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There is only one success--to be able to spend your life in your own way.-Christopher Morley
1000 Ways to Die
By David
Posted March 17, 2011

I'm at the gym, jogging on the treadmill, breathing quickly and watching the timer on the instrument panel progress more slowly than I thought possible. Most of the time I speed-walk on the treadmill, but every ten minutes or so I crank up the speed and run a bit.

When I just can't take the running any longer, I go back to speed-walking and check for newly arrived email on my iPhone, hoping for either good news on the business front, or at least no new email that requires my intervention -- which can be just as satisfying.

My iPhone is perched on a thin metal ledge located at the bottom of the treadmill's instrument panel, which is really intended to hold a magazine. Instead, I use it to hold my electronics. Next to my iPhone, I have my iPad, which I use mainly as an e-reader while exercising. After all, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

By now I'm thankfully nearing the last five minutes of my workout, and as I reach to place the iPhone on the metal ledge, the phone slips and falls to the ground. In the past four years of exercising multiple times per week, this is the first time I've dropped my phone, and I frown at the awkwardness of it all.

I look down, my eyes following the falling phone as it hits the conveyor belt of the treadmill and settles flat on its back, its blue glow shining surprisingly brightly against the moving black rubber of the conveyor belt. In an instant, I feel relief that the phone didn't smash to pieces, and I decide to pursue it.

Treadmill, iPhone, Actress, and Me
Treadmill, iPhone, Actress, and Me

So I stop my forward movement and let myself flow backwards with the motion of the conveyor belt until the iPhone falls off onto the floor. It feels a little like surfing or skate boarding in a way, and as I quickly reach the end of the machine, I hop off it and land firmly near the iPhone.

I scoop up the iPhone, glad that it appears to be intact despite the drama, shake my head that the incident occurred altogether, and get back on the treadmill to complete the last few minutes of my workout.

I feel glad that all's well that ends well, and I'm particularly pleased that both the phone and I came out unscathed, especially because I was aware that a few people on nearby treadmills witnessed the event.

As in many gyms, the treadmills are lined up in long lines, side by side, and I usually take my place in the back row, happy enough to mind my own business and keep to myself as I huff and puff and sweat in an unflattering way.

Meanwhile, in the row directly in front of me is a shapely but fit woman who looks vaguely familiar, and whose bouncing rear-end would be entertainment enough to distract from the unpleasantness and boredom of the exercise, if I were not a family man, which I am.

A guy walks up to her and tells her that her performance in some acting part was amazing. So amazing, in fact, that he just had to watch the movie twice. He's grinning like a star-struck idiot, his jaw nearly hitting the ground.

For an instant I consider telling him that for $20 I'll let him take my place and he'll get a view that would be a bargain for his investment. But instead, I attempt to read a few more pages of my novel before heading home.

At that moment, a man that I guess to be in his late 50s exercising nearby, turns to me.

"Have you seen 1000 Ways to Die?" he asks with a raspy voice punctuated by a thick foreign accent, perhaps Persian in origin.

The question catches me off-guard. "Huh?"

So, he repeats the question. "Have you seen 1000 Ways to Die?"

By then, I gather that he's talking about the title of a TV show I haven't seen.

"Nope. Sorry."

"Well, they show all kinds of ways that people actually died," he explains.

"One guy got shot in the head, and the bullet stayed inside his brain for ten years, because it was too risky for surgery. One day, he gets lightly tapped in the head by something and dies on the spot."

"Ah..." I narrow my eyes and turn my head in a way that shows deference to what was said.

"Another person was using a vacuum cleaner in a room with some flammable gas, and there was an electric spark inside the vacuum cleaner, which caused it to explode and the person died."

"Geez..." I reply, and shake my head solemnly. I find that when faced with strangers imparting wisdom, it's critical to show the proper respect at the end of each idea they share.

"One day everything's good with people, then all of a sudden something happens and, boom, it's all over," he says, hand slicing through the air in front of him, to demonstrate finality.

"Yeah. You never know. When it's time to go, it's time to go," I conclude.

It's his turn to nod, and we both resume our exercise, although I'm getting ready to leave, my 30-minute treadmill routine mercifully up. I bid the man goodbye, and again note the uninvited groupie who is still grinning with a huge, toothy smile, as I head to the exit.

I guess that the man next to me witnessed the falling of my iPhone and my pursuit of it, and wondered if he's about to witness my tragic entanglement in the machinery.

Sorry, not today, buddy. I'll leave the true dramatic performance to the actress right in front of me. Believe me, she'd make a much more spectacular treadmill crunch victim than would I.

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