PESTS, PUERILE PLEASURES…. And Other Gym-Related Horrors

| September 28, 2011 | Comments (0)


The first indication that there was a small, four-legged, furry visitor were the tiny specks I thought were miscellaneous bits of dirt but which turned out to be mouse droppings. Tending to ignore unpleasant things in the hope that they would just go away, I swept up the miniscule rodent pellets and put any further thought of a mouse  out of mind.

Several days later in the laundry room as I reached for a stack of freshly dried, snow-white towels, I saw once again on the backdrop of the virgin-white fabric a trio of mouse feces artfully and purposefully arranged, I was sure,  to catch my attention. The time for action had arrived ! But what to do ? With an aging – she is going on 18 – toothless cat on the premises I was in a quandry as to how to get rid of Matilda Mouse (I hoped it was a mouse and not a giant rat, Rufus the Rat!).  If I put out poison, Miss Putri the Cat might sample it and dispatch herself to Feline Heaven. If I set a Victory Trap, she would surely approach the cheese and end up with a broken paw. After days of deliberation I settled on a third option, the Sticky Glue Trap whereby the mouse sniffs and steps on a peanut butter-flavored, glue-impregnated platform and gets stuck, unable to flee.

After a week with no further mouse-sightings and no disturbance to the Sticky Trap, I  was convinced that Matilda had simply moved on, gone to greener pastures, to another house where the pickings were not so slender. But it was not to be. Matilda, it seems, was a well-brought up lady. Later I found a stash of  her excrement discretely deposited in the boiler room in a dark corner. The little thing was indeed well-bred.

Days passed and I decided on a policy of co-existence. While I did not remove the Sticky Trap – that would be admitting humiliating defeat – I no longer actively  looked for Miss Maus or harbored mean thoughts about doing her in. I knew she was there and dutifully swept up the modest dung piles  I found in out-of-the-way locations.

Then one morning as I was cleaning Miss Putri’s litter box in the bathroom, my glance swept the space and I saw her. A tiny coal black creature,  inquisitively staring at me from a corner. There was almost a tameness in her tentative posture; then she made her fatal move, scampering for the door. Primordial cave man instinct kicked in and I raced after her – she was not a fast mover –  raising and then lowering my shoe on her back as she cleared the door’s threshold . She squirmed for a second and then lay motionless. I plucked her up by the tip of  her delicate little tail. As she dangled in front of me I saw her luminous black eyes, winsome little snout and come-hither whiskers. Her coat was onyx-black and shiny.

I burst into tears as my little friend – she would have been my friend if she had not tried to run from me; we could have become pals and I would have fed her and cleaned up after her – twirled before me. Why had I done that ? Why had I snuffed out her life? Why are we humans so cruel ? My week, if not my life, had now been ruined. I must turn to other matters.

My gym in mid-town Manhattan, in the Turtle Bay neighborhood, to be exact, is a place of horror and wonder. A refuge of harmonious solitude and a snakepit of stress and rejection. There are people there whom I hate and love.  Sometimes the same person at the same time, if that is possible. Let me elaborate.

In this enlightened age of politically correct attitude and civilized discourse, I am here to tell you the atmospherics of  the male locker room with all  its  rowdy baggage are alive and well. My favorite character  – let us  call him Professor Chow even though I have never learned his real name in the twenty years we have been going at each other –  is a  5-foot tall, 90 year-old Chinese gentleman who sometimes but not always wears his dentures. In broken English he informed me, at one point, that he had been a professor of Chinese art which he taught in spanish. Now each day when we see each other, usually nude, he yells at me, “Hey Muddahfuckah !….”  The conversation that ensues is not repeatable, but involves discussion of male organ size – ha ha ! mine is bigger than yours, you big asshole – and accusations that he saw me engaged in unspeakable acts with movies stars (his favorite is my  alleged addiction to cunnilingis with Whitney Houston).

Usually his blast lasts a couple of minutes whereupon I pick up the baton and throw back at him even viler, grosser epithets. On a particularly lively day I will lunge to grab his crotch and he will shriek at me, “You fuckin’ pervert, lay off me !” Other locker room denizens, well-pressed Wall Street bankers and tight-lipped lawyers, shake their heads, roll their eyes and maintain a disapproving, stoney silence. Our routine usually lasts less than five minutes by which time we are totally drained and purged of any stress or worry that may have been been bothering our minds. Who needs a shrink when there is Professor Chow ?

One day after our tirade had played itself out, Professor Chow approached me and speaking quite clearly – his dentures were in place, as I recall –  said in a low, confiding voice with a look of sadness in his eyes, ” You are my only friend in this gym. Nobody else talks to me and I will always remember your kindness.” I was speechless and a bit confused and regretful thinking that this new, touchy-feely confession would alter our dynamic and that I would never again have hanky-panky with Whitney.

Not at all… the following day, the professor confronted me  in the steam room bragging of his equine proportions, telling me I had the pathetic endowment of a toad. I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that our abuse had reached a new level of therapeutic vulgarity.

I could end this tale here and now because the story has been told, but I see that the  title of this piece calls for more         ” horrors.” So let me name but two – there are many more, but two will suffice because I must move shortly to the kitchen to cook dinner.

Our locker room commodes have recently been upgraded and are now “auto-flush.” But the flush mechanism timing device  malfunctions and the flush itself is of tsunami violence. Therefore…need I really go into further detail at this point ? – a visit to the john is often more than you asked for. Sort of a bidet on steroids.

More horror? Before I begin my daily swim I usually stretch by the poolside for a couple of minutes. Yesterday the life guard told me that I should tone down my stretches. It seems one of the senior ladies – an octagenarian lolling in the pool after her aquatic arthritis class – reported, looking up at me, that my stretch movements were indecently provocative.  Must be Professor Chow’s therapy that has turned me into an exhibitionist.




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