Hey there person on the treadmill next to me at the gym. You don't know me and I don't know you. You look like a regular person, not a weirdo. Outwardly at least.

I mean It's odd the you got on the treadmill right next to me when there are several others that are open. I'm not a real gym rat, but I kind of always thought there was an understanding that we keep an empty treadmill between each of us when we can. If the place is really busy, sure, but it's not, so it is odd that you saddled up next to me.

But, whatever. What really intrigues me is the fact that you are not wearing headphones. No Beats cans covering your ears. No little buds inside them. Nothing. You didn't even turn on the TV that is built into the treadmill. Near as I can tell you're not even watching the TVs mounted in the place. No book. No magazine. How do you do it?

How do you workout without something to listen to? I've been on this here treadmill for about 15 minutes and you have been next to me for almost the whole time. But, you're not listening to anything. You're not making phone calls, or texting. You're not even scrolling through Facebook. How do you do it?

Aren't you afraid of being alone with your thoughts? What's going on in your head? If you're not listening to something, like music, a podcast, or Netflix; isn't your brain running through every conversation you've had today? And yesterday, and all week. Without my precious headphones my mind would be reviewing every word I've ever said to every person I've ever come in contact with. Especially women, and coworkers, and cashiers, and my parents, and siblings, well, everyone.

After examining each word I have ever said, my mind would move on to every word I didn't say. I'd be consumed with writing and rewriting the scripts I should have followed for every interaction ever. What I should have said to my friend in 12th grade. Realizing now that that girl in that class in college was flirting with me and maybe I shouldn't have ignored her while trying to read The Stand again. I'd have to pick-apart an email I received at work to see if it's some sort of secret comment about my job performance. Then there's the extra scrutiny every awkward thing I've ever said would need to receive.

As you walk on that treadmill isn't your mind consumed with critiquing every decision you have ever made? Then playing out every possible alternative outcome of those decisions?

At the very least how you not bored? I step onto the treadmill and I'm immediately bored. Even before I hit the 'quick start' button. If I wasn't trying to finish The Defenders so I can watch The Punisher before that new show Altered Carbon drops, my fear of boredom would overwhelm me and I'd be out the door. Stranger Things 2 keeps me on track for nearly a month.

Really, I am just fascinated that you can be on the treadmill and not watch or listen to something. I just don't get it. It's like being in someone's car where they don't turn on the radio. No music, no talk, not even NPR. They're just driving in silence. Gross.

Maybe I'm a bit jealous. I wear headphones so much I'm sure that soon my doctor will pull me aside for a concerned conversation. I go out of my way to keep my brain in it's lane. I can't have it wandering off and catching a bus to obsessionville. If I get lucky my mind will latch onto half the chorus of a random song. Repeating it over and over, and almost getting the melody so I can remember more of the song. That's my no headphone best case scenario. If that doesn't happen I can fall into a black hole of counting my steps and my breaths. Oh man, the counting. Ugggg.

So good for you person at the gym not wearing headphones. You are a better person than me. You can keep your mind focused and do your cardio.

One final question though: without headphones how do you signal to other people that you don't want to talk to them? Oh wait. Does that mean you want to engage with other people? Strangers? Oh. My. Gosh! That is super weird.


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