My Visit to the YMCA

The Presidio YMCA sits near the edge of the San Francisco Bay, looking right at the Golden Gate Bridge. To get there from my residence, I have to roll down Masonic Avenue for a mile, cut left onto Presidio Avenue, pass through the Presidio Heights–an insultingly-rich neighborhood–and down through the Presidio Forest, letting me out only a quarter of a mile away from the  YMCA facility. Total travel time: about 15 minutes.

I’ve been trying to move with this impulse to be healthy: limiting my meat intake, overpaying for organic food, wine over beer, etc. Therefore, working-out coincides with this courageous movement. Back in Pennsylvania, I was assigned as a member on my dad’s YMCA family membership; he receives a free membership for teaching weekly adult swim-lessons. Last week, however, I was informed my mom replaced me on the membership. The YMCA limits only two adults per family membership.

In addition, most YMCAs grant free access for visiting members from other branches. Nevertheless, the YMCAs in San Francisco charge a $5 fee for visiting members, after all, this is San Francisco–here nothing is free or cheap for that matter. Nonetheless, my being a desperate and depraved and now-former YMCA member, I tried to finagle myself in. After all, $5 can help cut down my $64 parking ticket I received two days ago. Anyway, the conversation rolled somewhat like this:

(I walked through the wide-open entrance doors, eyes connected with the staff members)

“Hey there. How’s it going today,” said the college-aged YMCA employee.

“Good,” I said. “I’m visiting San Francisco, and I’m a YMCA member from Pennsylvania.”

“Gotcha–welcome,” he said. “Do you have your YMCA-card?”

“No…but I should be in your system… I was here in November.”

“Ok then, what’s your name?

“Mark Rothman.”

I’m scanning the lobby, feeling like a cracked-out fugitive trying to hide something.

“Ok, found you.”

“Great,” I said. ” So–I’m all set.”

I quickly break eye contact and step to my right, aiming for the locker-rooms.

“Umm–there’s a $5 entrance charge.”

I pull back. Fuck, I thought. I’ve been caught.

“Hmm, that’s weird,” I said. “I’ve never been charged before….are you sure that’s correct?”

The college-aged, soft-spoken employee glanced at his manager who was standing to his right.

“Hey–there’s a $5 charge, right?” he asked.

“Yep,” said the manger, looking down at the boy and then glancing at me.

I leaned forward and rested both palms against the white desk, bringing attention to the seriousness of this matter.

“$5? Wow–is this a new policy or something?” I gasped.

“Nope. It’s always been like this,” said the manager, holding his stance.

“Well, I’ve never been charged here before–so I’m pretty confused,” I said, shaking my head.

“You should have.”

“No other YMCA does this. I’ve traveled across the country, touring the land and working-out, and never has a YMCA demanded money from me.”

“From my knowledge, all of the San Francisco YMCAs charge visiting guests.”

A brief pause ensues…the college boy stares at the ground and the manager holds his eye contact with me. I proceeded to scratch my head, appearing dumbfounded by the entire situation. But they weren’t budging.

“Can I talk to a director?” I asked.”Look–I’m out here for um..business..um, and it’s going to put a dent in my wallet if I need to keep paying $5 per visit. So let’s see if we can work something out.”

“Yeah–hold on. I’ll talk to her now,” he said.

The manager came out from behind the desk and paced across the white-titled floor over to an office door about twenty feet away. He cracked the door open and poked in his head, mouthing something to her. Then he glanced back at me and asked, “How long are you going to be here?”

“Like 3 weeks. Maybe 4,” I said.

He poked his head back in the office. I overheard a chuckle. What are they laughing at? Me? I thought. Then he removed himself from the office and pulled the door shut.

“She says she can do $50.”

“My god! $50? That’s basically ten visits,” I said, waving my arms in the air like it was the worst news I’ve ever heard.

“Sorry, that’s all we can do,” he said, securing his spot back behind the desk.

I gazed around the vacant lobby, trying to grasp some type of last-ditch effort. I could try to just make a dash for it, I thought. But I would most likely pull something; it’s been a while since I’ve worked out. The manager hopped on a call, and the college boy sat there, frozen, staring straight ahead at the computer screen.

“Fine–I’ll come in just for today,” I said, extending my credit card out to the employee.

“Ok–so that will be $5,” he confirmed, pulling my card away.

My credit card is scratched up on the back, so it usually requires a few swipes to actually process the payment. After a few attempts, he handed back my card.

