I’m embarrassed to say I lost my temper last night at the gym. I was sweating away my own business on that horrid torture device called the elliptical, which is supposed to simulate running but is really just another giant gerbil toy that contorts my old-before-their-time hips in unnatural ways, when the guy next to me asks me what I think about VP candidate Sarah Palin.
“You don’t want to know,” I said.
“No, really, you’re a woman – you must be thrilled,” he insisted.
“Not really,” I mumbled, not making eye contact, just hoping to serve my 30-minute fatburner sentence and go do some weenie push-ups and call it a day.
I f*king hate small talk as a rule; if you attempt a stupid conversation with when I am breathing hard and shvitzing, I bite. I pegged this doofus the minute he opened his mouth, but I gave him the courtesy of a second warning: “I prefer not to talk politics with strangers in public place.”
“Well,” he chuckled. “I think she’s pretty hot!”
I was already pissed about being at the gym in the first place, and this chauvinist joker was asking for what came next: “That’s fantastic! The Republican party will be so pleased! Shit, if they threw in some Playboy bunnies into the Cabinet, you could have the ticket of your dreams, right? I’ve got news for you, mister: I’m not fooled by the sexy librarian act and Sarah Palin is the worst thing to happen for women’s rights in this country since Phyllis Schlafly.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a middle-aged woman on the treadmill nod her head.
Bouyed by that and the endorphin rush of reaching my target heart rate, I spewed out Palin’s hypocritical stance on birth control and abortion (how can she claim “abstinence-only sex education is effective when her teenage daughter is pregnant?) and continued with her flip-flop of the bridge to nowhere, her uninformed views about Iraq, her belief that global warning isn’t manmade, her wish to have creationism taught in public schools. Plus her pastor thinks all Jews need Jesus.
So then the guy does what all ignorant NASCAR-loving morons do when confronted with logic: He accuses me of being anti-American. “What other country would you want to live in? Huh? Huh?”
Two women on the stationary bicycles who were probably trying to get through their own workouts in peace looked at me and raised their eyebrows.
“Just because I don’t agree with my government doesn’t mean I don’t love my country, buddy, and I’m really sick of this idea that backasswards conservatism holds the monopoly on patriotism. I am a proud patriot, and I want to live in an America that upholds the Constitution, guarantees freedom for all its citizens and respects human rights. I want a government that provides a decent education for everyone and puts money into its future. In the last eight years a Republican White House has shipped 87 billion dollars into a war that only people still drinking the Kool-Aid think was justified. Bridges are collapsing and our schools are in emergency mode, George Bush has practically third-worlded our dollar and fumbled our foreign policy like a bad high school football game. I’m an American – a really angry one.”
He shut up after that, and we sluiced away silently next to each other uncomfortably for the next ten minutes. His machine beeped and he jumped off, wiped down the armpoles and waved his towel. “You have a good night!”
I shrugged my shoulders. I hate phony courtesy almost as much as I hate small talk.
The ladies on the treadmill and bicycles gave me more approving nods. “You tried to warn him, didn’t ya?”
The good news is that this was the best workout I’d had all week. The extra adrenaline helped me burn enough extra calories to justify some ice cream.