I’ve just come back from the YMCA, where we go regularly for exercise. It is a Saturday morning and there are usually not many people there. But today it is different, it is the day after the first day of the new year and there are a lot more cars (well mostly pickups and SUVs) in the parking lot than usual and quite a few chunky women on the machines. They are new at the Y and have resolved to get rid of the candy and cake fat they put on over the holidays. I predict they will be gone in about three weeks unless they join the regular cadre of women who, with their little prayer-like rugs, take part in the killing fields of the big exercise room. There we see women in odd positions doing odd things with their limbs and bodies to get “in shape” or stay that way. We only get a glimpse of the room as we leave the weight room but their contortions look amusing and painful.

The big guy with wavy white hair who rides the exercise bike for 20 minutes is here. He always comes on Saturday and his son, who is also big but wears a staff t-shirt, will come by to visit with him and share photos from his I-phone. I don’t know the name of the staff guy but we have never seen him do much except lean against the half wall that separates the weight room from the hall. There are several staff men and the occasional woman wearing blue shirts. Their task is to make sure people know how to use the machines and weights and make sure customers don’t pass out or throw up.

The little guy with the slow walk and puzzled expression has not been back for a long time. I think he has either died or found a cheaper place to exercise. I’m sorry he left, I liked to watch him—he used the one machine where you rotate something with your hands while simultaneously pedaling with your feet. No wonder he looked puzzled.

There is also a rowing machine that men and women sometimes use. Some row like they are trying to avoid Niagara Falls but others are very laid-back in their approach to rowing, much like drifting in a canoe.

On weekdays Joice and I start out on the treadmills—I take No. 1 and she takes No. 2, unless Mr Stoneface is there before us. He once glanced at me when we were both near the towel and disinfectant dispenser, but generally he plugs in his earphones to the little box at the side of the treadmill and treads hurriedly toward his goal of 25 minutes. He will then go to the upright stationary bike and pedal toward nowhere. He has an old green towel that he uses to wipe the sweat from his brow as he takes on lap 6 or 7. He avoids all eye contact with humans—there are no animals here, so I don’t know how he interacts with dogs or cats.

Mr and Ms Olympics are behind us on the elliptical machines, talking and giggling and sweating like pigs. They work out on various machines and then go to the weight room where they lift weights and feel each others biceps and hammies to make sure they are firming up. They have so much fun that we wonder if they are married.

Mike and Rusty pedal on the low stationary bikes and discuss cars, mainly, although if Baylor has had a game, that will come into the conversation. When Joice takes her position on the stationary low bike (between the two TV sets so she can watch both simultaneously—a great eye exercise) she will banter with them. Rusty has been coming to the Y since it opened. He owns a furniture store (Advantage Furniture is on his truck) and Mike owns a used car business. He has a step-son being treated for cancer so we sometimes ask about Steve.

We have also gotten to know Doug and Ruth a bit. They go directly to the weight room and alternate between two machines, moving from station to station for about 20 minutes, so we won’t be using those machines for awhile. Doug says that coming to the Y is his “insurance policy”, not meaning, I guess, that if he gets sick the Y will pay for his hospital stay.

There are some really big guys in the weight room, with wide leather belts so that their guts down burst when they pick up five or six hundred pounds. There is also an older gentleman who groans and talks as he does his workout.

Two women have been working out at about the same time as us for at least a year. They have a trainer who instructs them on how to toss a big ball back and forth, squat, move their arms up and down and do simple exercises. I estimate that the big woman has lost 40 or 50 pounds and the second woman, who small and about 40 years old, is now ready for a marathon.

Such is life at the Y. We weigh ourselves on Mondays and the scales are never right—they are always at least 2 or 3 pounds heavier than we know we are. We thought the new electronic scales would be more accurate, but they aren’t.

We will leave and say goodbye to Lyndsey at the reception desk. She is about 21, married and goes to college part time, so she studies a lot. Recently the boss told her and the other women that they should stand more and he took their chairs away for a while. Joice noticed they have their chairs back and remarked about it. “Yes, but we aren’t supposed to sit in them long”, Lyndsey told us. Joice threatened to write to the boss and tell him that we don’t care if the women sit or stand to do their work, but she hasn’t yet. (The boss is big, like he sits a lot, so that maybe his concern for them.) The girls do their work well, no matter what position they are in.

We have cleaned our machines and put sanitary gel on our hands so hopefully we haven’t gotten any new germs or left any of our old ones. Germs will play havoc with the best of New Year’s resolutions.

January 2, 2016