The parking lot of my local Y has not seen a paver or a line painter ever. The parking stalls are more helpful suggestions that use skills learned from years of parking in front lawns at the PNE: “Is there room? Ya got room?” The tarmac has degraded to the point of very closely-knit pebbles and a connective web of charcoal cracks runs through the entire lot. When it rains, the lot turns into a life-sized version of Frogger, and we jump from high ground to high ground, dodging the cars that are desperately trying to make their escape.
Noah and I survive the obstacle course and negotiate the double glass doors of the front entrance. Considering the amount of children that come through these doors, the glass is always remarkably clean. This could also be because most of the children that come through these doors are pre-programmed to press The Button. This is one of very few things that toddlers can feel they are in control of: I can make the door open. I can hold up an entire network of foot traffic just by approaching the doors. “Oh Jimmy, do you want to push the button? Okay, Let Jimmy push the button. No, not like that honey, like this. Like this, are you watching mummy? Okay everyone let’s let Jimmy push the button for the next door (double glass doors, remember?)” So as a result, no one pushes the glass door itself when The Button can do it for them.
The front lobby has undergone many aesthetic and physical changes, but the one constant is the warm smell of pool chlorine. It immediately sends me back to swimming lessons, riding bikes with no helmet on, and rolling down the window just a tiny bit when Dad fills up the car at the gas station. The carpet has been replaced at least once, the watery grey institutional is gone, in its place is a smart office pattern in warmer, welcoming colours. The concrete block walls are painted white and decaled with vinyl letters and the latest corporate mission statements on the walls. The girl at the front desk is a usual evening one – nice enough, but clearly disinsterested in the light trickle of parents, children and gym buffs coming and going.
I follow the professional carpet to the adult change room, exchange my polyester work uniform for something casual and comfortable, lock it up and head up what I always see in my mind’s eye as an unnecessary number of stairs for a gym. I always imagine that a wise yogi, not a water fountain should be what greets whoever makes it to the top of this staircase, ready to dispense wisdom of the ages.
The room is harshly lit and densely populated with recumbent bikes, stairclimbers, spinning bikes, treadmills and a wall that has seen more than a few trendy cardio machines and equipment come and go. The go-to equipment, the free weights, line an entire mirrored wall. I grab a dry and a wet paper towel from the dispenser, and scope out my machine. Today I made it here. Today I win.