but they retired to the "kitty Internet" (i.e., front windows) by the time I zipped up my jacket and ran out of the house.

Not trusting the efficiency of my decisions and movements, I ran to the bus stop, wondering if this would be the one day it was on time, in which case it would be a close shave. As it happened, it was on time and I saw it sail past my stop when I was half a block away. I continued running to the end of the block and saw the bus approach a green light, one block north. What happened next would determine whether I sat and sulked for another ten minutes.

The bus pulled to the corner and picked up a passenger as the intersection lights turned yellow. I had just enough time if I hurried: I hoisted my books under my right arm and ran up the block, alternating my breathing every two strides. I'm so not in shape for running, despite my morning cardio workout. At least I'd burn off more calories--balance out my intake from my daily Clif bar, waiting for me in the office.

My bus-catching technique is standard: hug the curb so you're in the driver's rear-view mirror and never stop running. If you stop to walk, you appear arrogant, you look like you didn't need this bus, and the driver has plausible deniability to pull away and leave. But the driver drifted away from the curb, aligning himself more in line with the outside lane of traffic. He must've seen the cross street light turn yellow and was preparing to leave.

Some drivers meet you more than halfway to help you get your ride. If you wave from across the street, they'll wave back and wait for you. If they see you in the mirror, they'll brake and open the doors in anticipation.

This was absolutely not one of those drivers. This was one of the petty, antagonistic drivers who takes delight in frustrating people. Sometimes they barrel through freshly turned red lights, sometimes they brake too hard, too suddenly at every stop along the route. This driver found enjoyment in denying people a ride on the bus. He saw his duties as perfunctory and obeyed only the strictest letter of the law: if you're not at the stop on time, he feels no duty to wait for you. There's another bus in ten minutes, you can catch that one, and maybe tomorrow you'll try harder to overcome whatever it was that made you miss this one. He considers himself blameless and would be shocked to learn that anyone harbored any grudge against him. And he would never confess to the glee he truly does feel, every time he closes his doors and pulls away from another would-be passenger. He would swear that glee is not his motivation. But you know, and he knows, but he thinks he has you fooled and this is what causes his face.

I did catch the bus. I caught up to the rear bumper and shouted, and I have wonderful shouting pipes due to four years as frontman for a local band. I have stopped vehicles with my voice before; I almost knocked a man off his bike with my voice alone. I made a family of four jump, in unison, once. My voice is a handy tool and it did not fail me this time. I shouted, and the bus braked immediately. I ran all the way to the door, thanked him (despite gasping for air), paid my fair, and as I walked away he muttered about how I nearly caused a traffic accident. He complained that I nearly caused the truck behind him to rear-end the bus. He didn't say this to my face, he muttered it in the echo chamber of his little cabin after my back was turned and I was walking toward the back of the bus. He muttered through his expression, the aforementioned face which I will now explain.

He had a white shirt and gray knit vest. He wore a peaked black driver's cap crusted with little gold-tone and enamel pins. I haven't studied any of these pins but some of them must represent gratitude for years of service and others denote exemplary service--either he stole the latter or he was a good driver in his day, before something broke him and he learned to delight in causing anguish.

More than all his dozens of little pins, his face is the true badge of his station. Framed by a fringe of wiry salt-and-pepper hair, his skin is pallid and chalky, like that of someone coming out of surgery and who had rarely previously seen the sun. His thin, fuchsia lips are perpetually curled in a sneer of bemusement. He wore sunglasses beneath his shiny black visor, but based on the deep grooves curling from around his nostrils to the corners of his mouth, it's not hard to imagine the lower lids are distended from years of squinting in contempt. This squint is the visual component that accompanies a head-tilt and "oh, give me a break" or bluer words of dismissal, usually in debates about peak oil, immigration law, or gun ownership. The combination of his features make me think he's probably a Libertarian or a Conservative.

To his chagrin I caught my bus. I sat in the back and caught my breath before pulling out a book to read. When his shift is done, he'll complain to coworkers (who either rabidly agree with him or are sick of his kvetching) about the hellish morning he had, how the passengers were just out of control, how one nearly caused an accident...

No comments: