This guy doesn’t like the spin classes up north.

Yes, Officer, that's the man.

Yes, Officer, that’s the man.

OK, so I’m feeling a little motivated lately and hitting the gym more often. It keeps me off the streets.

One day last week, I woke up ridiculously early—why?–oh yeah, the wife had to leave the house at 5:30 a.m. Bless her heart! <grrrr>

Anyway, once I’m up I’m up, so I decided to put that time to some good use and go to the gym. Pulling up at 6:00 in the morning means I get my pick of good parking spaces for a change, and sure enough, I parked right up front. Coincidentally, another car pulled up at the same time and a guy roughly my age steps out.  I can’t help but notice that he looks uncannily like character actor J.K. Simmons.  But maybe a lot of bald men in their fifties look like that.

What the hell, I thought. This is an opportunity for some inexpensive human contact, based on the tenuous connection of both of us being in the same place at such an early hour.  So I make some innocuous comment about how easy it is to find parking, as long as you’re willing to get here before sunrise. 

“Yeah,” says J.K.  “And I even live up north.  You know why I come down to this location?”

Don’t know & don’t care, I think.  This has already exceeded our fragile justification to converse.  But of course I started it, so I have to ask, “Why is that?”

“Because their spin classes SUCK up there,” says Jonah Jameson, cigar-chewing Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Bugle.  “They’re a joke.”

“Hmmm,” I offer as noncommittally as possible, edging a little further out of this guy’s orbit.  Meanwhile I’m thinking, spin class?  What are you, an 18-year-old UT co-ed?

But he’s off on his pre-dawn rant now.  “Yeah, they just don’t take it seriously.  It’s like a big joke to them.  Not like down here.”

Only a few more feet to the door.  “Well, have a good workout.”  And never speak to me again, I think.

But then we hit the momentary bottleneck of two seconds as we check in.  And two seconds is plenty of time for Juno’s Dad to start in again, this time on his helpless prey behind the counter.  “Is the spin class happening?  Because I live north, but I come down here because it’s just such a joke up there.”

Spin class is a joke everywhere, I think.  A bunch of people riding stationary bikes in a dark room, while projected images of steroid-enhanced whippets flash down French mountainsides.  But, you know, to each his own.  I keep walking, and soon Assistant Chief Will Pope is fading off into the distance, continuing to yammer at the hapless staffer waiting for his ID.

Or so I thought.  When I get upstairs to the stretching area, I see he’s beaten me to it.  And as he nurses his middle-aged hamstring, he gets the attention of the bored kid manning a computer ten feet away.

“Glad you guys are here this morning, because those spin classes up north are an f-ing joke.”  As he repeats his justification to be gracing us with his company this fine morning, he is getting more worked up.  Dear God, I think, what have I started here?  Is the guy going to go home and beat his wife because of the crappy spin class in his own neighborhood?  Will the rush hour traffic set him off, once and for all?  The headline flashes through my fevered brain:

CRAZED MOTORIST MOWS DOWN BICYCLISTS FOR ‘NOT TAKING IT SERIOUSLY ENOUGH’
“Really thought he was JK Simmons,” Says Arresting Officer

Then I realized how happy I am to no longer work in a retail setting.  These poor gym staffers–most of them youngsters–have to face droves of middle-aged curmudgeons every day.  And the Dr. Emil Skodas of the world all have opinions, and they all have pet peeves, and they all demand continuous attention and affirmation.  And they’re in your face for your entire shift, leaving you no choice but to grin and bear it.  What a pain.

Musicians need people skills too, of course.  And we all learn to nod appreciatively when well-meaning folks approach the bandstand with small talk.  Even if it holds up the band mid-set while dancers fidget, we will make small talk right back at them, until we can find a graceful way out.  We, too, are captives.

“Can you guys do ‘A String of Pearls’?”

“That’s a great tune!  Um, since we are just a sax/guitar/bass trio, it might be kind of hard to play.  With this instrumentation, I mean.”

Blank look.  Then: “OK, how about ‘Rhapsody in Blue’?”

“Well…same kind of deal there.  How about ‘Moten Swing’?”  At least we can pull that one off, and it’s the same era.

“Hmm…don’t know that one.”  They never do.  ” Oh!  What about ‘Mack the Knife’?”

“Sure!”  And off we go, commencing count-off.

“Oh!  Also…”

Abort count-off.  Smiling:  “Yes?”

“Can you recommend a good spin class?”

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