Old Man, Gym: An Exercise in Small Talk

“Hey, there! It’s great to see you!”

“Hello, hello! You, too. You, too. Where is everybody?”

“Well, let’s see…”

“I guess it is a little early, still.”

“Yeah, it’s definitely a little early, I think we still have about 10 minutes before we get started. I’m usually here for the 5:45 class and most people…Well, I shouldn’t say most people. Actually most people get here 10 to 15 minutes early in the morning, but there’s always a handful of people that show up either right on time or a little bit late. Well, sometimes a lot late.”

“The morning crowd is a little different, eh?”

“Yeah, you could say that. There’s also a strange thing where if the 5:30 class is full, there aren’t many people in the 7:00, but it’s also happened where, say, I come in to do the 7:00 class and notice the 5:30 isn’t very full – I’ve gotten nearly 30 people in a 7:00 class before.”

“Is that right?”

“Yep! So who knows. Clock is definitely ticking, though.”

“That, it is.”

“When I was in college I did restaurant work and one thing that has stuck with me forever is once a manager told me ‘Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable.’ And for some reason that’s just always stuck with me. I try my best to show up early for everything if I can help it.”

“Well, let me just tell you, as a manager, that’s a great quality for an employee to have. You see, I used to be in management but it wasn’t in a restaurant.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah, it was. Well, I guess you’re too young to remember it, but it was a drug store called Revco.”

“Oh, yeah, I remember Revco!”

“Yeah, well, I was a manager there. I did it for years and years.”

“Was it here? Have you always lived here?”

“Yeah, oh, yeah. I went to [redacted] Academy growing up. That’s where I started boxing. Yeah, I used to be on the boxing team in high school.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah, I was. But, you see…Ha ha…You see, there’s a story behind it. I didn’t know anything about boxing. But I wanted a sweater with a letter on it, and for me, the only way I could get a letter on my sweater was to either get on the boxing team or play tennis. And I just…Well, let’s just say I wasn’t going to be playing any tennis! So I joined up on the boxing team and I did the best I could. But, you see, I was 16, 17 years old and I was about the same height I am now, maybe about 160 pounds and most of the other guys [gestures toward me] were, you know, bigger guys. But I did well. I got in there with them and…And, well, I got my letter.”

“That’s awesome! What a great story!”

“Yeah, so then the Japanese bought that school and turned it into [redacted] School for Girls. That was after I got out, though. I spent some time trying different things. Once I got out of the military I went and tried to get into sales, but I’m just not a salesman and I never have been. I just don’t have the personality to approach someone and try to sell them something.”

“Oh, I get that. I tried to sell insurance for a brief period of time and I didn’t care for it. Just really high-pressure sales and I just couldn’t do it. I’m the kind of person that will say ‘Hey, do you want this? No? Okay, then!’ and on to the next customer, you know?”

“Oh, yeah, me, too. Me, too. That’s when I started at Revco. It’s retail but it’s not really selling anything, really. I mean, for the most part, it’s just people coming in and picking up prescriptions. You’re really just providing a service at that point, not really selling them anything. I did that for a long time. And then when they turned into CVS I decided to get out of there. I figured I’d already put my time in and I didn’t really feel like starting over again so I retired.”

“Sounds good!”

“I ended up going back to retail, though. I work for [redacted] jewelers and it’s still retail, but I’m not selling anything, really. There’s no face-to-face with customers. It’s mostly on the computer or over the phone. I mean, sometimes they’ll call and say they’re looking for such-and-such a diamond and I can help them find it but when they start asking questions, that’s when I start having trouble. I mean, I know the answers, I’m just no very good at wording it the right way, but I still give it what I’ve got.”

“I think that’s great.”

“Yeah, and this [boxing] has been helping me, too. I tell you, I’ve only been coming for – what is it – two, three weeks now? I’ve only been coming for a few weeks and I’ve never felt so good. I can tell I’m stronger, my stamina has improved, my balance, my concentration…So many things have gotten better just in the last few weeks. Why, I’ve not exercised since…Well, since I got out of basic training, I’d say!”

“Really? Well you’re doing a great job!”

“Yeah, I can’t keep up with you guys and I don’t expect to and I don’t even try to, but I do the best I can and rest when I need to.”

“Well, I think you’re doing a great job and I’m always so glad to see you come in here. It looks like class is about to start so I’ll let you get going, but it was great talking to you and I’m sure I’ll see you in another day or two!”

“You, too!”

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