I walk into the locker room at the Y, glad that the hour for reading Us Weekly while fiddling with the controls of a Stairmaster is upon me.
How lucky a gal am I, I muse, to be able to bring my toys to a place where I pay money to manufacture difficulty for myself?
Wondering if it will be Bruno Mars, Kansas, Ida Maria, Cloud Cult, or Bob Mould wailing in my earbuds while my forearms pop with sweat–because who can predict the whimsical ways of the iPod on “Shuffle”?–I plop my gym bag onto a bench.
Pulling on the zipper, readying to plunge my arm into the pungent depths of the bag and start yanking out towels and magazines, I glance up at the locker in front of me.
Well, well, well, and what the hell?
The sign hanging on the tall locker in front of my gaze resembles a flow chart. What to the huh?
After staring at the sign for a minute, I decipher the situation. As is usually the case when it comes to human beings interacting, I am grateful to find myself a couple removes outside the fray. Because–botheration!–PEOPLE.
The situation is this:
- The Y offers free, tall lockers for day use. That means a person can come and deposit her belongings into a locker for a few hours and then collect them at the end of her workout, leaving the locker empty for the next person.
- The Y also offers smaller “kit” lockers, rentable by the month, in which personal items can be permanently stashed. Provided as part of the rental fee is a padlock. A few months ago, guessing that my ailing shoulder might be somewhat related to Gym Bag-itis, I caved in and rented one of these smaller lockers. It’s proven a great place to store 10 pounds of shampoos and lady ungents. Now, I simply carry my clothes back and forth from gym to home while the razors and exfoliators enjoy an extended sleepover.
- Sometimes, a morally questionable Y patron will put her belongings into one of the free, tall lockers, snap her own lock onto the thing, and lay permanent claim to the space. This is against policy–tsk, tsk–so after a few days, a member of the Y staff will affix a notice to the front of the offending locker. Such is the situation that happened in the photo above. “Dear Y Guest” signifies imminent eviction and lets the squatter know she has until a certain date to remove her belongings and lock, or the Y will do it for her. I like to imagine they grab one of the bulging, veiny steroid abusers from the weight room upstairs and have him come down to crush the lock with his bare paws. Then I like to imagine they gift him with the contents of the locker, thus allowing Brutus to wear home a size 4 Lululemon “Kanto Catch Me” tank top.
- The Bad Girl who stole locker space recently was given notice on 11/24 that she had two days to get her crap out.
- On 11/28, her stuff was still there. The Y staff had probably been very busy calming bouts of ‘roid rage up in the weight room (“Now, now, Brutus. How about a cuppa chamomile?”) and cleaning patrons’ empty bottles out of shower stalls because, really, who can be bothered to pick up her empty conditioner container and walk it all of 14 feet to a disposal bin? That’s not the kind of calorie burning we’re after!
- On 11/28, some hard-working, small-locker-renting woman discovered she had a pen in her sports bra and decided to vent the disappointment about her divorce and the anger she feels at the snottiness of her children by writing a note to a Y staff member who, more likely than not, is 45 years old and making $9/hour.
- On 11/28, this disappointed, angry woman with a pen in her sports bra whipped out that therapeutic instrument and wrote, “Today is 11/28,” thus pointing out that the locker space-stealer’s deadline was long past. The disappointed, angry woman, for whom such stealthy, passive/aggressive gestures doubtlessly qualify as “courage” and “humor,” then tightened up her already-taut bicep and drew a steady-handed line to the bottom of the sign, whereupon she editorialized, “can we all use big lockers then?“
- Tucking her pen back into her bra, the disappointed, angry woman probably shared a cackle with her workout buddy before donning her coat, grabbing her keys, and driving home to the loneliness of her dim kitchen, where the overhead light stopped working the day after her ex moved out.
- As long as I’m imagining, and when am I not?, I like to think that her ex is now dating the next woman who wrote on the sign. In my heart, I feel certain he’s having a much better time now that he’s been released from a household of unexpressed expectations and visibly clenched jaws. If he’s with the next woman who wrote on the sign, he’s probably laughing right now while pouring her a beer, and when it foams over the top of the glass, she doesn’t gripe, “And who’s supposed to clean that up?” but, rather, she dips her head to the counter and slurps up the mess with unencumbered gusto.
- In darker black pen, running up the side of the sign, is the beer slurper’s addition, a note to the disappointed, angry woman: “Don’t be a butthead. Watch your own bobber!“
- The beer slurper, in addition to being very good at slurping beer, appears to be a fisherwoman. Her two skills are complementary.
- Because I am not a fisherwoman, I have to work through a blip of confusion when I first read “Watch your own bobber!” Because I am not a fisherwoman, I don’t think of a plastic marker floating in the water when I read “bobber.” Because I am a Jocelyn, I think “dilly bobber“–as in a man’s personal bobber, and I spend a puzzled second in front of the sign, my hand still half plunged into my pungent gym bag, wondering how a woman is supposed to watch her own penis.
- Mentally, I work through the possibilities and conclude the Y has a new transgender-acceptance policy, so now women in the locker room can watch their own bobbers.
- Then I remember I live in Minnesota, land of fifteen thousand lakes, a place where “bobber” has meanings beyond the crotch.
- I’m a bad Minnesotan.
- I’m okay with that.
- In a beautiful and overdue moment of clarity, I understand: the beer slurper was admonishing the disappointed, angry woman and telling her to get over herself and mind her own damn business.
- If the beer slurper were a marriage counselor, she might have saved the disappointed, angry woman from a dim kitchen.
- Quickly, I store away the phrase “Watch your own bobber!” for the next time I decide to dispense motherly wisdom to my kids. Previously, I have advised them to start journals in which they might record my sage nuggets–things like “Don’t go getting excited about this party because there will only be six cupcakes for 20 people” and “Go ahead and throw the knives at your sister” and “It’s okay to lie, if it’s to someone who’s awful” and “If you’re only allowed to bring one bag on the bus, and you can’t fit all your stuff in it, just layer yourself into all your clothes and wear them onto the bus; then you can take them off–most of them, anyhow–once it pulls out of town.” Strangely, the kids have never responded to my “start a journal” urgings. It must be that they’re memorizing the adages as they fly out of my mouth.
- Just to be sure they always remember what I learned in the locker room that day, however, I’m going to buy them Motherly Wisdom journals for Christmas this year.
- On the first page, I will write “Watch your own bobber!“
- On the second page, I will write “If you ever get drafted, do not be alarmed when I jam you into the trunk of the car and drive northwards.“
- On the third page, I will write “If a kid is on the ground, crying, and nearby some other kids are laughing about it, I totally support your going over there and shoving the laughers into a dung puddle.“
- On the fourth page, I’ll just leave a place-holder that says “Save this space. I feel something about Adele brewing but don’t have it fully formed yet.“
Eventually, with a Motherly Wisdom journal plan in place, I stuff all my bobbers into my workout clothes, grab the US Weekly from my bag, and head upstairs to the Stairmaster.
Twenty minutes later, when I get bored, I take a little break to wipe the sweat off my forearms and look around the cardio center for pinched women with disappointed, angry faces and the outline of ballpoint pens in their bras.