If you don't already know this, Leonard suffers from major social anxiety and panic attacks. "But Leonard," you're saying, "you're an actor and a performer! How can you have social anxiety??" I could give a fairly in-depth response about the differences between performing in front of a captive audience versus being thrust into the middle of a crowd, but instead I'll just quote The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:
So new things can be very....interesting. New places, new rules, new things = sensory overload. For example, one of my least favorite things is trying out a new eating establishment. Where do I order? What all is on the menu? Do I order here and then pay over there? What sides does it come with? Do I have to clean up after myself and put my tray away? What are all those other people doing? Let's watch them and see what they do first.
I'll actually start to get a tunnel-visioned, only able to see in front of me, almost no peripheral vision as I try to take it all in.
These first two weeks have included new places like that with me trying not to wander around aimlessly having a small mental breakdown.
New cafeteria: I eat for free at one of the universities -- woohoo! But it's a cafeteria -- chock full of things that cause me to hyperventilate. Where do I go? Oh here's a tray. I'll take a tray. Watch out for those people. Don't run into them. Don't let the students judge you. Why is there a long line? Do we all have to wait in line? There must be good stuff there if everyone is waiting for it. What if I don't like it? Where are the plates? I do eat for free, right??
The main cafeteria is "dine-in only." There are no to-go bags or boxes. But I couldn't figure out if that meant I could back in and get seconds (it's free!) if I wanted to. So I literally sat at my table for five minutes, found a person who had already been eating, watched them stand up, and followed them (with my eyes) as they went back in, got seconds, and came back to their seat with no repercussions. I did the same thing when it came time to leave. Where do I put this tray? Is there a trash can? What are all those other people doing? Let's just watch them. But casually, CASUALLY!!! Don't be a creeper.
Lather, rinse, repeat for each one of the dining establishments on campus. There are four.
And then the REALLY new stuff: working out at a gym.
Disclaimer: Leonard has not been in a gym to, y'know, "work out," in over a decade. So I've been wracking my brain trying to remember those things my ex-husband told me during the two times I went to the gym with him.
The first gym excursion was a bonafide clusterfuck.
I had plotted out my course, found the gym on the campus map, found my own location as well, and packed a bag with all my goodies (although I forgot a towel). After teaching my class, I walked over the gym, trying to take deep, cleansing breaths, and signed in. I asked the work study student at the front where the fitness center was, and she told me. Then I asked where the locker rooms were, and she told me. They were nowhere near the fitness center.
So I headed over the locker room to put my stuff. Except every door over where it said "locker rooms" was locked (there were three). So I said "fuck it" and headed to the fitness center, which is really just a glorified large room with some equipment in it. I told that work study student that the locker rooms were locked. She said, "Oh, they shouldn't be. Bob the GA should be able to unlock them."
So I walked with her through the gym back to the front of the building to find Bob. But we couldn't find Bob. We did find a woman who works there (an adult this time), and told her we couldn't find Bob and that the locker room doors were locked. She said, "Oh, I can unlock them!" So then I walked with her back to the locker rooms.
"Doesn't your key work?" she asked me.
"I don't have a key," I said. Hell, I don't even have an office at this institution.
"No, I mean your key card," she says. And then I remember that our I.D.'s double as key cards.
"Oh, I don't know. I didn't see one of those --" and I lamely imitate the swiping motion of the key card.
We get to the locker rooms, and she, too, realizes that only one door has the key card swiping thingie. I try it.
She tries it.
Still no go.
She manages to unlock one of the other doors, and I get a peek inside the locker room.
It's not a locker room like I remember. It's a private locker room for one of the women's teams, complete with wood paneling and their names above their stuff. Not what I had in mind at all. I was at a loss. Where was I supposed to put my stuff? Where could I shower?
Turns out hardly anyone uses the locker rooms like that anymore (according to "Coach"). The office woman assures me that she can unlock the doors anytime for me if I ask her. I thank her and head back to the fitness room.
I get on the treadmill and push some random buttons so I can walk quickly for 20-25 minutes. As I walk on the treadmill, the once empty room starts to fill up with students who look like they actually know what they're doing. I try to look like I know what I'm doing it. I'm sweating a lot from walking around the entire complex during the Great Locker Room Clusterfuck of '13. Plus it's a million degrees outside. When I'm done on the treadmill, I head back to my car and drive all the way home so I can shower and maybe cry. And nap.
End Result: University #1's facilities suck.
Two days later, I repeat the process with the gym at University #2. The night before, just like University #1, I do my research. I find the facility on the campus map. I plot my route. I try to figure out as much as I can from what's available online. Where do I go? Do I sign in? Do they provide towels, or do I have to bring my own? Do they provide locks, or do I provide my own? What kind of equipment is there? Is it stuff I remember how to use?
University #2's facility is whole new world. For starters, it takes up an entire first floor of a building. There are several courts, a free weight room, a fitness center, and REAL locker rooms, complete with lockers and showers. All of that is a sigh of relief. I put my stuff away and head to the space with the exercise machines and treadmills. I try to keep focused, even though I'm getting tunnel-visioned from all the new stuff.
Just find the treadmills. We know treadmills. Don't do anything besides treadmills today. Don't wanna overdo it.
I find a treadmill, and it's state of the art. I could even plug my iPhone into it if I wanted to. I could watch TV on an individual screen if I wanted to. I just want to walk quickly and listen to my iPod and zone out for a bit. So I push some random buttons in an attempt to mimic my fast-walking from the day before at University #1.
But no. This fancy new treadmill does more than just let me walk fast. It changes. It changes the incline and the speed on my "route." Suddenly it's moving quickly and I desperately try to find the button to slow it down before I pull a George Jetson in front of students who could very well be MY students.
I keep up the best I can. I sweat and I breathe hard. When I'm done, I step off the treadmill and try not to pass out. The floor still feels like it's moving, and my head is reeling. Just make it to the locker room. Just make it to the locker room. I can shower in the locker room. Don't pass out in the gym. Don't trip in front of students.
I text my Unit from the locker room: "220 calories and 29 minutes on the treadmill. I feel a little dizzy."
Her response: "Slow down, cowgirl!"
That shower was the best shower I ever had. When it was over and I was dressed, I headed to cafeteria #2 to repeat that process all over again of figuring out how to eat.
It's been two weeks, and I think I may have figured out a routine. Sort of. I've added some other exercise equipment into the mix; each time I get a little tunnel-visioned as I try to read the pictures and instructions on the machines. A lot has changed in ten years in the wide world of fitness. As usual, I don't want to ask questions of the work study students in an attempt to keep the number of times I look like an idiot to a minimum. I think I've done okay; I've only "wandered" the entire fitness center looking around once. Okay, maybe twice. I've also lost two pounds.
Some of the heart-pounding anxiety has lessened, and I no longer feel like I'm going to die in the locker room. But is it any wonder I slept for fifteen hours last night?
End Result: New things are exhausting; change is bad.
Monica Waters: You don't like change, do you?
Adrian Monk: I have no problem with change. I just don't like to be there when it happens.