I appear to have attracted a fan in the gym. Rolf is seventy-two — I know because he made sure I knew — but has been “working on his legs” until, so he maintains, he got up to where I max out on The Sled. Except that he has been having some trouble with his foot. Or knee. Or something. Whatever, it had busted him back down to three plates on each side, still a creditable effort for a skinny-limbed older guy in belted khaki shorts; he appeared to be just finishing or starting a set with that weight when I approached him yesterday to ask how many more he planned on.
“Oh, I’m just contemplating the future,” he said in a dreamy way.
“Well how many more sets are in your future?”
He gave me to understand he was pretty well done but might try for four if I wanted to do a set with four. (That is a total of eight 45# sewer lids, 360 pounds plus the weight of the sled, a nice warmup.)
He declared himself finished after an attempt at that weight but kept hanging around, helping me add plates. “I’m an old school kind of a guy,” he explained. Chivalry with a lady closing in on a ten-rep-plus set with 630 pounds: it has a surreal charm. Apparently we were becoming a secret society in his estimation. “I wonder what the guys who own this place would think,” he said. “A woman doing this weight! A seventy-two-year old guy doing this weight.”
“Stand clear fortheluvvaChrist,” I said, shoving the footplate up the quarter inch I needed to release the catchers.
“How long have you been doing this?” he wanted to know as we broke down the weights finally. I told him twenty-five years, though it is more like thirty now that I think about it.
“How about your husband?” Whaaaa? “Ain’t got one a those,” I said. It would take too long to explain that if I had stayed married and my husband had lived he would be about ten years older than Rolf. “I do have an engineer who likes to bench press on Sundays, though.”
“See you got a training partner,” said Mr. P., the lame trainer, who has become prone to parking his can on a stack press next to the glute-ham bench and watching what everyone is up to. “Rolf isn’t always hitting on all cylinders but he’s harmless.” “Let’s not talk about hitting on,” I said.
This tends to happen to me. Back in the Seventies when I was singing alto with the Washington Saengerbund, a group of carousing ex-pat Germans and music lovers who dipped into the beer pretty deeply after rehearsals, I once found myself at the bar face to face with Fred, a many-times-past-President of the organization. Fred was 80-something and had had a couple of strokes by then, but was cherished and celebrated by everyone regardless of occasional social gaffes; in the dispiriting prewar years of the 1930s, when any German cultural organization was suspect, he had worn lederhosen and an Alpine hat about town to assist the government agents assigned to tail him, going so far as to offer one a cigar from time to time. Such exercises in bravado tend to secure a man celestial honors. Fred was the sternest critic of my singing accent in the group, but went to pains to emphasize that he meant no unkindness. “You know, I like you,” he said as our beers were delivered, “you got shpirit. I tell you something, I really like to shcrew you just vunce.” As I looked from side to side, frantic to see someone I needed to talk to right that minute, he added “Vhen I vas younger — bam! I had eight inches. Bam, bam, bam.” Graphic fist pumps accompanied this assertion.
“Fred, you’re so bad,” I remember saying before I patted him on his necktie and fled in all directions.
At least Rolf only wanted to load my plates for me.
If I get old and random and start grabbing young men by the ass I hope people will cut me some slack.