When I mentioned to Harris that I usually end my workouts by spending 10 minutes in the health-club spa, he wrinkled up his nose and shuddered.
“How can you climb into that disgusting, bacteria-filled pool of steaming waste that other people have been bathing in? What is it about wallowing in other people’s unsanitary filth that you enjoy? Why not just roll around in a nice hot Dumpster and see what life-threatening disease you come down with in a few days? I would think you can get the same health benefits by sitting in a sewer.”
This was a little much. Especially coming from Harris, who may be the unhealthiest person I know. It takes him 10 minutes to wheeze from his front door to his car. He smokes, he drinks, he has adult-onset diabetes, he doesn’t exercise, he overeats high-fat, high-carb foods and spends most of his time parked in front of the television snacking on corn chips and drinking beer.
And he’s worried that I might catch something from the hot tub? That’s sweet. I’m much more likely to catch something from his sofa. Who knows what’s living in that? Ebola? The 1918 influenza virus? Polonium-210? His bathroom does not meet the high standards I’ve come to expect from non-chain convenience stores.
“We don’t bathe in the spa,” I told him, “It’s not the Ganges River. Everyone’s already taken a shower before they get in. And it has bromine or something in it to kill any germs. We just sit in it and let our muscles relax. You should try it. You might feel better.”
“I don’t think so. My dad was in the Navy. He used to tell me stories about guys who fell overboard in Hong Kong harbor. They had to pump them full of penicillin for weeks.”
“Call me crazy, but I don’t think my health club is sending away to Hong Kong for harbor water to fill the spa. It comes from the same tap where you get your water.”
“I never drink tap water. You don’t know what’s in it.”
“Yes, I do – water. Guess what? It’s the main ingredient in beer. Try it, sometime. You’ll love it. When did you get so germaphobic? I’ve seen you eat a slice of pizza that’s fallen on the floor cheese side down and you’re worried about me being in a Jacuzzi? When did you turn into Howard Hughes? I’ve seen you drink from other people’s glasses at parties. I’ve seen you eat fried chicken that’s been left out on your kitchen counter for a week. I’ve seen you lick the dirt off a quarter so it will work in a soda machine, and you’re worried about me getting germs? Explain something to me. How is it that people who pay attention to their health and diet can eat plain old spinach and get sick, and yet you can eat hot dogs you buy from a cart on the street, wash them down with a can of beer that has been stored in some rat-infested warehouse and never feel it? If I lived the way you did, my body would reject me.”
“What do you think,” Harris said, “that if you go to the gym you’re going to live forever? I knew a guy who went to the gym all the time. He used to sit in the hot tub. He’s dead now.”
“He got hit by a car while he was out jogging.”
“What has that got to do with sitting in a hot tub?”
“Well, if he had been less healthy, like me, he couldn’t have been out jogging. He would have been in his car on his way to McDonalds for a double cheeseburger. The accident never would have happened and he’d be alive today.”
And all this time I thought he was just sick in his body.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.