One of the things I want to do here on the blog is share some of the story-worthy moments I see in every-day life.
This week, I witnessed an exchange between an elderly couple at the gym that gave me a renewed perspective on showing patience and kindness towards those we love. I realize if this would have happened between my husband and I, I probably would have reacted selfishly. I would have first been annoyed and then probably angry for the interruption. Then I’d probably have been totally unimpressed by his simple gesture and wonder (and perhaps even a little worried about his sanity), which would have made him feel silly for trying to share something with me (and maybe angry in his own right).
But this lady was never once any of those things to her husband, and it led to a beautiful moment of happiness between them, even if she really didn’t give a rip about the goose.
The cardio room at the gym is a long rectangle shape, lined with row after row of charcoal grey machines. Treadmills, nautilus, bikes, ellipticals, and some elliptical sort-of-things with arms that look like modernized versions of the what I once knew as a Nordic Track, but no one calls these things Nordic Tracks and I don’t know what they’re actually called now.
I’m on one of these whatever-they’re-called machines, facing the west wall, which is a long window that overlooks the outdoor pool. It’s mid afternoon, not my usual time to workout. I see no familiar faces and the huge room that’s usually humming with activity and chatter is almost empty, quiet, calm, so I put my earphones in, but I don’t turn on any music. Instead, I focus on the silence, the sound of the machine starting to move, and the welcome rush of adrenaline.
The voice of an older man calls out. “Look at this goose, Jenny. Look at it. Jenny. Down there, there’s a goose by the pool.”
Two rows in front of me, the treadmills are pushed against the windows, so they have the equivalent of a front row view. There’s an older man, an empty treadmill, then an older woman. Both of them are walking. His gym socks are pulled up over his calves and his silver-white hair is parted but long enough to bounce with his steps. Guessing, I’d say he’s very late sixties or early seventies. His legs are keeping pace with the belt but his head is whipping from the window toward the woman.
“Look at this goose. Can you see him right there?”
Jenny, however, is wearing headphones and appears to be totally engrossed in whatever cooking show she has on. She’s walking at a slower pace than he is, wearing glasses, and a tan-colored pant / t-shirt combo. Her hair is ashy gray and cut shorter than his. Guessing again, I’d say she’s a few years younger than him, but not much.
Headphone clad Jenny walks on. Oblivious.
The man raises his voice and waves until she finally looks at him, smiling with her eyebrows raised.
“Look at that goose down there,” he says, pointing out the window toward the pool.
I’m sure he’s looking at a plain ole’ black and gray Canadian Goose. I know this because they’re EVERYWHERE, all the time, and they’re usually not doing anything to warrant such interest.
“What?” Jenny shouts. She hasn’t taken off the headphones.
He shouts back, still on about the goose.
She’s a little off trying to walk with her head turned toward him, so she slows a bit and holds the side bar for balance. “What?” She’s still shouting.
“Take your headphones off,” he says.
“Take your headphones off.” He pats at his ears with his palms.
“Oh. Okay. Hang on.”
She focuses on the dashboard of the treadmill. He waits, keeping a close eye on the goose, while she slows further (now to a barely moving pace) and slides the headphones off. Then, still holding the bar, she looks back at him, perfectly pleasant. “What is it, hon?”
“Look at this goose sitting down there, right by the edge of the pool.”
Jenny extends her head and neck to the right. “Where? I don’t see a goose?”
“He’s right there, at the corner by the umbrella.”
She tries again. “By the volleyball court?”
“No. By the umbrella. By the chairs. Up here. By the steps. He’s just sitting there.”
“Well I can’t see. Hang on.”
She stares back at the dashboard, holding on with one hand while her other hand glides over the buttons. “Which one of these? Hmmm. How do I stop this. I don’t see a pause.”
“Look at the bottom. It’s along the bottom. No, down, there. It’s red.”
“That’s not pause. It’s stop.”
“No, next to it.”
“Oh, it’s fine.” She hits the red button and waits.
The man walks on and watches the goose. “He’s just been sitting and sitting there like that.”
She laughs. “Maybe he’s tired.”
When the belt stops she turns to step down, but her headphones (which are still plugged in) jerk against her neck. She’s starts and grabs at the rail.
“You alright?” he asked her. His finger is poised over his own stop button.
“Oh, yeah, these ear phones.” She pulls them forward, realizes she can pull them through her neck, then opts to unplug them instead. Then she steps down, one foot, then the other, and makes her way over to stand next to the treadmill he’s on.
He points and she cranes and leans closer to the glass.
“Oh, I see him right there. Look at that.” She sounds genuinely enthusiastic. Actually interested.
“He’s just been sitting there, hasn’t moved.”
“Huh. I guess he’s comfortable.”
“Maybe it’s warm there in the sun?”
They chuckle and smile at each other. She looks on toward the goose another couple minutes then makes her way back to her treadmill.
I’m thinking, this goose must be reclined in a deck chair sipping a drink or something. My own pace has slowed. I watch in a swirl of my own impatience and wonder. She doesn’t appear to want to kill him. She doesn’t so much as roll her eyes.
Back on the treadmill, she stares down the dashboard again. She leans closer to see the buttons better, tries a couple, waits, tries a couple more. “Which one makes it go?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he says. “I’ve got you all messed up, don’t I?” It didn’t cross his mind until now.
“No, this is fine.” There’s a beep and the belt starts to move. “There we go.”
“I shouldn’t have interrupted you for that. You’re trying to exercise, too.”
“No, I’m glad you did.” She keeps pace with the belt, plugs in her headphones and smiles over at him. “I’m not exactly setting any records over here.”
The two of them crack up laughing, then she puts her headphones on and he goes back to watching the goose and they walk along, slow, steady, and in an easy sort of happiness I’m not sure many of us would recognize if it smacked us in the face.