We didn’t have school on Friday, a kind of extended winter weekend. I had no real plans for the day so decided to go to the health club. I walked/ jogged two miles on the treadmill and then saw that a yoga class was starting so decided to participate. When I went into the locker room, I thought I would try out the saunas. I always seem to be rushing off somewhere when I get to the health club so I have never had the time to sit in dry and wet heat.
I first went into the dry sauna, which smelled like rich, wet wood, and felt very warm and nurturing on this cold winter day. After 15 or so minutes, I decided to try the steam sauna and walked through its door. I have never really liked steam saunas. I find it hard to breathe all that heavy and thick steam. Because the tiled room was entirely filled with white steam and there were no lights except the light spilling through its glass entrance door, it was nearly impossible to see or discern anything. The steam had a hint of wintergreen smell that was almost making me sick. I knew I would have to leave. Then I was startled to see (because I thought I was in there alone), a woman lying face down on the top tiled shelf, her face buried in her folded arms, barely perceptible for all the steam. It really was hard to detect, but I could not even tell if she were breathing or not. She seemed perfectly still. There was a gatorade bottle next to her and a tossed towel.
The steam had truly become too much for me and I left. As I was showering I could not stop thinking about the woman in the steam room. Was she dead? Wasn’t it true that one should not fall asleep in saunas? That one’s brain could get stewed? That one could overheat and die?
I dried off in the dry sauna, changed my clothes, and dried my hair still thinking about her. I decided to go back to the sauna to see if she were alive. After all, it had been at least 20, maybe 25 minutes since I left the steam room and who knew how long she had been in there before I came.
So, I went back to the steam room, opened the door, and saw that she was still there, in exactly the same position that I had left her. “Excuse me, uh, hello,” I said.
In a deep almost Marlene Dietrich basso profundo, without the german accent, she answered quite angered and loudly, “What the hell do you want?” without a single part of her body moving, as if the voice were disembodied emanating from the mysterious mists around us.
“Ah, nothing, sorry,” I said as I meekly departed the steam.
It is clearly hard enough to see through steam, but sometimes even harder to recognize generosity of spirit. Yet another reason to not like steam saunas.