Last week, in the Springhill Suites in Peabody, Massachusetts, I ran my first full four miles in forty minutes. I tried to be blasé about it, but when I finally turned off the treadmill, a kindly older man remarked, “I think you wore out the machine!”
“I know!” I boasted merrily. “My first four miles!”
When you travel a lot of the time, you make friends where you can. It gets lonely on the open road. The man and I chatted for some time, discussing our businesses, our residences, my intense marathon training schedule (No, really).
At some point a random, lurking man had entered. I had seen Random Man in the elevator the evening before, after I had gone for a long run and subsequently raided the makeshift kitchen by the hotel’s lobby. Armed with a frozen dinner, microwave popcorn, granola bars, and sodas, I greeted Random Man (as you do), and sheepishly looked at the food in my hands. “Dinner,” I said. And then I bid him good night as I headed towards my room.
So Random Man lurks in the gym now, and slips himself into the conversation just as I am saying goodbye to Kindly Older Man and making to leave.
“So you’re from what part of Philly?” He asks.
“Um, just south of the city, actually,” I offer. I grasp the door handle.
“Wait – um, so… My brother lives in Philly.” He asserts.
“Cool. What part?” I ask politely, if slightly impatiently.
“Hmm. The suburbs, I think.”
I get the door open. Kindly Older Man slips out. “Well, great, so have a good - ”
“Uh – wait!” Random, suddenly Nervous Man, commands me. “You were the girl I saw in the elevator last night?”
“Yes, that was me,” I assure him.
“So... Are you going to eat another frozen dinner tonight?”
Ah, the awkward segue.
“Yeah,” I say cheerily. “Love those Lean Cuisines!” (What the fuck am I doing?)
“Well, um, because I was thinking, maybe we could grab a bite to eat?” From Random to Nervous to Earnest.
“Oh,” I say, smiling kindly as I prepare to offer an oft used cliché for letting a dude down gently: “I don’t think so. I have to get up super early tomorrow. But thanks.” I smile again sympathetically (because I’m kind of an asshole), and turn to leave.
Oh, but we’re not done yet.
“Oh man, me too! I mean, I have to get up really early too. We don’t have to make it a late night.”
“Um, I don’t - ”
“Seriously, I’ll just work out here, then get showered, then we can go.”
From Random to Nervous to Earnest to Creepy. Time for the big guns.
“Yes, thank you, but I really have some work to do upstairs, plus I have to call my BOYFRIEND. But thanks.”
He is unfazed. “Are you sure? Because - ”
“Yes. But thanks.” Finally, confident that I have sufficiently thanked him for the offer, I remove myself from the gym and retreat to my room, though not before grabbing one of those delicious Lean Cuisines and marveling that life on the road certainly has its perils.