Public Exercisers

We’re witnessing a new phenomenon on our walks around Schiller Park these days:  the invasion of the public exerciser.

sumo-squatI’m not talking about joggers, or walkers, or even those comically determined power walkers.  I’m talking about people who have suddenly begun to use the park as their own special fitness facility.  They brace themselves on the park benches to do stiff-backed push-ups and extravagant leg lifts.  They lie down on the asphalt of the basketball court and make cycling motions with their legs, then stand up and perform a kind of fitful twisting dance down the length of the court.  They do a lot of squatting, display butt cracks, and duck walk around.  They wave their arms like helicopter rotors, raise their knees up to chest level, and hop, hop, hop.  They lean against the picnic tables and stretch.  Then they put their hands on the basketball hoop poles and stretch some more.  We’d better hope that they’re not contagious, because they’ve touched pretty much every object and surface in the park aside from the Schiller statue — and they’d probably use that, too, if there wasn’t a fence around it.

These people just came out of the woodwork as the weather finally warmed up.  I recognize that fitness clubs have been closed down for two months, and perhaps that’s where they used to do their preening.  But what I find interesting is that they do all of these highly visible — and probably consciously visible — exercises in public, when they could be doing every one of them in the privacy of their homes or in the privacy of their backyards.  They’re not trying to be discreet.  It’s pretty clear that they’re desperate for attention — and probably desperate, period.

Who’d have thought our pretty neighborhood park would also serve as an outdoor gymnasium for attention-seeking fitness fans?  It’s harmless, I suppose, but kind of annoying nevertheless.

Socks Acting Out

Socks are the the most roundly ignored article of western clothing.

Unless you wear socks with shorts — which itself makes a significant statement about the kind of person you are — socks are hidden by your trousers.  Very few people buy socks based on their colors, or designs, or fabrics.  Even fewer people try to match their sock selection with the rest of their workday wardrobe.  I usually pick out socks at random in a pitch-dark room in the morning because it is irrelevant whether my socks are blue, black or gray, plain or with a line down the side or an argyle pattern.  No one will see them, so what difference does it make?

IMG_4937I think socks realize that no one pays attention to them or, frankly, cares about them.  Most socks accept this fate and move forward with their humble existence and, when selection day comes, seek to find pride and fulfillment in performing their intended function of keeping human feet warm and dry and unchafed in a shoe.  Other socks come to despair and can’t stand to continue with their sock-drawer lives and seize the first opportunity for freedom that presents itself, abandoning their mates and finding fulfillment in a life of solitary contemplation behind a clothes dryer or under a bed.

Still other socks rebel in a different way.  They reject the very essence of sockdom.  It galls them that no one gives them a second thought.  They crave attention and can’t abide being ignored.  They know that there are only two ways that an average sock can break out of the pack — by developing a hole in the toe or by losing all upper sock elasticity.  Socks that eventually, after years of service, develop a hole in the heel have done their duty, but socks that quickly develop a hole in the toe are just acting out.  Droopy socks, on the other hand, know that, over the course of the day, they will fall below ankle level and bunch around your heel again and again, requiring constant adjustment and attention.  Each upward tug just further feeds their neediness and addiction to getting more and more attention.

In some ways, socks are like people.