I went back to the gym today before it closes again for another month or two. I did my usual treadmill session and swim and was looking forward to a chat with like-minded men of my own age.
This used to be an important part of my BC – Before Covid – routine enabling me to enjoy the undoubted benefits of exercise and the added boost of social interaction, something that I’d started to miss without work.
Today I bumped into a couple of old faces. The first was a very overweight man in his mid-forties, he was huffing and puffing just getting his kit on.
I felt dutybound to enquire about his Christmas and soon regretted it. It had not gone well. He’s not been getting on with his sons – both in their early twenties – since Covid began. Apparently they think he’s responsible for the pandemic or at the very least being a bit over the top about it all.
They’re both carrying on as normal, travelling to see girlfriends and not making much effort to socially distance. They argue they are staying in their bubbles but he says that they’re in so many bubbles they might as well be in a “bloody bubble bath” which I thought was a nice line.
Now with mask removed so he could take a long draw on his inhaler, he told me he was “paranoid about Covid” and following all the rules.
This all made living under the same roof, particularly over Christmas, a recipe for disaster. I tried to empathise and mentioned that he’s far from alone in having to deal with family disputes about Covid venturing that me and Mrs Jones had disagreements about it.
Oh how I wished I’d never said that. He was quick to ask which side of the debate I was on and I knew my lockdown scepticism would not go down well. For a fleeting moment I thought I’d just pretend that it was me that was all for lockdown and Mrs Jones who hated the restrictions but I couldn’t lie.
I blabbered on for a few minutes trying to sound as reasonable as possible advancing my arguments which centre around keeping the vulnerable safe but allowing others to carry on with normal life. His body language became more belligerent and I started to flounder before making a sharp exit to the gym.
After the treadmill I always treat myself to a swim but try to be careful and only get in when it’s quiet. I waited a good 20 minutes, found a clear lane where I could do a few lengths and annoyingly it soon started to get busy.
As I was getting out I could see fat inhaler man in the skimpiest set of Speedos bounding straight into the pool not giving a moment’s thought to his and anybody else’s health.
I shut myself in the steam room and started to feel cross. Surely he should be keeping himself out of harm’s way and who’s fault was it that he was fat and more vulnerable in any case. Why should everybody else’s freedom have to be curtailed just to protect him.
I banished these thoughts away and opened my waterproof Kindle. To my annoyance I was joined by another old face – a trim and fit older man in his sixties – who just wouldn’t stop talking. Could he not see I was reading.
After a few grunts from me the conversation inevitably turned to Covid. He, it turned out was on the other side of the big Covid debate. He began his diatribe by saying he’s not educated enough to really know what’s going on – that doesn’t stop most of us I thought.
I stopped listening after a while but his rant included such gems as Covid was “nature’s way of correcting the imbalance” and as is the case with rats the “human race needs periodic extinction events”.
I tried to moderate the conversation but we did at least agree that we’re glad we’re not the Prime Minister having to make the decisions about all this.
I used to like my morning chats but now Covid has spoiled even that. I either disagree with people’s views or just find the topic boring, after all none of us really know what’s right and there’s nothing new to say.
I just felt glad that both these men talked to me rather than each other!