Busted by the Fitness Police

The other day I was busted by the geriatric fitness police. It was my own fault and I pled guilty. I was visiting my father in South Florida and I was released on my own recognizance — which is no small accomplishment in my father’s community, since so many of his neighbors are elderly and aren’t completely sure who they are.

As frequent readers know, I love visiting my dad and hanging out with his friends. Granted, it means watching television with the volume set at jet engine and beginning dinner when most people are finishing lunch. (If I ever opened a restaurant in Davie, Fla., my slogan would be, “Where the afterschool and early bird specials meet.”) And I know way more about their physical infirmities than anyone but their doctors. But I am inspired by their stories and friendship and the relentless way they soldier on into their 80s and (in some cases) 90s.

In any case, what happened at the gym was pretty simple. My father was hospitalized in an intensive care unit. As the afternoon drew to a close, he suggested I go to the gym at the country club where he plays golf. He said membership wasn’t a problem: Just as we always used the pool, we could use the gym. So I did. I waved at the older fellow behind the front desk at the entrance who was wearing a yellow golf shirt with the country club’s name on it. Then I walked past the stairs to the dining room, the card rooms and the corridor to the pro shop. I reached the fitness room and worked out.

I had been there about an hour and was climbing off the stationary bike when the fellow from the front desk and another guy in an identical golf shirt with the country club name emblazoned on it came to get me. His associate was also a senior citizen, but he had better hair than Alec Baldwin and pretty serious upper arms. Imagine a geriatric action figure: Old Super Man (versus Super Old Man, which might simply be any old guy on the far side of 100). The only other person at the gym was a nurse at the very hospital where my father was lying in bed. The following is pretty close to a verbatim exchange:

Older guy from the front desk: Let me see your membership card.

Me: I don’t have one.

Older guy: How did you get in?

Me: I walked.

Older guy: Don’t be a smart guy.

Me: That wasn’t a smart answer. Trust me, I can be much smarter.

Older guy: You’re trespassing.

Me: Let’s start again. Hi, I’m Chris Bohjalian. I’m Aram Bohjalian’s son.

Older guy: You’re Bo’s son? (My father is called Bo by his friends.)

Me: I am.

Older guy: How’s he doing?

Me: Not great, but he’s hanging in there.

Older guy: Good, good. Are you on the deed to your father’s home?

Me: Good Lord, no.

Older guy: Then you’re leaving now, son.

Which I did — in part because I was just so gosh darn happy at middle age to be called “son.” I made the walk of shame through the country club with one of the officials on either side of me, and I imagined this was an episode of “Law and Order” and I was the crook in the money-laundering scheme. It was about 5:30 on a Friday afternoon and I felt the stares from the diners as they finished their desserts. As we were leaving, I asked the guy from the front desk, “How come it took you so long to come get me?”

“Backup,” he said. I’m honestly not sure if he was kidding.

(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on September 12, 2010.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.