Everything is a bit thick; the cold, the fog, the rhetoric. The temperature swings are extreme. It’s more or less familiar to those who grew up in this climate, there’s just more of it. More of everything, everywhere, all the time. Newcomers who have not yet acclimated will be somewhat out of sorts as they go about their day. Acclimation takes time. It’s a very individual thing. And even when the general shock of this variable weather wears off, one still has to go about the ugly business of making peace with it. Not everyone can do it. They put in a few years and then head for more temperate locales. It explains why Austin exploded and bustles but this place takes frequent naps. But, this city is growing. I recently moved into a new high-rise apartment building and there’s a great mix of people.
But people are people, and the weather weighs on everyone, whether they acknowledge it or not, and then add in our doomed planet, the general decay of society and the knowledge that only three people froze to death so far this year, and perhaps it lends context to the exhausting and troubling confrontations one is bound to witness.
For example: A 50-pound weight dropped eight inches to the bottom of a cabled lifting rack will communicate vibration and noise through a concrete slab to every apartment on the floor below. It will, of course, be worse for the tenant directly below the weight room. Even if it registers only as a dull thump, it could easily drive a person crazy, especially if one’s unit is posh on an upper floor. So after a few months, a sign went up asking tenants not to lift weights between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. I don’t know when it went up, and certainly have been guilty of breaking the new rule or suggestion or whatever it is. Information is everywhere. People have ear buds in, and televisions on, and phones to manage. The last thing anyone does anymore is look at the black and white Helvetica Neue attached to the wall. So if it happened to be a bit past eight when the young man was lifting, I certainly understand.
But I also understand that he is young and a young man working out has an inordinate amount of testosterone coursing through his veins. No matter how many degrees he has or accomplishments attained, when he is working out, he is stupid. He could be an accountant but he will still have trouble keeping track of his sets. Factor in the motivation he summoned to drag his ass into the weight room at that hour, and you have on your hands a rather delicate brain chemistry that most likely does not want to be interrupted and certainly does not want to be wrong.
Enter the seething tenant; a well-to-do baby boomer with too much time on her hands. Like many here, she’s moved from a private home in a quiet suburb into a concrete structure where people are stacked upon each other. She is very much a fish out of water, so every inadequacy she encounters takes on great urgency and battling them has become a full-time job.
Regardless of how intelligent or successful either person may be, this was going to be a low-information debate. It naturally decayed quickly and then it just got ugly. Questions of race, age, wealth, politics, education and Trump were hurled back and forth like chimpanzees debating with feces on the set of Fox News.
I continued to pedal and read through it all, trying to block it out and sweat. She left in a cloud of anger. He went back to pulling on things in exasperation, and I reached my finish line, wiped down my machine, retreated and locked myself in my apartment.
But there was nothing for it. I should have known not to check my email. No good can come of it after 9 p.m.. The light from the screen messes with your circadian rhythm and is a factor in why people can’t sleep. There are cameras in the weight room. I was a witness. Could I provide the long-suffering building manager with an honest recap of the altercation? It was understandable if I could not.
I could not.