So there is this guy at my gym. I don’t know his name, but let’s call him Mario, because he sort of looks like Mario from Nintendo. Well, if Mario was Mexican and 3x as stout.
Mario is one of those old-time weight lifters, meaning he does old school lifts, wears spaghetti strapped tank tops, puffy sweat pants, and is very big and thick. Not ripped and toned like these young Crossfit tykes, but 1970’s strong. Which figures, since you can tell by his age and appearance he is from that era.
Mario is a nice guy. I always nod hi to him, he nods back. He likes to exchange short pleasantries with other frequenters at the gym. He has even offered me some of his rubbing oil to heat up my sore shoulder. But there is one thing you want to avoid with Mario, and that is getting into a full length conversation with him.
Now why is that so, you may ask. I mean he is nice and far from a blowhard. Why not engage in a longer discussion with him? Well, because he doesn’t speak English so well.
I am not saying that we as native English speakers should uniformly ignore the not-as-fluent sectors of our society. But what happens in these conversations is inevitably him talking (mostly in Spanglish) and me nodding with a smile on my face because I don’t want offend him or anything else along those lines.
This in itself is not such a bad thing. I mean it is only mild awkwardness that can be endured for a brief period of time. But, as all awkward things, as time in this interaction increases, the awkward level too does increase, but at a much faster rate.
So yesterday I got caught in the web; Mario wandered over to my area to watch some of the track and field on the TV. He then started into a ‘conversation’ with me about…..well……not sure. I think it involved a man he knew, or was related to, or something along those lines, that lives in east Africa and the runners on the screen are from that area.
I nodded politely. As I always have done in the past. Yet this time I felt a bit more ambitious, seeing that I know a little more about the subject of sport than most, I chimed in with some of my own observations.
This was not a good idea.
Not only did this prolong our interaction, therefore increasing the level of awkwardness unnecessarily upward, he gave me a look that was tantamount to a baby talking to a chicken; the chicken doesn’t have the foggiest of ideas of what was said, but knowing the words came from a baby, it is sure to not be of great import.
After my failed effort to add to this exchange, he then continued unfazed into a story about…..uhhh..this time about him rowing in Mexico City. I only know this due to the universal rowing motions he was making towards me while slipping in a few ‘Mexico City’ references along with a healthy diet of pointing at himself.
Learning from my last faux pas, I simply nodded, smiled and agreed than Mexico City is a possible place that he once rowed. That seemed to sate the situation. Mario smiled, saluted me, and meandered off to do another set of upward fly presses he undoubtedly read about in a Charles Atlas Exercise Bible to increase his chest an additional inch or two.
I like Mario. He is a nice man who seemingly has a good heart. And I will nod in his general direction again and again. But I hope to never talk to him again. At least for more than 5 sentences.