The YMCA — a Dangerous Place

Why do I do stupid things? Once when I drove to a wedding, I found the church, arrived in good time, remembered my gift, but discovered an empty parking lot. Turns out I was one day late. On the first day of a recent school semester, I walked into the wrong classroom to greet incredulous students. I’ve put the wrong oil in my car… once without replacing the drain plug. A couple of years ago, I forgot to push the “park” button on my hybrid car when I pulled into my garage, and got out with it still turned on. It rolled forward and rammed the workbench. Once, flying a small plane back from Nebraska, I was heading for Sioux City when I wanted to head for Sioux Falls. Awkward… And did I mention I’ve never done a house electrical project without getting shocked?

After all this, I imagined that the Emma B. Howe YMCA in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, would be a safe refuge. Swimming with friends, relaxing in the whirlpool and sauna—what could possibly go wrong? Yet even there, I’m my own worst enemy.

For instance, I sometimes forget where I’m parked. So I hold my electronic key fob on the top of my head and push the red button. My car horn starts honking; then I walk until I see someone holding her ears and jabbing her index finger toward my car.

Once or twice, I’ve arrived at the Y without bringing my swimsuit, so I’ve had to skip the pool, strip down to my tee-shirt, and work out upstairs on the machines. I’ve resorted to hanging my swimsuit on the garage doorknob the night before so I won’t forget it.

Another day, I walked into the Y carrying my bag with swimsuit, towel, and shampoo. I locked my locker with a combination lock, but when I returned, I couldn’t remember the combination. One of my Y friends told me, “Just write the combination number on a piece of tape on the back of the lock.” Good idea, but I wonder if it defeats the purpose of the lock.

After forgetting my combination, I get smart and buy a pathetic, weak, little lock and key, hoping it might at least slow down a thief. I stow my street clothes in the locker and lock it. I’m walking over to the urinal carrying my towel and swimsuit, when I drop my key. I get down and crawl naked all over the floor staring at the grey tiles, but can’t find it. I search under the adjacent commode, but no key. Did it go down the floor drain, or…? Finally, I ask the stranger standing there watching me, “Hey bud; could you go call the Y guy to bring in his bolt-cutter and cut my lock off?”

I finally get used to keeping track of the key. But how to keep from accidently locking the key inside the locker? I think, I’ll just never reach into the locker with the key in my hand. That proves hard to remember, so I leave the key in the lock until I have securely closed the door. Or I sometimes put both up on top of the locker. This seems to work pretty well. When I shut the door and lock it, I stow the key in the little pocket in my swim trunks. I never lost a key that way.

But one day I have a different problem. When I get dressed, I always return the lock and key to my gym bag. However, this day I forget to zip up the zipper on the little side pocket. The key, lock, and shampoo fell out—I never saw them again.

See what I mean? If you look at me now, you might imagine that I’m a together person. But even the YMCA is a dangerous place for people like me. And I haven’t even begun to tell you about other stupid things I do. I’ve just put a Post-it note on my dresser—“First the pants; then the shoes.” Help! I need a life coach.

5 thoughts on “The YMCA — a Dangerous Place

  1. This is artful self-satire Jim. I experience you as more competent than the guy you describe here. Could be the beginning of a good stand-up career, i.e. with the senior crowd who would most strongly relate! I’ll be in the front row.


  2. Our automatic systems of remembering fail more often as we get older. We have to replace them by mindful deliberate actions. By the way did you know that regular mindfulness meditation creates new brain cells in the hippocampus (responsible for short term memory). See Dr Sara Lazar’s research (Harvard U). Here is her Ted Talk


    1. Indeed! Why those are precisely the terrifying symptoms of the elderlies here at the “Farms.” I was hoping that would be only a mid-western malady.


  3. I’m on the down side of “PEAK” performance, the slope can be very steep!
    I must pack with me near and far lenses, pen, paper lists, tooth brush for
    “salad teeth”, a change of shoes for the feet and check the weather around
    my brain – foggy or clear.


  4. Jack has the back of the garage covered. You have the front. And before you ask, no I have never done anything stupid. At least I’m not telling you.



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