A Quick Story. (Not So Quick.)

Posted: April 20, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

By Jenny Jocks Stelzer, English Faculty.

So, there’s this lovely couple that comes into the Y when I’m leaving my spin class at 7am.

(Yes, I said “leaving at 7. A.M.” I get up and I work out VERY early in the morning. Yes, it’s crazy. No, wait, it’s not crazy. What I mean to say is that I like to be out in the morning. Things are slower in the morning. Calmer. Quieter.)

Anyways, so this couple. They are adorable in so many ways. First, they have to be about 100 years old. Also, they are tiny and wear the coolest clothes ever.

(Wait, am I being totally condescending? I mean to say that it is AMAZING that they are 100 and still hitting the gym at 7am and that they are way more fashionable than me and most people I know in that they wear classic, worn coats, he wears a brown golf cap and she wears this beautiful scarf.)

Okay, so there is this totally cool older couple, and, at 7am they walk down the stairs at the Y. This matters because at 7am I am racing down those stairs to get dressed and rush to work. I pause and try to be patient while these folks make their way down with deliberation.

(What I mean to say is that this is not because they are infirm, but because they are taking their time. I must admit that I have been known to skip past them a few times with a little irritation. Why do we always want everyone else to move at our pace? Why do I use “we” when I really mean “I”? It just makes me feel better about being jerky sometimes, I guess.)

Well, so this couple meanders their way down the stairs to the locker room doors, which, until very recently, had these locks with keys that were difficult to make work much of the time. Every morning when we get to the Y, a few of us who know each other quite well say a quick hello and exchange a few complaints about the difficulty of the lock on the locker room door, which, easily, takes 30-45 seconds of our valuable time. Why, we ask, doesn’t the Y get its act together and give us keys that work? After all, we are busy people, here! Then, we rush off to our workouts.

(Why do I say “we” when I mean “they”? I mean, it really isn’t that big of a deal to take a few extra seconds to get into the locker room and, frankly, the YMCA is a charitable, not-for-profit organization, whose totally adequate facilities we get to use relatively inexpensively, not some fancy health club that we pay a bunch of money to that can spring for new keys to their eucalyptus-scented locker rooms any old day. Plus, 5am is WAY too early to start complaining. Come on, people! Hmmm, I suppose saying “we” when I mean “they” makes me feel a little less dickish when I rant about my friends.)

So, today, after our group starts the morning together with our suspicions that the brand new key-cards probably won’t even work (they worked fine), I get out of spin class and head down the stairs. Today I decided to take my time and walk patiently behind the couple.

(After all, the slow, calm quiet is what I like about the morning.)

The couple and I get to the locker room doors and the woman takes out her key-card. Her husband stops to make sure she gets in. They both smile when the key-card works and she looks over at him and says “Thank you,” with a smile and absolute sincerity. He says “You’re welcome,” with a smile and a pat on her shoulder. The whole exchange took about 30-45 seconds. My first thought was “Oh! I thought they were married!” My second thought was “Wait a minute, why can’t they be married AND considerate of each other at the same time?” Intimacy seems, sometimes, to allow for terse, efficient interactions often focused on complaints or irritations. We’re all busy and in a big hurry and those with whom we’re intimate with understand that the most.

When I stop to think about it, THAT is what makes that couple adorable. They actually take their time, and they actually say what they mean.

  1. PG says:

    This was my favorite bit: “My first thought was ‘Oh! I thought they were married!’ My second thought was ‘Wait a minute, why can’t they be married AND considerate of each other at the same time?'”

    A few weeks ago, I was on one of my numerous weekly trips to the bowling alley. It was almost completely empty except for me and this older married couple (70s-early 80s?). They were smiling, laughing, having fun. As they switched places after each turn, they’d exchange a little touch on the arm or back. It was so cute.

    It’s absolutely charming to see couples like that, and like the one you see at the Y. It seems as if the norm for couples in a long-term relationship, married or not, is to gravitate toward the “terse, efficient interactions often focused on complaints or irritations.” It’s almost too easy to be curt, or mean, or rude to the ones we love. Maybe because they’re the ones we are around the most. Or maybe when we have a build up of bad emotions that are aching to get out, it’s our loved ones we know we can unleash that stuff around and they’ll still love us and forgive us, where everyone else wouldn’t tolerate that from us. So, it’s charming to see older couples who have over many decades managed to take their time and enjoy each other by focusing on what they love about one another rather than using each other as the verbal punching bag for their accumulated ugliness.

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