It’s always awkward to join a new group. Worse, most adults experience this in a fitness setting: Camp Gladiator, Soul Cycle, Orange Theory, and the like. What do you say to people at six in the morning who just want to get in their workout and get out? Well, if you’re awkward man-child Daniel Verastiqui, sometimes you say Elaine’s about to die. And sometimes, you say it to the woman standing right next to you, who just happens to be, you guessed it, Elaine.
Welcome to the first post in a series I’m calling My Horribly Awkward Life but will likely change later or give up on before the year is out.
I’ve been going to Orange Theory for a few weeks now, but so far, haven’t really met any of the people. There’s not much time during class to talk and afterward, like most people, I hurry out so I can get to work. Most of the conversation I’ve observed happens before class, in this weird limbo where everyone waits outside the studio proper until the coach lets them in. I don’t know what that’s about, but that’s the way it’s done so whatever.
So, about Elaine…
Orange Theory has this great feature where everyone’s heart rate monitors show up on a giant screen for all the world to see. As more people shuffle in, the screen adjusts to fit all the data: names, heart rates, some kind of exertion percentage. Prior to class, the screen is a sea of gray… a drab, lifeless color that seems to ask are you even trying?
As I stood awkwardly waiting for class to start, I watched what I’ve named The Scoreboard, mostly to see how much my social anxiety was affecting my heart rate. That’s when I noticed a giant red square on the display. Elaine, it seemed, was operating at more than 200% capacity, and her heart rate was one beat per minute shy of 300.
Naturally, a thought occurred to me, and before I could stop myself, I said to the woman next to me, Elaine’s about to die.
“I’m Elaine,” she said.
“Then you’re about to die,” I followed up with.
She laughed. I laughed. Someone else called from across the room for Elaine to calm down. More laughter.
Social interaction successfully completed.
But, later, as I power-walked on a treadmill at 15% incline, I thought about how that interaction looked from the other side.
Imagine, you show up for a workout one day. You’re just minding your own business, trying to get ready for class. A man you’ve never met before in your life sidles up next to you, ostensibily watching The Scoreboard inside the studio proper, and without any pretext whatsoever, turns to you and says Elaine’s about to die.
And the kicker, YOU’RE ELAINE.
And when you inform him of your name, he doubles down and tells you, again, that you’re about to die.
That’s no way to start your day.
In the future, to avoid these types of awkward conversations, I’m just going to keep my mouth shut. Sure, I may never make another friend as long as I live, but at least random people won’t think I’m going to kill them.
Such is my life.