Friday, April 29, 2011

Grunt work

Tonight I went to the gym, for the first time since I tried training to prepare for Chiang Mai, at the end of March. (What a waste of time that was; instead of lifting heavy weights, it would have been more appropriate to practise falling onto sharp rocks. Oh well, hindsight is 20-20.)

Everyone in the gym seemed to be making too much noise. I subscribe to the swan approach: appear calm and serene, no matter how hard you're paddling away under the surface.1 The guy on the next treadmill roared every thirty seconds. I could tell that because I was running 5 minute kilometres, and also because every time he roared I thought it was the end of the world and checked the time to see if I was going to get a PB before the apocalypse.

London taught me not to make eye contact with anyone prone to random shouting, but in my peripheral vision I could make out a fairly non-descript chap, trundling along. After fifteen minutes he stopped roaring, got off the machine and wandered off. I continued on, sweating profusely and beginning to resemble a keep-fit zombie. This is what happens when I get dehydrated: my eyes glower out of sunken pits in my face, my cheeks grow drawn and haggard, I appear to be angry enough to want to eat your brains. Silly me for forgetting my water bottle.

I ran for half an hour on the implicit instructions of Hal Higdon, who looks a bit like a zombie on his website. A zombie who's run lots of marathons, which is why I'm going running (there's exactly six months and one day to the Osaka marathon), but a zombie nonetheless. Maybe it's the unflinching stare, or the stern face. Come to think of it, I've only see Hal Higdon in photographs, and they tend not to flinch.

After that, I went up a floor and stretched for a while: sitting at a desk all day does wonders for tight tendons. While I was there, a man started doing some sort of abdominal exercise, hanging onto a chair and raising his legs. And yelling. Or maybe growling. Or shouting encouragement in Cantonese to the rest of the gym. All I know is that he was ruddy loud, and that swinging your legs violently and making a lot of noise isn't really the best way to exercise.

Still, what would I know? My idea of a bike ride involves suspected concussion and a broken chain, so I'm not one to talk.

It's the Royal Wedding in Britain today, which didn't mean much to me, except that when I rang up Microsoft's Xbox call centre this evening, I got straight through to a customer services guy in what sounded like his living room, because everyone else was watching a woman become a princess, and thus not clogging up the phones. So that's one thing to be said for the Royals: they make it easier, once every quarter of a century, for basic customer service tasks.

Plus this meant the cheery chap in Dublin got to tell me about how they have a call centre there, and one in Lithuania, and one in Egypt, which handles Italian calls. Which surprised me a little (as I didn't know Egyptians spoke a lot of Italian, but then it is only the other side of Med) but it's nice to hear that after Mubarak was put out of power, they very quickly went back to providing customer assistance to people having problems playing Call of Duty. There's something in that.

1 Though I'm unlikely to break your arm.


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