I finished my workout this morning rather later than I usually do. Why is not important. What is important is that it altered my routine. I am a man of routine; the older I get, the more I cling to routine. It has become my religion. When I ignore routine, things go wrong. For example, when I get home from work, the first thing I do is put my keys, my wallet, and my entry badge in a bowl on the kitchen counter next to the giant Charlotte Watson bread crock. If I screw up even one part of that routine, the next morning I will have an angry, sleepy Diana on my hands as I rummage around the bedroom in the dark knocking over everything on the night stand:
”David! What are you DOING?”
”I can’t find my badge.”
“Did you bring it up here?”
“Then why are you LOOKING for it up here?”
“Because it’s not in the bowl, so now I have to search the entire house. I’ve already checked the garage, attic, and behind the refrigerator.”
“Well, why don’t you at least turn on the light so you can see?”
“Because I don’t want to disturb you.”
“Just as soon as I check your shoe rack… and every single drawer in the bathroom.”
So, anyway, when I finished my workout today, I went to the locker room. There is a group of us retired military, all on our second or third careers, who show up when the base gym opens in the morning. We’re usually the only ones there until the active duty guys start arriving about an hour later. They’re all nice guys. I always speak to them and pass the occasional pleasantry – “Hey, did you see that Husker game last night?” – “Yeah, Polini lost his mind after that crap call in the third” – but, other than that, they do their thing, and I do mine. I don’t know their names, so I make up names for them based on physical characteristics or what little I know about them through short conversations: Bald Marine Guy, Long Shanks, Allstate Guy, Whistler’s Mother, etc.
These guys are all pretty ate up about their workouts, and I’m mostly just there to sneak the occasional glimpse of myself making faces and flexing in the big mirrors when I think no one else is looking, so I’m usually done and gone well before they are. But not today. When I got to the locker room, I removed my sweats, threw on a towel, shaved, then headed to the shower. It’s what I always do. I had just lathered up when behind me I heard:
“Hey, did you see that sign in the bathroom?”
I’m not a prude. You should understand that right off the mark. I spent 15 of my adult years in Europe with its “clothing-optional” sensibilities, boob-bedecked billboards, and naughty page-three girls. I’ve been to South Korea and the Philippines, and what I didn’t see done with a Ping-Pong ball in those two places probably hadn’t been invented yet, except maybe in certain border towns along the Rio Grande.
Also, communal showers and bathrooms were a constant in the military. I have no problem with them, in general, which is actually pretty amazing when you consider I come from a family who not only closes the door when they enter a bathroom, but also locks it, moves a large piece of furniture in front of it, and sings so everyone knows they are in there. But there are certain bathroom activities during which I’d rather not engage in lengthy conversation; pooping is one of them, showering is the other. Still, out of politeness, I responded:
“No, I didn’t see it.”
“It said ‘NO SHAVING IN THE SINKS.’ Can you believe that shit?”
I turned my head to look behind me, and there stood Bald Marine Guy. His shower was running, but he wasn’t showering. He was just standing there… facing me… talking… naked. At that point he was no longer Bald Marine Guy. He had become Naked Man.
I am convinced every communal shower facility has a Naked Man. Naked Man is the guy who refuses to put a towel on. He shaves, brushes his teeth, and walks around completely in the buff talking to everyone. There was a Naked Man at our base in Abu Dhabi during the Desert Storm. There were a series of Naked Men during my many deployments to Saudi Arabia, one who would set his junk on the sink while he shaved. Naked Man likes two things: he likes to be naked, and he likes to talk to people, preferably at the same time. I hate Naked Man, which is a shame because I always liked Bald Marine Guy.
Clearly, I had a conversation ahead of me whether I wanted one or not. With an inward sigh, I considered male shower protocol. Do I continue showering with my back to him? That seems rude. Or, do I stop and face him too? That’s just too weird, but my instinct is to look at people when I talk to them. I keep on showering, but I turn a little to the side so I’m not craning my neck behind me. There. Am I displaying too much? Not enough? It will have to do.
“No. I missed that, but it’s pretty stupid.”
“Yeah, it’s like saying, ‘DON’T PEE IN THE URINAL.’”
Naked Man launched into a diatribe of how poorly the gym facility is run and how he’s going to get it straightened out. He’s a retired marine and an Type-A personality. That’s what Type-A personalities do. They walk around naked and fix things. I’m a… whatever is not an A-Type personality. If someone sticks a sign up telling me not to do something I want to do, I just do it and don’t say anything about it. I pick my battles. At some point, I realize that while musing over personality types and trying not to look at this guy’s junk without obviously looking like I’m trying not to look at it, I have completely lost track of the conversation. Time for a platitude:
“Yeah, these guys have no idea what they’re doing.”
”You’re telling me. Hey, been working those triceps huh?”
Damn. Now he’s Naked Compliment Guy. Time to punch.
“Yeah. I’m trying. Well, later.”
I left the showers for the drying area. As I toweled off, I noticed that the bottom half of me was still covered in soap. Well, there was no way I was going back in to rinse off. I probably had only bare minutes before the rest of the guys showed up to stand around in the shower, naked, and discuss how poorly the gym is run. In the future, I’ll be sticking to my routine.