Fine. Read the following exchange and tell me my health and well-being weren’t potentially compromised.
The location: The Gym. I am on the treadmill, walking to nowhere. I am not wearing my beloved IPod because it is having the vapors and is off visiting the IPod clinic, so I am reading something stupid and minding my own business. The gentleman on the treadmill next to me has hailed a friend, a spry older man in a tank top, who wedges himself between our treadmills in order to chat. Despite their proximity, they are forced to speak loudly so as to be heard over Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas warbling through the speakers about her lovely lady lumps.
TANK-TOP MAN: How you doin’? Ya look good.
Treadmill man pounded his stomach lightly.
TREADMILL MAN: I’ve lost six pounds.
T-TM: Ya look good. You back on the Zone?
TM: No, I’ve got a dietician. She had my blood tested and came back with a diet specifically tailored to my allergies. I eat lots of protein, very little carbs, and some vegetables.
T-TM: Sounds like South Beach.
TM: (Slightly offended) No, it’s nothing like South Beach. [Quinn here -- it’s exactly like South Beach] See, I have allergies, which is what was keeping me from losing weight. Also, my pancreas is actively engaged with my liver.
(Silence as Tank-Top Man tries to figure out the proper response to that and I try to remember what a suitable present would be for a pancreas/liver engagement party.)
T-TM: Well, good. I guess. I mean, good that you found it out.
TM: (Happily) Oh, yeah. It also turns out that I have lactose intolerance and an allergy to wheat.
T-TM: They can figure all that out from blood?
TM: No. She said that’s why I was having all that gas.
Does he lower his voice? Does he look around to make sure no one else is being held in thrall by this fact? Does he look apologetically at me after this intimate digestive detail slips out, as it were?
No, he does not.
Readers, just reminding you: my original theory is that indoor diet talk is as potentially offensive, if not life-threatening, as indoor smoking. Someone in the throes of dieting has simply no perspective on what constitutes “polite conversation”, not to mention an “inside voice”. I think the ancient deaf guy napping on the recumbent bicycle in the corner now had this information. Do I even have to tell you that no other treadmill was available?
T-TM: So, no milk products?
TM: For the first week, no. Now, I can have some but the thing is that now I’m finding that milk products are really binding me up.
Now I look around frantically. Is no one winding up their treadmill time? An urgent glance at the nearest walkers indicates no, there is not a bead of sweat among them. I tipped my head towards the woman on the other side of me, who was talking to her friend on the treadmill on the other side of her, hoping to eavesdrop something less visually searing. They were speaking Korean.
WOMAN: Korean Korean Korean Korean Korean Korean Atkins Korean Korean Whole Foods Korean Korean Korean carbs Korean.
Fearfully, I tuned back into the two men on the other side.
TREADMILL MAN: I’m almost completely packed up.
OH MY GOD, WILL WE NEVER GOT OUT OF THIS GUY’S BOWELS?
I start thinking perhaps I should cut my workout short and go home, shower, and scrub for a very, very long time.
TANK TOP MAN: How long do you have to live like this?
Well, I really need to do another twenty minutes on the treadmill…oh, he wasn’t talking to me.
TM: Only another week. Besides, I haven’t boxed up the kitchen yet, so I can still cook.
Ooooooh. That kind of packing.
King of the Treadmill then spent my last twenty minutes detailing how to poach a salmon in a dishwasher, how to count carbs on a label and the pre-marital counseling his liver and pancreas were attending prior to their nuptials. And all the while, apparently, there was not a single moment where he looked over and thought, “Why, there appears to be another living human being whose ears are ten inches from my stentorian tones. I wonder if she cares that I am considering colonics?”
Diets make a person hungry, they make a person cranky, but mostly they make a person self-absorbed. This is what they share in common with smoking; the smoker has to be told they cannot smoke inside, because without the punishments of the law, the addiction to tobacco would override any humanitarian impulse to not blow toxic chemicals in a stranger’s face.
Likewise, the dieter is simply too caught up in measuring their food and counting their points to realize that when someone asks “How are you doing?” -- Unless he is your dearest friend, or your physician -- he doesn’t really want to know.