How Going to the Gym is Just Like Being in France or Nope. I Still Don't Get It.

I don't often get to the gym.  This is obvious when you see me.  However, I do actually belong to a gym in town (a weekend membership because I seriously never get there during the week due to the toddler chauffeur business I inadvertently began when I had kids) and try to make it there from time to time.  When I go I often feel like an outsider; as if there were a secret society of fit people there watching the sad display that is me on an elliptical machine.  Or for that matter, me trying to get the tv on the machine to find ANY OTHER channel than Fox News or CNN.  (I have a knack for picking the machine that only finds these two channels, and can I say it's more depressing to exercise when you have to hear about all the depressing things happening in the world while you're at the gym.  This usually means that I fight with the tv in futility and then quickly change machines only to watch someone else step up and effortlessly switch to the perfect  movie/tv show that I am then unable to locate on the exercise machine to which I moved.)  These fit people then go share some laughs over some protein shakes and liquid kale while recounting the hilarity that is my exercise routine.  The management at the gym deny the existence of this club, but I know.  Oh.  I know.  

Anyway, I was there a couple of weeks ago and realized that I was working out between a seventy-something man in waaaaay too short shorts (And you should see my husband's running shorts.  He won an award.  True story.) and tank top and a twenty-something guy in long pants and long sleeves; all UnderArmour and all tight.  Both of whom were training for a triathlon with varying degrees of sweatiness.  Looking for a distraction I turned to the tv on my machine.  No Fox News and no CNN! Yay! But it seems to be stuck on one channel, which happens to be the Food Network and Paula Deen is fixin' to make her some Butter Cake.  Well, this seems wrong to watch here at the gym between Old Man of Little Clothes and Young Guy of Little Visible Skin.  But I would rather chaperone a million pre-k bowling field trips than pay attention to the numbers slowly creeping by on the machine's display, so I watch Paula put a pound of butter in a mixing bowl.  Then, as if someone felt my pain, a screen at the front of the room lowered from the ceiling (I did not know that screen was there, but I'm guessing that's all covered in the orientation to the Fit People Club.) and they started........The Matrix.  I have nothing against The Matrix.  I know some people think it's the best thing since Charlie Chaplin kicked a cane and other people think it's the most overrated movie to be shown outside of an editing room.  I don't really have an opinion.  Which is weird, cause now I've seen it twice.  Well....twice-ish.  

The first time I "saw" The Matrix was while I was studying in France.  I studied abroad the summer of my senior year in college, and though I didn't appreciate it as much as I should at the time, it was amazing in many ways.  The professors were all nice and helpful.  The students were extremely friendly and open.  The location in eastern France was lovely.  And access to the Euro rail system, and consequently the rest of Europe, was a twenty minute bus ride away.  I had been nervous about my speaking skills, as I was always a lot better at reading and writing French than I was at conversing.  Fortunately, in the first week I discovered a couple of things.  One being there would be many gatherings and parties.  Two, when going to a party in the woods with your new amis, there will be a lot of dancing to "Cotton-Eyed Joe."  Three, "Tu as de beaux seins." will always sounds classier than "Nice boobs!", even if the English-speaker isn't wearing overalls over, well nothing, in a bar.  Four, there is an answer to your conversational problem.  Beer.  About two beers into a conversation my mind gave up trying to translate everything word for word, therefore freeing up some RAM to actually form a sentence in a foreign language.  I may not have been eloquent, but at a certain point I didn't care anymore!  The drawback to the Beer Method is that it's frowned upon for classroom situations (though that didn't stop our professors from taking their smoke breaks directly under the "No Smoking" sign in the hallway).  I managed there however with a lot of blushing and well-written essays.

The other thing I learned is that the Beer Method can actually work against you in non-conversational moments.  Some of us were invited to watch The Matrix with some with some of the French students.  To "help" us with our language skills, we watched in French with French subtitles.  (I feel that I should point out that most of the French students had better English skills than some of my American high school students, and they often practiced their English with us.  At one point we had mentioned that our French would never get better because we were still speaking in English all the time....hence The Matrix incident.)  Normally, I would have been able to follow at least half the movie due to subtitles.  Um, but have you seen this movie?  Yeah.  It's mostly about hacking and a network that we're all a part of or rebelling against or something.  The vocabulary was not covered in any of my French courses and the beer I had to help me talk made me decide to give up on the subtitles and maybe take a little nap instead.  So, my first viewing of The Matrix left me with some funky breath and a desire for dark glasses.

One might think I would understand more the second time, in America where there shouldn't be a language barrier.  If only the headphone jack on my elliptical would work that is.  You can plug your headphones in to the jack on the machine and listen to the audio of the movie, which is lovely for those who want to hear it and for those who don't as they can go about their business and not mess with the giant jumbo tron that drops from the ceiling.  Too bad for me, my headphone jack won't work and there are no subtitles.  I'm firmly sandwiched between Old Man and Young Guy, so it looks like I'll just watch and try to remember anything I learned last time to try and understand it better.  This is what I got:  Ted from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is a computer hacker and finds out something he shouldn't.  That's weird, Ted wasn't that bright in his first movie.  There's a big spaceship where everyone is poor and has feeding tubes in the back of their heads.  The spaceship is supposed to save the world and maybe Ted is supposed to be The One to help the spaceship do that.  There's this guy, Smith, and he shows up everywhere and can be mean.  Laurence Fishburne makes floor-length leather look good.  Like, all sorts of wrong at the exact right time kind of good in floor-length leather.  There are a lot of special effects.  Ted gets shot at a lot and turns into Gumby for a minute.  The spaceship wins.  The end.

That seems about right, doesn't it?  Basically, I still don't know anything about the movie.  I also realized my Mexican lunch made my breath funky.  And that's how going to the gym is just like being in France.  Now I'm going to go look for some dark glasses and a floor-length leather coat.


  1. Wow, I think I followed that. Or maybe we weren't supposed to follow it. Maybe that was the point. Or maybe I should read it again when I am more awake. I'll check that one out tomorrow. I didn't know Sean won an award. That should like a story I missed somehow.

  2. I would like to see Sean in the shorts, holding the award. There's a guy in my neighborhood who runs in short shorts and no top. Really? In the age of sweat-wicking UnderArmour there's just no excuse for that. Especially if you're over forty. Unless I can scrub my laundry on those abs, put a shirt on.

    There is a fit club, and it is populated in my town by The Young Mothers. Moms whose first child, not their fifth, is in second grade. Hmmm, I think you meet this criteria, based on your age when you first watched/drank/ignored The Matrix. I was considerably older, and LOVVVVVVVVED IT. The swirling fire, Trinity in her kick-ass leather/spandex, the slo-mo bullets, even Keanu Reeves. I got in the car, called my friend Janet, and screamed in the phone I was so excited. The story was convoluted (as indicated by your vivid description), but visually it was so mind-blowing I forgave those crazy cross-dressing Wachowski brothers. It doesn't seem so now, because the technology has been around so long, but at the time....Of course I can say that about everything now, including my 1980's DuranDuran hair, so take it for what it's worth.

    Every time Two has deja' vu, I tell him it's a glitch in the matrix. It freaks him out a little, which is good. Maybe he'll get better grades if I threaten to feed his blood to the aliens.

    Remember, you're Magnificent, even if you can't figure out the gym t.v.

    1. There's not a thing wrong with Duran Duran hair. ;)


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