The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn

You can hear her before she even comes into your line of vision. A booming—yet shrill—and raspy voice that sounds like she’s been smoking for years…even though she very well may not have. When you finally do see her, it’s unmistakable that the voice belongs to this 5’6 260 pound woman with teased up as high as it will go, greasy, blonde hair. When she speaks to you, it is almost like she is merely voicing the stream of consciousness going on inside her own head.

*”I’M HERE AND I WANT MY MASSAGE! BETTER NOT RIP ME OFF AGAIN ASSHOLES I GOT YA FIGURED OUT! I KNOW I DIDN’T PAY FOR IT LAST TIME BUT YOU DIDN’T CATCH ME…WELL I GUESS YOU JUST DID. OOPS. YOU DIDN’T HEAR THAT. I’M GOING TO GO ON BACK TO THE MASSAGE ROOM I’LL PAY YOU WHEN I COME BACK OUT LATER. I GET 10% OFF TODAY AS IT SHOULD BE FOR LADIES DAY, EVEN THOUGH I SHOULD GET IT OFF ANYWAY FOR HOW MUCH I GET MASSAGES HERE. HEY I WANT THAT CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH WHEN I GET DONE WITH MY MASSAGE I’LL PAY YOU WHEN I COME OUT. THAT’S RIGHT, I PROMISE MY MOM SHOULD HAVE DEPOSITED MONEY IN MY ACCOUNT. I’M IN THE NEGATIVE AGAIN, HEY CAN I USE YOUR PHONE TO CALL MY BANK THOSE SLIMEY BASTARDS…GOTTA MAKE SURE MY CHECK DOESN’T BOUNCE AGAIN.”
*It’s in all caps, because she truly is screaming. The entire time. No joke.

“Hello Mrs. Anderson, how are you today? How would you like to pay for that massage before you go on back?”

Yes, we have to act like nothing is out of the ordinary and she is just a normal human being here at the Athletic Club, where it’s $100 dollars a month minimum for a membership and it can go as high as $295 a month for being able to work out during “prime hours” and the use of the tennis courts and day care. Trying to pay my bills at the moment has left me working many customer service jobs, dealing with people who treat you like shit because they make more in one day than you do in an entire month…yet you still have to smile and nod at them and kiss their ass because if not for them, you would not have this job at all. That being said, 95% of these women who work out here are trophy wives and have not had a job in their entire life.

Sorry I guess I’m a little bitter.

Poor Mrs. Anderson is obviously not physically appealing enough in order to be a trophy wife, and apparently her job as a psychology professor and a jazz singer on the side (NO JOKE!) isn’t enough to keep her afloat these days, yet she still somehow has a membership at this hoity-toity athletic club where I have to wear a tucked in blue dress shirt and a RED TIE to stand behind the front desk and greet people, with my hands folded nicely behind my back.

But then again, with the way the economy is right now, what job IS able to keep one afloat these days? If you know of one, let me know so I can stop wearing this stupid tie and acting like I care whether or not your massage you paid $111.00 for was “most excellent.”

It seems as though everyone there is so superficial, and selfish I might add, to be spending these massive quantities of money just to work out and enjoy our fabulous indoor and outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, and tennis courts.

Oh yeah, we have treadmills too…I guess it’s required since it’s supposedly a gym.

I should stop bitching, not only because you probably don’t care, but I really shouldn’t  complain because like I said, their frivolous spending allows me to be able to eat…sometimes.

After battling with Mrs. Anderson for thirty minutes about her paying for her massage before she goes back, and having to help her dig through her purse in order to find her old receipts to make sure we didn’t owe her a free massage (we didn’t) she went back and received one…only after complaining we held her up and made her late by forcing her to pay for it.

When she came back out she began asking about our massage special packages to buy so she could get it for her new boyfriend for Valentine’s Day. My first thought was whether or not this person was real or imaginary…until she said, er…screamed, “YEAH THOSE HOMELESS MEN, MAN, THEY ARE THE BEST ONES TO PICK UP. ESPECIALLY OFF THE SIDE OF THE ROAD BECAUSE THEY ARE SO DAMN GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO! YOU GIVE THEM A PIECE OF BREAD, THEY LOVE YOU FOREVER, I’LL TELL YOU WHAT. HE IS JUST SO DAMN THANKFUL. IT IS SO NICE TO BE NEEDED. THAT’S THE ONLY MEN I EVER TRY AND PICK UP ARE THE HOMELESS GUYS. MAKES YOU FEEL NEEDED. MAKES YOU FEEL LOVED.”

