I didn't write about this when it happened, mostly because I prefer to use this forum to cast my gray-haired carcass in the best possible light. I'm a little too insecure to write stuff that leaves you thinking, "Wow, Tim sure is a dick."
And had I written it before today, that’s just what you may have thought.
A couple of weeks ago, I stood chugging on an elliptical trainer, one of the many iron maidens line the cardio room at the local Y. My asthma had been acting up all morning, and by the time I was halfway into the workout, it worsened. Some people cough or wheeze during a flare up, but I clear my throat, loudly and often. It feels sort of like when you accidentally inhale a beverage and you're just trying to bark out all the irritation. It's really obnoxious if you aren'† used to it, but the regulars who exercise are usually very cool about my respiratory Turrette's.
As my phlegmmy symphony built to its zenith, I noticed the woman next to me, first slowing and then stopping her machine. She stepped off and walked over to me.
"Excuse me." She looked a little like Skyler on Breaking Bad. "Maybe you need some water or something. Maybe something to help you stop coughing."
I yanked out my earbuds. Of all the times for her to choose to address the issue, twenty-five minutes into my workout might not be in the top eleven thousand.
"I've got asthma," I said flatly between deep huffs of air.
"Well, maybe some water might help…"
"Don't worry about it, okay?" I felt my pace quickening.
"Well, you don't have to listen to it!" Her passive-aggressive tack vaporized like so much fog on the drippy windows. Now she was pissed.
"Look," I said quietly but intensely, "I do what I can. Leave me alone."
She backed away and re-mounted her machine, looking intently at her smart phone and punching in digits.
"Shit," I thought. "She's probably texting or emailing the Y and complaining about the crabby guy next to her and his disgusting bird flu. Most likely, I can count on some YMCA intervention in the near future."
A couple of weeks passed. I saw Skyler a handful of uncomfortable times, yet didn't hear another word regarding Asthmagate. My indignation gradually lessened and melted into remorse,. "Man, you cannot talk to people that way," I thought. "No matter how angry you are, always keep a dialogue. Get people on your side and things always turn out better."
This morning, I entered the aerobic area, looked to my left and there she was—Skyler, standing by herself, staring at the magazine rack, the first person I saw.
Have you ever just gotten an impulse and felt like something else was controlling your behavior, like you were just along for the ride? That's how I felt as I approached her. "Excuse me."
She turned and faced me.
"Um, I just want to apologize for acting like a five-year-old the other day. I know it's pretty nasty to have to hear that and I was an idiot to talk to you that way."
"Oh," she said, "Actually, I wanted to apologize to you. What you have is very personal and I shouldn't have handled it the way I did." She extended her hand. "What's your name? I'm Sarah."
I just realized this is starting to sound like Dear Playboy. Not the case, however. As we parted ways, I hacked up a stringy lung lizard and honked it onto the carpet, it's outer tentacles splattering her shoe. She chuckled at my indiscretion and wrapped me in a warm, damp bear hug.