I always hated the idea of a school reunion. I had never been to one but I always imagined it to be lots of “So what are you doing with yourself?” and “You’re looking great!”. Plenty of half effort gushing comments which meant nothing. On top of the fact that the seventeen year old me had no resemblance to the forty something me now. Wanting to be a footballer or looking like Simon Le Bon were not on a par with a mortgage and three kids.
“Just go” she said. “You’ll enjoy it”
I looked at her cautiously. The cynicism in me deducting that she just wanted a night in on her own with the Telly and a glass of wine. In the end I went.
You know how they say you should always go with your gut instinct? Well I should have. I was bored. Seeing guys you last saw with acne now lauded with beer bellies and no hair was the only eye-opener. When the guy with the nickname skinny was now built like a whale or vice versa when the tubby guy in class was now a fitness instructor, well these were the highlights.
In a way it was an insight into the human mind or moreso the male mind. I mean four or five guys huddled in a pack laughing at what the English teacher said when people were slagging his wig. Men acting as if they were still juveniles except this time with beer.
The funny part of the evening was a moment I spent in a one on one conversation not with a guy I used pal around with but a guy I hardly knew in school. He was not in my class but rather in the same year. In fairness he was quite affable and approached me smiling. He introduced himself, ( although I knew his name already) and the conversation opened with the usual pleasantries.
It was here that things got difficult. We had used up the usual, ‘it’s good to see you’ and ‘isn’t it funny seeing the faces again’ and there were now pregnant pauses until the final nail in the coffin came for me.
With inspiration from nowhere he asked:
“So what are you doing with yourself?”
“I’m in computers.” I replied.
“Ah very good...Where?”
“In town...just down on the quays.”
The pause came again. The awkwardness. I looked over at the Benjamin Button gang with envy. They were still laughing. Someone had obviously thrown a piece of paper at the teacher.
I blew out and decided to reciprocate the conversation.
“So what about yourself? Are you working?” I asked. Pleased to have overcome my self- consciousness.
“I am yeh.”
I took a sip from my drink, pleased in the knowledge that this would ensure another question and eat into this already soul destroying evening by another few minutes. With a bit of luck I could catch Vincent Brown at eleven.
“Great what do you do?”
“I’m a roofer.”
I didn’t really know what to say next and wondered how this conversation would go. If he had have said a heart surgeon or a Garda at least we could have opened up on certain cases and opinions.
Again I shuffled my feet, him staring at me and me back to him. Then it came to me. I would ask him what he had asked me. Great idea. Show an interest in his job. It was only after I had asked that I blamed myself for the stupid question.
“Ah very good. Where?”
His reply came in three words.
“On the roofs!”
I came home to see the empty wine glass on the table...
Psst....Are they gone yet? Take a look outside....Is it safe?
Who? The Jan Joggers. You know. The ones who start exercising in January to shift the Christmas lard. The one’s who shout around the office, school yard about how they have lost a quarter pound this week. But fail to mention that the only reason they had moved in November or any month before that was to do the Christmas shopping.
The Jan Joggers are great. They have lovely new outfits. Christmas presents no doubt or others are outfits bought in the sales in January. And when they got back home were left in the wardrobe until the next attack of guilt kicked in and they decided to do something about it. The problem with the Jan Joggers though is that they are all usually starting to fail now. A bit like wasps in September. You may see one straggling around the last bar B q and comment on how surprising it is to see one. A wasp I mean. You will have no problem in seeing the Jan Jogger around a Bar B q come the Summer.
You see the difference with the Jan Jogger is the season. And now that we are coming into Spring we will see the hardcore joggers coming out to play. The lean, toned jogger. Usually with a contraption on his/her arm monitoring how many blood cells are flowing in a particular artery at a rate per minute. Unlike the Jan Jogger who has a stepper that came free with the Special K box that was bought in bulk three days after New Years as the last of the vol au vents were playing havoc with their equilibrium.
The Jan Jogger usually operates at night. You can see them, sometimes a him and her couple. The “she” in the latest sporting gear and may have a head band. The glowing red cheeks matching the velour tracksuit and Nike trainers. Huffing and puffing beside her male Adonis. Bedecked gracefully in his black t shirt, towelling shorts that he bought for Lanzarote seven years ago and black socks that he hasn’t bothered to take off from work. They don’t talk. They can’t.
Each of them has thoughts running through their heads. “Are we mad?” “If I give up now, he/she will blame me”.
There is a certain inevitability to the failure. The only momentum is the countless weight loss programmes on television and the magazines spouting out endless diets and recipes. “The new you for 2019” they cry. But the Jan Jogger isn’t feeling too new at the minute. Granted the first week was a struggle but there was a certain amount of feel good and achievement at being able to go into the people in work and say they had run three miles last night and it only took under the hour. But as week three and four wore on and the whole chill of February came with no sign of brightness, the novelty and more-so the questioning of the whole reasoning and the “is this actually good for you?” doubts come into play.
Then it happens. It can be as simple as a Chinese. A children’s party, an unexpected neighbour calling for a cup of tea or glass of wine. The distraction. The one thing that knocks the Jan Jogger out of sync and suddenly the couch and TV are more appetising than pounding the pavement in the dark. Unbeknown to the Jan Jogger, the fitness fanatic is secretly looking up the Internet for the latest trainers and running gear for the season ahead. They have been keeping in trim over the winter – only doing thirteen mile runs on Saturday with a ‘few five milers’ in between. Thursday nights are a night off. Pilates.
And therein lies the difference. The seasoned runner has been doing it all year round. And to expect to shed the Christmas pounds and parade around like Twiggy come March is beyond even the most willing of Jan Joggers realistic goals.
Anyhow as we leave February behind and head into March. You may still see a Jan jogger out and about. If you do, parp the horn or wave and give a “well done”. Don’t expect a response though. Those lungs haven’t adapted to speaking and gasping at the same time
Short Story writer and freelance article writing.