“All good?” I asked.

“Yeah–you’re set,” he said.

With my official release, I put my head down and curved around the desk, heading down the narrow hallway. Then, when I was almost out of reach, I heard: “Which YMCA do you belong to?”

I turned my head back and said, “Spring Valley YMCA…it’s in Pennsylvania.”

“Ok–that’s fine. But just so you know, it’s $20 if you weren’t a visiting member,” he informed me, feeling like a true-American enforcer of rules and regulations.

“Gotcha,” I said, turning my back to him.

He made his point and stood up for himself. After all, he must deal with depraved schemers trying to slip in on a daily basis. At the same time, he must feel some sympathy towards us. I mean, if you’re really trying to cut the system for a mere $5, you must really need it. But then again, why are you living in San Francisco……

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Hope

“Do you wanna go for a walk?” Porter asked, slipping on her sneakers.

“Sure, I’m down.” I said.

“Cool, I have to move my car anyway.” She responded, leading towards the front door.

Porter and I shuffled down her front steps onto the dimly-lit sidewalk. I immediately veered right, aiming in the direction of her parked car.

“Let’s go this way. I’m bored of the other way,” She insisted, turning in the opposite direction.

I followed–I could care less which way we went.  We cut onto Page Street and started east, away from her car. Page Street encompasses the iconic Victorian-style row-homes, including some adorned with modern remodeling. Although the homes aren’t enormous or overly lavish, they remain stunning. By far, it’s my favorite architectural aesthetics within the city.

“I wonder how much the rent of these homes run at?” I tossed out, admiring them as my eyes peered from one to the next.

Well, this conversation spiraled downward into the uncomfortable subject of money, specifically, my lack of it. The conversation rolled as each of us jabbed indirect shots at each other: her ignorance of money, my unemployment, etc. We passed block after block, lost in a financial miscommunication in the U.S’ most expensive city.

Eventually we settled down on a bench, keeping silent and staring off in opposite directions, reflecting our different viewpoints. Joggers and dog-walkers passed by, dodging our tension. This scene is common in San Francisco. Moreover, everyone in San Francisco seems to be financially burdened; whether it’s the Silicon Valley CEOs ceaselessly investing in start-ups or the homeless people on Market Street begging for change. What you have is never enough.

Minutes later, I stung the tension with the facts of what is: unemployment expires in April, my heavy bills, etc. And after a little back and forth, we settled on hope. Hope that I will land a livable-salary job at a university, so in turn, I can enroll in classes as well.

Hope. Hope is what Obama preached to the wretched U.S population in 2008. Trump advocated change, “Make America Great Again,” but basically, he insinuated hope. Hope is what downhearted America clenches to, and what leaders and motivational-speakers sell, promoting infinite possibilities. Along with reality, this sales pitch may just be an illusion, nonetheless, life is merely a ride.

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Office Thoughts

I parked under the shade, contributed by a large, overhanging tree. Then, I lowered the front windows and cracked open the moonroof. It was a little past 1.pm. and fairly warm for a reported 71 degree day. I had just inhaled french fries and an avocado chicken sandwich, compliments of a local diner. I slipped off both dress shoes, reclined the driver’s seat, and my eyes followed the falling Autumn leaves as they dissented.

Earlier that morning I completed a two hour interview in Philly and later on, I would be enduring the same process one again.  Turns out, I wounded up getting along with the people from the second interview. Though, whether I get the job is entirely in their hands. I feel like it would pay out, enough anyway. With that, I’m hesitant if it is an upward step rather than sideways in my development.

If I were to accept the role of a senior accountant, I would sit fairly stationary at this title, until in five years or so when I would leap to a managerial position. The next progression after that would typically not be available for another five or so years. Of course, monetary incentives are heighten annually, but what am I working towards?

As for money, it has always been a means of vital financial security rather than a grand goal. I am not in the game of acquiring barrels of cash to purshase more tangible goods or to be able to simply retire early. So why do I do it? Well, my student loans have always been a concern–but what happens when they’re finally paid off? Start living then? Buckle down on to the next loans?

Motives are based around a variety of factors; it’s undeniable that money isn’t one of them. Furthermore, self-confidence and doubt inhibits action. When you don’t feel adequate in your skills or abilities, one doesn’t pursue a dream or opportunity. This facet is a prominent piece that needs to be cultivated. Otherwise, one will see themselves planted in the same desk of the same office that they apathetically joined years ago. With that, there’s some things I need to work on.