Friday, February 09, 2007

Horrible Harold

Harold used to go to the gym I attended, and though I avoided him like the plague, sometimes I would get stuck on a treadmill next to him. This meant it was necessary to talk to him, or at least listen to him, or--my favorite option--unwillingly hear while pretending not to notice him in the most polite, ladylike way, meaning not screaming or calling the police.

A conversation with Harold was like taking a nice, refreshing swim in the sewer of your choice. Harold made nasty remarks about: 1) his wife; 2) other women in the gym; or 3) women generally. Interspersed between these remarks were nasty jokes about women, sex, or women and sex. Just listening to him made you crave a long, hot shower.

Now I'm not one of these tender little flowers who get offended by every remark or glance from a man, but Harold would have offended a saint. A plaster statue of the Virgin Mary would have taken exception to his remarks. He was also very thick, and it was impossible to get Harold off his favorite subject. In fact, he enjoyed embarrassing me and other women. Avoidance was the best strategy, and one I employed most of the time.

When our gym closed and all our memberships were transferred to another gym, I hoped the Harold problem was solved, as Harold declared that he would not be attending the new gym. What a pleasant surprise!

So imagine my chagrin when he turned up at the new place one day a about six months later. One of the other women who had transferred told me he was now a member. I must have made a face, and I know I said, "Ugh! I hate Harold!" This blighted female then told me she would tell him I didn't like him.

I didn't discuss it with her, but she must have told him, because the next time I saw him he looked straight through me in a very offended manner. I had no intention of hurting his feelings; though I have to say I was a little relieved. However, my conscience smote me. Was I responsible for making another human being feel bad? What should I do?

In the end I did nothing. I didn't want to re-open my "relationship" with Harold. I didn't like him, and I didn't feel like explaining to him that I didn't want to offend him but didn't like him anyway. The fact was, I didn't feel like talking to Harold. Rightly or wrongly, I was now off the hook. He could share his filthy jokes and misogynist remarks with someone else.

And so he did.

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