GRAND, BIZARRE #4
Saunas and Trains and Mummies, oh my!
by John McCarroll
December 1: 11 22 A.M.
“False alarm.” I report, trying to calm my heart rate down a bit. I’m not sure which arm is supposed to hurt when you get a heart attack, but it’s a bit moot; both of them are aching. On the other end of the phone, my girlfriend doesn’t sound as concerned as she should, “What were you screaming abou-“
“Yelling.” I correct. “I was yelling.” I try to phrase this part properly, because there’s the potential it doesn’t sound very smart. “I thought I saw a mummy.” She’s quieter than she should be. “I didn’t, obviously.” I explain. “It was just some blankets. They looked like a mummy.”
“John, “ she suggests, from her desk at her job, which unlike mine, doesn’t need to be put into quotation marks, “I think you probably need to get out of the house. Go have an adventure or something.” That’s easy for her to say; she’s always leaving the house and having workplace dramas and stuff. Me, I’m like a parakeet: too much excitement and I start plucking my feathers out.
December 1: 12 04 P.M.
The adventure has, so far, not been that terrible. I’m currently at the Taksim Metro, waiting for a train. Part of me thinks this is an improvement from being at home, but around 60% of me feels guilty- I think I still conflate “get out of the house” with “go outside and play.” I briefly wonder why it is exactly that no one measures how much fresh air and sunshine I’ve been getting, and what kind of havoc my lack thereof is wreaking on my vitamin D levels and lungs. My left arm is tingling, but I’ve decided it’s probably because I’ve been working out, not dying.
By the way, I’m at the metro because I find that there is the best people watching on the metro. I think this is because pretty much no one does anything on the metro that isn’t sitting quietly, reading, or playing Angry birds, so the weirdos really stand out. Activities as commonplace as eating, talking, or making eye contact with strangers are super good indicators of social misfits, which makes them incredibly interesting for me. Luckily, my habit of writing notes in my little blue notebook is acceptable, as long as I am not dressed too “American,” which makes me look like I’m CIA.
December 1: 12 13 P.M.
I don’t want this to turn into a fashion blog here, but the guy across from me is absolutely crushing it. He got in at Osmanbey and is wearing a maroon sweatshirt and grey sweatpants. I’d say he is around 43 years old and looks exactly like the kind of man you’d see eating an pre-packaged ice cream cone at a park bench in October. Up top, it’s standard casual style, but from the ankle down, the dude is all party.
His shoes are plush, glaringly white with purple highlights, and are emblazoned with knock-off nike swooshes. Sure, they are clean and look like they support his ankle like a dream, but what really sells them, however, is an electric blue signature right over the heel: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. I can honestly say that these are the first politician-signed athletic sneakers I’ve ever seen, and they make me want to own the opposite, which would be a pair of dark brown wingtips with Lebron James’ signature embroidered on. I’m not sure if this is a million dollar idea or just evidence that I was not ready to leave the house.
Somewhere in the last sentence, it becomes clear that Ataturk shoes is aware that I’m writing about him. He doesn’t seem too surprised, really. What a diva.
December 1: 12 15 P.M.
Based on this guy’s shoes, I’m considering writing my next column entirely about fashion on the metro. This would be a bit different than my typical plan, where I think of an awesome name and work backwards from there. Now that I have “content,” It becomes my duty to find a name. I briefly consider “Riding in Trains with Turks,” in reference to the 2001 Drew Barrymore/ Steve Zahn Dramady Riding in Cars with Boys.
December 1 : 12 16 P.M.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Drew Barrymore references don’t pack the same oomph they used to. I decide against my title and theme. Ataturk shoes gets out at Gayrettepe, so I do too. I’d really like to follow him and just observe his day, but I think that would cross some kind of journalistic integrity line.
I check my text inbox. An invitation to the gym? Looks like this adventure just got started.
December 1 : 1 20 P.M.
So, basically, I’ve done a large circle in the course of the last 2 hours. My gym is literally a block from my house, so if I had just stayed home and done some dishes or finished making the bed instead of taking my girlfriend’s insane advice, I wouldn’t have spent 2.75 TL on metro fees. I know that there is a good quote or two from the Hobbit about this very topic, but I guess I’ll have to google it later.
What I’m doing right now is called “spotting,” which consists of helping a friend lift up enough weight to seriously ruin both your lives, should it drop. I’m not good at this. Of course, when you are as smart and well-spoken as me, it’s pretty hard to be a good spotter at the gym- I just don’t think I can summon up enough “grunt-itude” or, like, warrior energy to properly motivate anyone. When I was fifteen, my primary lifting motivation came from my old football coach, who used to say, “push it harder, “ and then call us homosexual slurs. I’m not sure how many of my readers have been called “Gay-tarted” by angry men with crew cuts and decaying marriages, but if you have, you’ll understand why I’m not keen on emulating that style.
Still, one must try, right? I’d feel terrible if my partner, like, pulled something. I look over at him stretched out on the bench in front of me, red-faced and straining, and clearly in dire need of encouragement. “Really, really great, uh, job.” I say. “Maybe just, you know, lift it a bit harder.” I help him rack the weights, “You know, I think you’re perfect as you are,” I say. “You have great triceps.”
Somehow, this doesn’t feel very motivational.
December 1: 1 41 P.M.
We’re in the sauna, and for the first time since I got locked in it last week, I’m unhappy about being here. The reason I feel so unhappy today is sitting in between my partner and I, interrupting our discussion about various Youtube videos. The reason is a sopping wet, slightly doughy, middle aged man with totally fogged up glasses. The sauna is also a bit colder than usual because an attendant keeps opening the door every few minutes and sternly staring at us.
“Are you lonely?” The stranger in the sauna asks after about 5 minutes of careful ignorance, deliberately pronouncing each of the four syllables. “No, no, no, I’m with him,” I say, pointing at my gym partner, who smiles Australianishly. “We just worked out,” he says. The man nods at this and pours some water on the coals. “Sauna is… very hot?” he asks, smiling. I nod, even though I think it is both too crowded and not hot enough. There is a brief silence.
Just when I start to feel comfortable, things get very weird. “I love you.” The stranger says. “Oh,” I say, realizing that perhaps this adventure is going places I hadn’t expected. I think longingly of my mummy-shaped sheets, and how non-confrontational their particular kind of scary was. The gym partner isn’t helping, by the way. “Which one?” he asks, flexing his triceps. Looks like someone is a bit too over-motivated.