toalla man

Time flies when fun is happening.  It’s been more than 15 years ago that I had moved to Dubai for a three year stint.  Overall, it was a hot, dusty place.  It makes sense to be robed in white there (if you’re a man).

GV and I used to power walk around a local park called Safa Park, the perimeter of which was/is 3.2 kilometers.  Most week days we would do two loops, weekends up to six loops.  In the early mornings or late evenings, when it wasn’t so blazing hot, we’d find many others doing the same.  Even the local ladies, dressed in black robes with faces covered, would be swinging their arms in the power walk stride.  The heavy perfume they wore smacked you like a hammer when you passed them.  No one would walk the loop during the weekend day.  No one except us and toalla man.

Don’t get the idea that these posts are turning into spanish lessons, but toalla in spanish means towel.  We had nicknamed him toalla man because he jogged (a pace slower then our walk) but he never did so without a towel draped around his neck.  We were always on the lookout for toalla man.

Getting into (in my case, back into a lifestyle of) exercise is not easy.  I took essentially five months off to recuperate (which I’m still doing) before heading back into something I can call “working out.”  The mind so creatively rationalizes and serves up every excuse known to man why you might want to skip a workout.  Or shorten one.  I’ve used many of them.  It’s damn tough not to succumb to what seems like wise logic talking you out of  exercise.

In the NYC gym I go to there’s a new toalla man.  Actually, he’s not so new.  He’s worked at this same gym for 33 years.  He tends the men’s locker/shower room during the week, day shift.  He makes sure the locker room stays organized as he (mostly) stations himself behind the control desk where some hand over their dress clothes which he hangs for them (the lockers are not that large).

This guy, Gustavo, has redefined toalla man.  Why?  Because he refolds towels all day and he doesn’t need to.  The towels are already folded.  But he doesn’t like them folded lengthwise the way they come from the laundry so he refolds them into a square.   They are regular size bath towels.  Every single guy who comes through the locker room, whether they change or not, grabs a towel to use on the gym floor.  Most who use the locker room after a workout grab two or three more to use in the shower/sauna/steam and for drying.  It’s not unusual for guys to use three to four towels each workout.  Ridiculous but true.  We are not talking ecological conservation or greenness.  It’s just the way it is.  The towel circulation is significant because the locker room is always busy, from five a.m. until late at night, seven days a week.  That’s a chit load of towels.

The guys on the other shifts don’t refold the towels.  Only Gustavo.  I asked him why he refolds the towels and he told me that it makes it easier for guys to pull a towel off the pile if they are folded square vs folded lengthwise.  Less towel friction when one is taken off the top of the pile.  Hence, to make it easier, he refolds towels in between his duties, all day, week after month after year.  He’s a true toalla man.

But more than that.  He cares and has driven that into his work lifestyle.  Or maybe it just gives him something else to do.  He’s definitely not a fruitcake.  He sure seems like a good old fashion gym guy.  He cares about his job, and his towels.

towels folded the way Gustavo likes them

towels folded the way Gustavo likes them

Within a two block radius of where I live there are about eight different gyms.  Hundreds in NYC.  Coupled with the number of hotels in this city and I’m sure there are tens of thousands of towels washed every day.   There may be other toalla men (or women) around.  But I doubt it.  I’d give Gustavo the king toalla man award.

There are volumes written about the benefits of consistent good stress we place on our bones, muscles, and systems.  In other words,  consistent exercise is a big fat plus.  Are there those who live long lives who don’t?  Who might even smoke, drink, and live what we’d consider unhealthy lives?  You can find them, but they are outliers.  It’s not a good bet to let rationalization win and point to outliers.

So when rationalizations pop up convincing me that I cut the workout short, or maybe even skip one, I’ll just think of toalla man dutifully refolding towels, nonstop throughout his day.  He’s only missed work twice in 33 years.  Toalla man.  He’s got to be some kind of super hero.  His simple consistent and dedicated refolding action has turned him into an inspiration.

Who is your toalla man?

3 thoughts on “toalla man

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