i come from a land of plenty

I am sitting here in my cubicle, the sound of fingers clicking on keyboards tapping me through the morning. The hum of the fluorescent lights a fitting backdrop to the upholstered walls and utility carpet. It isn’t bad though, I mean no one here calls me mom and if they want juice they get their own, or at the very least aren’t expecting me to do it, which is a refreshing change. I have been back here, at work, for three weeks now. If I said the weeks have been long I would be lying, they have flown by. The days seem to end before they begin, it must be the newness, the novelty. I don’t expect that to last.

Being back at work means being back to sitting all day though. Sitting, sitting, sitting and then, once the mood strikes, getting up and fetching a tiny chocolate bar (or three) from the snack bowl, or how about one of those girl guide cookies, it is for a good cause after all! And then I go back to sitting. And so it goes.
It only took about a week before I started to realize that the sitting could be a problem (I bought all those new clothes, in a size 8, I can’t bust out of them yet!), and so last night I hauled myself to the community centre (which is half a block from our new house) for the 8:15-9pm aquafit class. It might have been the best thing I did all week.

I managed to make it through the maze of hallways that led into the change room, wading through dozens of exuberant children fresh from their lesson, past overflowing showers and curtained stalls, finally making it out to the pool. It wasn’t much bigger than a hotel pool, and the lights were all out but for one which shone down right in the middle, like an aqua disco. As my feet made their entrance I was delighted to feel warmth between my toes, it wasn’t hot tub warm mind you, but enough that one wasn’t jarred awake. It was right about then that I realized that the 20 or so people in the water were all over 65, every one of them, and they were all staring at me with looks that seemed to suggest I was maybe in over my head, or at least in a place where I maybe didn’t belong. I hesitated, but only for a moment, I wanted to see this through. What’s the worst that could happen?

As we sat waiting for the class to start I surveyed the crowd. It amazed me how much the dynamic mimicked what you would see in a high school class. There was the old Italian guy that the ladies seemed to take a liking to, he was standing directly under the light, three women laughing loudly at his side. Attentive to his witty words, their body gestures lively. Then off in the corner was an Eastern European man staring him down, jealous that even now after all this time he still didn’t have what it took to make the ladies laugh, or maybe he was sad that he lost it? The asian ladies were off in their own corner warming up with enthusiastic over the head hand claps and loud chatter, happy to be out with girlfriends, so much to say. The asian men seemed more content to tread water while holding onto the side of the pool, large kicks and water splashing everywhere. Then there was me, alone, watching it all take place. At the very least it became clear that any shortfall in co-ordination on my part was likely to go unnoticed.

The instructor showed up and she too gave me a glance, maybe it was a double take, I couldn’t read what it meant. I buckled up and found a spot where I could see her. As she went for the stereo I was imagining traditional Chinese music (a staple of this particular community centre, and rightfully so) or maybe something adult contemporary but upbeat, perhaps a remix? It turns out it was full on techno and right from the get go it was all hands on deck. The moves were complicated and challenging and at one point I think I had to catch my breath. As you might expect the rest of the crowd was mostly just doing their own thing, following along when it seemed possible, walking in place when it didn’t. This wasn’t really about exercise for them, well not in the same way it was for me, it was about getting out and being social. Being able to say you left the house. There were moments when we had to move ourselves from one side of the pool to the other with sweeping side steps and complicated arm moves, the result was mostly people crashing into each other and then everyone staying in one spot out of fear. I moved up, closer to the instructor and wildly side stepped away.

It should be mentioned that the cardio room looks onto the pool. The demographic in there seemed much the same. There was an older man wearing not only a thick fleece hoody, but also a winter parka with the hood up while he pedaled away on a stationary bike. He seemed to be with a companion who rode the bike to his right, he was reading the sing tao out loud as he leaned heavily on his handle bars. I watched them intently as I lunged and arm flexed, a remix of land down under blaring over the system now (ah ha!). It was a scene almost too perfect, too comical to believe. There was even a lady who I suspect to be in her 70’s trying to work the rowing machine. After 40 minutes the wind down started and half the pool emptied, not much interest in strength training I guess. I was glad to be rid of the loud beat of the booming music (although I do like to sing “vegemite sandwich…”) and happy to welcome a little death cab for cutie and radiohead. It would have been relaxing if those ladies hadn’t started chatting again, oh well it’s their class, no need to rock the boat on my first day.

When it was over and the arm floats had been put back in the bin, I decided to try my luck at the sauna. It was a mostly male crowd, younger. I entered midway through a discussion about the Chinese calendar. Apparently, if you are born in the year of the pig it is better to be born between 6-9pm, then you will have a good life, anything in the morning and you are in trouble. I laughed when I heard it, and just like that I was part of the discussion. After admitting that I had no idea what year I was born in I was promptly told I was a rabbit. Very smart and wise is the rabbit, your face is a good face, a nice chin; you will live a good life! I guess good is pretty subjective really, and who am I to say he is wrong, I am not even halfway yet (I hope). Eventually the soothsayer left the wooded room and everyone laughed at his expense. The message was clear, he was a nut. It might be true, but I couldn’t help but say: “I don’t know, isn’t it better to believe in something rather than nothing?” It stopped the crowd in their tracks, and after a pause everyone agreed with nods and mumbles. Of course that opened myself up for a discussion about Christianity, which I should have seen coming considering the crowd, but I didn’t mind. It felt like community, and I liked that.

So what was the point? Maybe that you shouldn’t dismiss a party based on the crowd. Or maybe it's about opening oneself up to new experiences, how pleasant surprises are waiting for us all over the place if we choose to look. I need to do it more often. One thing’s for sure, I know where I will be next Thursday.


clara said...

Hm I have been thinking about aquafit again...last time I went was in the west end, no old folks, all hotties and pregnant women. Not sure what my neighbourhood pool will have but yours sounds like classic east van.

It's hard work though, no?

Oh and you do have a pretty badass chin.

t said...

it is hard work, my legs were killing me the next day. i think that was partly what made it so great, that and the lack of hotties (well other than me and my badass chin! ha!).

Juno, Mike and Everett said...

hi its juno!
i don't have your email?
and want to send you and invite to the Lucky Fish.

miranda said...

such a perfect picture. you are awesome - and that chin too? you WILL have a great life. :-) i love your neighbourhood and it's characters.

i'm too scared to go to aquafit at the aquatic centre - i suspect that i will be the person most in need of it in the pool. i'd like an elderly crowd to make my one-piece feel at home! ;-)

Milkybeer said...

I tried the mommy and baby aquafit and gave up after two classes. The crew at our pool isn't nearly as interesting as yours.