As soon as she said this, my first thought was she was insane, which quickly turned to pity. This poor woman, who apparently is alone a lot based on how much she talks to us, likes to pick up homeless guys in order to feel needed…regardless if they are using her or not, or if she has the financial capabilities to do so.

As soon as she began telling us about her new homeless boyfriend, she was on the phone with her bank screaming at them for not depositing her money fast enough in fear her check she wrote to us would bounce.

Hey I can’t blame her, I have had so many money problems lately I don’t even want to go into it for the sheer embarrassment of it all. This situation really made me consider the prospect of giving and receiving and what constitutes a good deed.

Was she doing this because she wanted to feel needed? Or did she really like helping people for the sake of helping people?

I began to think of my own situation and of how my boyfriend Vlad, just last week had to pay for my groceries because I had -15 dollars in my checking account after I paid rent. Like every starving artist, you actually do become starving because you are too poor to buy groceries–thanks to the freelancing market nowadays meaning it’s actually writing for free.

He didn’t think twice before offering and he saved me from eating cereal once a day for the next two weeks. I don’t think he did it to fulfill some sort of void he had in his life and he wanted to feel needed, I know he did it because he loves me and he didn’t want me to go hungry.

Then I became incredibly pissed off at Mrs. Anderson for being like everyone else and only helping others to fill the void she had in her life of not feeling needed, and bragging about it like she was doing everyone a huge favor.

Until she said (screamed) this in response to my co-worker talking about another club member who is nick-named “Chubby” apparently, to his knowledge:

“NOW WHY THE HELL DO YOU GUYS CALL THIS MAN CHUBBY? IS THAT HIS REAL NAME? IS HE REALLY CHUBBY? IF HE IS YOU SHOULD GO STRAIGHT TO HELL. HOW DO YOU THINK THAT MAKES HIM FEEL? SOMETIMES US FAT PEOPLE JUST CAN’T HELP BEING FAT! WHAT IS HIS ADDRESS, I AM GOING TO SEND HIM FLOWERS. THAT’S RIGHT, ANONYMOUS FLOWERS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY, TELLING HIM HE’S LOVED. YOU GOTTA TELL ME HIS ADDRESS NOW, YOU STUPID PIECES OF CRAP…CALLING POOR DEFENSELESS FAT PEOPLE CHUBBY INSTEAD OF BY HIS REAL NAME. I DON’T CARE IF MY CHECK BOUNCES WHEN I PAY THE FLORIST EITHER. LET ME CALL MY MOM AND SEE IF THE CHECK SHE DEPOSITED WENT THROUGH! HAND ME THE PHONE NOW!”

I was taken aback, and not because she called me a stupid piece of crap. This woman, who gets on everyone’s nerves, who is pushy and obnoxious and rude…really may not be so bad after all. Sure it’s crazy the way she comes into places and announces she’s there, and how she yells and screams at you to the point you don’t even know what she’s saying anymore…and yes, most would say it’s crazy she only dates homeless men…but maybe she has a point. Maybe she really is doing it out of the goodness of her heart and it makes her feel a little bit better about her life at the end of the day to do something good for someone else. Maybe in her mind, as long as they’re appreciative, she feels it’s love. For a forty-something woman who is alone…what do you expect? I guess you take what you can get. She is even buying her fellow chubby comrade flowers for Valentine’s Day, not looking for any thanks in return.

Hell, I tear up when one of the members thanks me for being kind to them and asks me how I’m doing and genuinely stops and asks about my day. It makes me want to go above and beyond to make sure they are having a great day when they get there, and I feel good when I make them smile.

Maybe we all have a little Morgan Susan Anderson in all of us. With that, I no longer felt pissed off.

As clichéd as it sounds, I agree with Nat King Cole on this one 100 percent: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is to love and be loved in return.” I feel as human beings (well, most human beings who have a soul), that achieving this particular lyric in our lives is what we are honestly all looking for and longing for deep down. Someone to take care of us, and someone to take care of in return, regardless if we get thanked for it in the long run.

Makes you feel loved, and that is the best feeling of all in my opinion.

I went home that night and immediately thanked Vlad and cried. I don’t think he really knew what to do or say because to him, he wasn’t looking for a thank you.  He did it because he loved me and didn’t want me to go hungry, which is worth more to me than anything materialistic he could ever buy me. And for that, every day, I try to return the love to him because I realized I had finally truly learned the greatest gift in life is to love and be loved in return.

I don’t make fun of Mrs. Anderson anymore, and I don’t even get mad when she calls me an ass-wipe. I just smile, nod and tell her, genuinely, that I hope she has a nice day.


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