Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chaptette 4: Patterns and Randomness

We were less the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and more the Four Riders of the Nautilus. Craig (GU colleague) was running on the treadmill, Susan (South African, Samrya neighbor) was climbing on the Stairmaster, Margarette (unknown origin, probably northern Europe, neighbor) was riding the recumbent bike, and I was on the regular bike. We four looked straight into the mirror comprising the entire opposite wall – if you’ve exercised at a health club, you know this look -- not turning our heads to notice the others. Four sweaty westerners wearing “workout” attire inside; four laborers actually working outside in their heavy overalls. We were riding/running/climbing fast and going nowhere; they were weeding the garden and cleaning the pool. I wonder if we looked like hamsters on a wheel?

There are no doubt many ways to ride an exercise bike, but here are two of them. I could ride as fast or slow as I wished for as long as I wanted (until I was tired, or bored, or jacked up, or whatever). This seems like a pretty good idea. I never do that. Instead, I ride as if I were some sort of machine. My pattern: Pick some “nice” numbers, and meet them. So today I rode 30 minutes, at 100 revolutions per minute, which “took” me 15 kilometers. Very neat. I never ride 27 minutes, at 84 RPM for 11.7K or whatever. Why not?” Somehow this order makes me….satisfied. Until I remembered that I was only being neat in the metric system: under English measurements, I’m riding some weird number of miles. Oh well. Measurements are paradoxical: what appears as a pattern under one system seems random under another.

Do you know Qatari etiquette? When I first got here, I shopped for groceries at the local Mini Mart, and my man Farook there would help me get what I needed. He even said he would be glad to “hook me up” if I didn’t find what I needed. Seriously: he must have been listening to Michael Steele or something. (I was tempted to say “Really? How about Absolut, Marlboros, and “Tiffani”?) Anyway, the Mart has little selection and high prices, so I’ve started grocery shopping at a huge Carrefours. Now I slink by Farook, who is usually smoking cigarettes in the shade outside the shop. Do I need to tell him I ditched him for lower prices and more choice?


  1. I find I have a similar need when working out to use nice numbers. Things can only happen in multiples of five. And you are merely demonstrating the concepts of a free market economy, so any guilt you feel you can blame on Farook for not being competitive enough. Don't you love capitalism.

  2. Poor Farook. Still, I sort of avoid him -- he's quite nice -- but, yes, that is the nearly inevitable consequence of the market....