It’s Wednesday night and I’m at the gym. I’ve been working out faithfully since the middle of summer. My cholesterol’s down, I’ve lost some weight, and my doctor’s thrilled with my blood pressure. The health benefits are nice, but the real reason I’m exercising is to look better naked.

The gym I go to is hardcore bodybuilders, cops, fireman, and soldiers for the Russian Mafia. The facility’s well run, clean, and five minutes from my apartment.

The after work crowd is already thinning out. I’m grunting through a set of lat pull downs when I hear a female voice yell, “I know how to do it!”

I swivel my head towards the sound of the woman’s voice. It belongs to the young blonde sitting on the machine next to me. If looks could kill the young man hovering next to her would be incinerated.

“You’re doing it all wrong,” the guy says. “Let me show you.”

“I’ve been working out for twelve years!” the girl says loudly. “I don’t need your advice!” I stifle a laugh. If that’s true she’s been going to the gym since she was eight.

“I’m just trying to help you out,” the young man says, a hurt look on his face.

The girl’s a knockout and not a day over twenty. She hasn’t figured out how to handle the male attention her body generates. She will eventually. The young man has no idea what he’s doing. Rule number one kid? Don’t try picking up girls in the gym. Too much insecurity flying around.

The girl gives the boy a withering stare. I wince sympathetically. I made similar mistakes when I was that guy’s age. I’m older and wiser now – so when I fuck up its with dignified maturity.

The young man throws up his hands and walks away. The blonde turns and looks at me.

“What a jerk,” she mutters.

I give her a smile and shrug. Leave me out of it.

Finished with the weights I go into the cardio room. I hop on an elliptical trainer and start pedaling. I’m just beginning to work up a sweat when Annoying Cardio Guy hops on the machine next to me.

Annoying Cardio Guy is my age and spends most of his day at the gym. Psychotically fit, what makes him annoying is how he frenetically pedals the shit out of the elliptical machine. With each overpowered step he takes, the machine produces a metallic bang that can be heard out in the parking lot. It’s like exercising next to a jackhammer.

As Annoying Cardio Guy pounds through his workout, the sweat drips off him, puddling on the rubberized floor. I begin to smell pepperoni. Maybe the odors emanating from him. Maybe it isn’t. But if he farts I’m out of here.

I sigh deeply and do what the nuns from my childhood told me to do offer it up. When you think about it, the gym is a great place to develop the civic virtue of tolerance.

And when I say tolerance I don’t mean acceptance. I define tolerance the way the great social philosopher Mr. Garrison, from South Park would. “Just because you have to tolerate something doesn’t mean you have to approve of it! Tolerate means you’re just putting up with it! You tolerate a crying child sitting next to you on the airplane or, or you tolerate a bad cold. It can still piss you off! Jesus Tapdancing Christ!”

My old nuns would have agreed. They would have said we sometimes need to put up with other peoples quirks so they’ll put up with ours. I don’t think the nuns would have approved of the tap dancing Jesus part though.

After a few minutes the rhythmic banging from Annoying Cardio Guy’s exercise machine begins to prey on my psyche like Chinese water torture. Today was a bad day to leave my iPod at home. I look at the clock. I’m getting tired. Maybe I should call it quits.

Just then the petulant knockout blonde from earlier walks into the cardio room. She tosses me a glance, plugs a pair of head phones into her ears, and hops on the machine in front of me. As I watch the girls, uh, muscles move and flex under her spandex outfit, I somehow rediscover my commitment to fitness. This I can tolerate.

I smile to myself. The good nuns probably wouldn’t approve of whats going through my head now either.

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