Photo by Kozy
“Hey! That’s my locker.”
Creatures of Habit Drive This
Lover of Change Crazy
It was early on a recent Sunday morning and I decided to take a yoga class before attending a church service. Randomly, I chose a locker in the second row of a substantial men’s room in the health club I’ve been a member of for years.
I had almost finished dressing for class when there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned and saw an unfamiliar face. The guy looked to be in his early 50s. He was missing much of his hair. What was left was combed across his shiny dome. His substantial tummy was stuffed into a pair of slim jeans. The result was the look of a long-legged penguin.
“Hey,” he said. “That’s my locker.”
“Excuse me,” I replied. “What do you mean by ‘your locker’”?
“Well, I always use that locker.”
I looked around. The other 59 lockers in our section were open.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Albert, hang on a minute,” I said.
He appeared perplexed.
I did a quick tour of the room. There were four other sections and a total of 240 additional lockers. I saw locks on five of them, meaning 235 were vacant.
“What’s up?” he asked upon my return.
I said: “Albert, there are 300 lockers in this room. Two-hundred and ninety-four of them are open. And you want this one.”
Albert: “That’s right.”
Albert: “Because I always have.”
Me: “And you can’t, under any circumstances, choose a different one.”
Me: “I cannot relate to that mindset. By the way, I’ve never seen you here before.”
Albert: “I’m only here Sunday mornings. I’m an ER doc and have an insane schedule.”
That got my attention. Most ER docs I know are on the wrong side of crazy. I noticed that Albert was beginning to sweat profusely and his lower lip started twitching. His breathing turned rapid and heavy. Suddenly, I had a vision of a newspaper headline:
Man Killed in Locker Room Dispute
“OK, pal, you can have your locker,” I said.
After relocating to a different locker, I headed off to my yoga class. I was early. Three people lay prone on their mats. The rest of the room, which comfortably held 20 students, was empty.
I chose a spot near the windows and stretched out on my mat. My experience in the locker room unsettled me so I did some breathing exercises to calm down. I must have drifted off. The touch of a soft hand on my shoulder awakened me.
“I’m sorry to bother you but you’re in my space.”
I opened my eyes and saw a petite, dark-haired woman of around 30 peering down at me. She wore a low-cut black leotard, had blue eyes, a cute pixie nose and full lips with a nice shade of red lipstick. I thought I had traveled back in time to the day my similar-looking girlfriend, Sally B. Lomew, looked at me in the same way and said: “We’re done.”
I quickly regained my senses.
“What do you mean by your space?" I asked.
“Well, I’m always right here in this spot.”
By then I had sat up and was looking around the room. There were 10 students now so the place was still only half full. The teacher, Moon Spirit, arrived and prepared to start the class. She dimmed the lights and queued up a tune. [I believe it was The Hare Krishna Experience “Live at The Roxy.”]
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Megan,” I whispered. “It’s a pleasure meeting you but I’m nicely settled in here as you can see. It can’t possibly be a problem for you to put your mat there.”
I pointed to a space about 10 feet away, directly behind me.
“You don’t get it,” she said, also whispering. “When I’m in this space my inner Zen kicks in and my chakras are perfectly aligned.”
By then Moon Spirit had everyone in the class doing deep breathing exercises. She looked over my way with a curious expression that said: “What’s going on?”
I responded with some hand signals, pointing to my mat, Megan, the space behind me and a shrug of my shoulders.
Moon Spirit got the message. She pointed at me, my mat and the space behind me. As in: “Move your ass and let Megan have her space.”
As I picked up my props, I turned to say something to Megan, but she was already on her mat and appeared to be in some sort of altered state.
While moving toward my new space, I accidently tipped over Megan’s metal water bottle, which clanked on the floor and started rolling towards another student. To my surprise it was Albert. The bottle disappeared under his elevated buttocks. I then somehow got my yoga belt tangled up with my two yoga blocks. As I pulled on the belt the wooden blocks broke free and dropped on Albert’s face. Meanwhile, the metal part of my yoga belt swung free, striking Megan squarely on her pixie nose, causing her to shriek in pain.
“You did that on purpose because I took back my space!” she shouted.
Albert chimed in: “He’s ticked at me because I wanted my locker back!”
The teacher approached. Moon Spirit was gone. Bad Moon Rising was in the house.
“You’re going to have to leave the class. You are being disruptive.”
“No buts. Disappear. Now!”
As I made my way across the room to the door I glanced at my classmates. The 11 yogis had turned into 11 vipers, fangs exposed. It was a very long walk.
Fortunately, back in the locker room a steam and sauna awaited. As I attempted to sweat out the disastrous yoga room incident another headline popped into my head:
Yoga Student Terrorizes Class
I headed to church for some spiritual cleansing. It was a large building with four blocks of pews and a total capacity of around 500. There were around 50 parishioners present when I arrived. I chose a seat in the second section half way up the aisle. All the seats in my “neighborhood” were empty.
I closed my eyes and tried to process the morning’s events. Once again, I dozed off. And once again a light tap on my shoulder woke me.
“Excuse me sir, but you’re sitting in our row.”
To my left was a bespectacled man of moderate height in his mid-40s. He wore a plaid shirt buttoned all the way up to his lower neck line and - geek alert! - three pencils protruded from a left pocket protector. His pants rose midway up his surprisingly taut stomach so that only the top half of his shirt showed. By his side was his wife. I couldn’t see her face as her head was tilted downward, as if she were examining her shoe laces. Behind them were their young children. I counted seven blonde-haired towheads. They appeared to be in the reverse order of their age – smallest to tallest.
For no apparent reason, I said: “Sorry, ‘The Sound of Music’ audition is down the street.”
“I meant, what do you mean your row?”
“Well, we’ve always sat here,” he said. “And before me my late parents were here, as well as their parents. My grandparents.”
“You’re telling me your family has sat in the same pew for, what, 50, 60 years?”
“Something like that.”
I attempted to negotiate.
“What would happen if you sat directly behind me today? One Sunday only in your entire life.”
“Oh, no,” he said, shaking his head vigorously. “That just wouldn’t feel right.”
By then his wife’s head had sunk so low her rounded back looked like a camel hump. The Von Trapp kids looked at me with hopeful eyes.
Somehow, in about a minute, I had become yet another headline;
Man Swipes Family’s Pew
About that time the priest was talking on the twin themes of “love thy neighbor” and “giving is better than receiving.”
Defeated yet again by creatures of habit, I left the church and headed home. Along the way I settled down and began to mentally plan the rest of my day. Football was on and my team was playing. I envisioned a lazy afternoon sitting in my favorite recliner. The plan lasted all of maybe five seconds upon my arrival. As I entered the family room, there was my wife. Guess where she was sitting, eating popcorn and watching a Hallmark movie?
“Hey!" I said. "You’re in my chair.”
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