A British ex-pat; she was spontaneous, mildly eccentric (which is how we had become friends in the first place, but I won’t go into that right now) and was always great fun to be around.
She lived in Santa Cruz and on my first weekend there, she took me on a sightseeing tour of the town, introducing me to friends and acquaintances as we walked round.
As we walked, we came across a Leisure Center (American spelling) that was in the process of being built. It was nearly finished and, though not yet open to the public, it’s front doors were.
“Ooh”, said Faye, “I’ve been dying to see inside here. C’mon.” and with that she strolled briskly towards the open doors.
“But, it’s not open yet”, I protested. She continued her stride and beckoned me to follow, so I did.
The moment we stepped through the door, we were stopped by a smartly dressed chap wearing a safety helmet.
“You can’t come in here”, he said, “we’re not open to the public yet.”
“I’d like to see the manager please”, said Faye.
“I am the manager”, he said with a smile.
“Ahh, good”, said Faye. And then she went on to tell him how she was a resident of the town and was very much looking forward to using the the facilities that the new leisure center would bring when it opened. “Meantime”, she explained, “this is my very good friend, Masher, visiting me from the UK. He runs a leisure centre there and was interested to see yours. I wondered if we might be able to have a quick look round?”
I was stunned. I run a leisure centre?
“You run a leisure center in the UK?”, asked Mr Manager, taking my hand and shaking it vigorously. Not sure what to say, I just nodded feebly. “Yes, I’d be happy to show you round”, he said, “but I’m a bit rushed this morning, so we’ll have to be quick. Oh, and you’ll need a safety helmet, as men are still working in some parts of the building. I’ll just go and grab a couple”, and he disappeared around a corner.
“What the… why d’you say… how am I going…. I DON’T RUN A LEISURE CENTRE!” I spluttered out in a hushed whisper.
“You’ll be fine”, Faye smiled, “just run with it.”
“But I…” At that point Mr Manager returned with a white safety helmet in each hand. We put them on and followed as he led us around.
First port of call was the gym. It was huge, with machines of all types and mirrors that went all around the walls. Several sets of weights were stacked up neatly on cradles to one side and a row of treadmills ran the full length of the room. Mr Manager beamed at me. “This is the gym”, he said, with the voice of a proud father. “What do you think?”
“I… I think it’s amazing”, I said, “My, er, my gym isn’t even half this size.”
We walked on and as we did so, he asked me awkward leisure center related questions. Several times I looked at Faye and could see she was trying to suppress a smile. She was loving this. I wasn’t. I was thinking on my feet and not making a particularly good job of it.
We walked through some double doors and into the spectating area of a large swimming pool. It had been filled already as the centre was due to open in just a few days, and the water sparkled a deep blue as sunlight from the windows reflected off it. “And this is our swimming pool”, said Mr Manager, stating the obvious.Again, I marveled at it and wished that MY swimming pool could be as big.
And that’s how it went for the rest of the tour: “I wish we could have as many squash courts as you have here, but we just haven’t the room”, “Yes, we do Judo classes once a week, but our hall is much smaller than this”, “No, we don’t have a climbing wall…” etc.
I remember that at one point he remarked how young I was to be in a managerial position. He had a good point as I was only in my very early twenties and probably still had acne. I bluffed – as I had been doing for the previous twenty minutes – and gave him some guff about my father being the current manager/owner and me taking it over from him. It wasn’t a very good lie and I don’t think he actually believed it, but he said nothing and shook our hands as we left the building.
“That was fun”, said Faye, with a wicked smile as we walked back down the path toward the street, “Where can we try next?”
“Don’t you fucking dare!”