Something splendid happened at the gym this morning. As I got myself situated on the treadmill, I looked up to see that one of the televisions on the wall of televisions in front of me was tuned into an episode of “The Simpsons” instead of Fox News.
I watched, read the subtitles and listened to my music during what turned out to be a blissful first 20 minutes of my run.
It was an episode about behavior drugs for kids, wherein Bart tests a new drug that is supposed to help him concentrate.
As always, the animation and satirical brilliance shined, and I laughed at the silliness of society.
And then society struck back.
An older lady, definitely Baby Boomer-ish, walked down the long wall of televisions with a remote in her hand.
She stopped in front of my TV, which was just about to play another episode of “The Simpsons,” which, if it made the second half of my workout as easy and mindless as the first half, would be far more desirable than watching Fox News defend their favorite PEOTUS’ latest Twitter foibles.
Sweating and breathing hard, I was shocked to watch her look back at me and proceed to change the channel.
I watched as the selection screen appeared and she clicked down through USA and several game shows to arrive at a fucking vacuum cleaner infomercial.
Sorry for the profanity, but I deserve that.
A vacuum cleaner infomercial. Let that shit sink in for a minute.
She walked back to the row of treadmills, away from where I thought she would go, which would be one of the two on either side of mine, where she could see her infomercial, and where I could give her the judgemental side eye.
No, she walked to the end, got on and proceeded to place a magazine on the treadmill in front of her.
Mother Mary forgive me, if I didn’t want to throw something trough the large glass windows next to me for the next five minutes.
I was foaming at the mouth, my nostrils, I’m sure, flared to the point of tearing. My heart racing wildly.
But I ran through it. I let the somewhat cathartic aspect of the repetitiveness feature of infomercials lull me into an anger stupor.
I wrote and practiced at least two speeches in my head on the off chance I’d get to confront her.
I spent so much time and energy being pissed off at her that I hardly noticed that my treadmill was slowing down.
I was suddenly in cool-down mode, and I was still mouthing the lines to some brilliant oration if she stepped off her treadmill while I happened to be spraying my white hand towel with disinfectant.
But oh how I glared at her when I walked by, and if I knew how to work a Dish Network remote, I would have put a satirical show on every television on that wall and told her it would be good to watch this so she could avoid being a caricature herself.
I was pissed off until lunchtime, until I’d thought it through so many times I could no longer justify the mindspace I was dedicating to it.
Then I magnified that thought and wondered how many times I’ve done something similar that pissed off someone for hours without ever knowing it. There’s nothing to be done about it when someone doesn’t know. It fails to give humans the chance to be empathetic or just plain, old kind.
And so I’m writing this tonight, when it’s settled in and I can process it with a broader sense of all that transpired in those few minutes when she changed the course of my day.