I was bringing home some donuts for breakfast the other day and had just gotten on the elevator when a well-formed hand stopped the door as it was closing. It was Kurt, the personal trainer who lives in my building. He does not have the muscular build you might expect. Instead he is tall and lanky, a little like James Stewart - if James Stewart shaved his head and wore an earring.
Having a personal trainer in the building is a little like having a doctor or tax accountant. People feel they are entitled to free advice on anything remotely related to medicine or finance or whatever the area of expertise might be. I was once in the laundry room with with a tenant/dentist who told of being peppered with questions from a woman who lived in the building. "None of the questions had to do with dentistry," he said, "but she was only too happy to show me the rash on her back and shoulders."
I find this type of behavior reprehensible and I would not have thought to bother Kurt. That would not have been neighborly. That would have been rude.
Still there was this question that had been bothering me, and I'm confident he would have been highly offended had I not sought his advice.
No question about it.
"You know, Kurt, you're kind of a lanky fellow. I've always wondered what it would be like if I were lanky."
He glanced at my five foot six inch stature and the bag of donuts in my hand.
"Keep wondering", he said in his hard-to-place European accent.
I smiled genially as I pulled keys out of my pocket and promptly dropped them on the floor of the elevator. "No, really," I said as I bent over to pick them up, "there must be something I can do to become more lanky."
"Well," he said thoughtfully, "first of all you could stop grunting every time you bend over to pick something up."
"Duly noted," I said as I sorted through the keys looking for the one to my apartment door. "Actually I was hoping that maybe I could give the appearance of being lanky without actually being lanky."
He seemed intrigued by the challenge. "Well, you could try standing up a little straighter. You're all..." He struggled to find the word. "How do you say it?" he made a bending motion with his hand.
"Slouching?" I offered.
"Hunched!" he said triumphantly. "You are all hunched over. Like a deformity. Yes. Hunched."
Not wanting to appear quite so Quasimodo-ish, I tried locking my knees in place, throwing back my shoulders, and stretching my neck as much as I could.
"How's that?" I asked.
"Again with the grunting, but not bad. Now try reaching for the top of the elevator." He easily raised his hands over his head and placed his palms on the ceiling.
I straightened my arms over my head as if I were surrendering to a sheriff at high noon and flapped my hands in a vain attempt to reach the dome light overhead. I did my best not to grunt.
"Well, at least you didn't grunt," said Kurt sympathetically.
As I lowered my hands an unbidden whoosh of air released itself from my lungs.
"That's wasn't a grunt!" I protested defensively. "That was a whoosh."
"If you say so."
"Maybe lanky isn't all it's cracked up to be," I said as I straightened my shirt.
"It's a blessing and a curse," he said philosophically.
Feeling a little philosophical myself I said, "I guess you get a lot of people asking you for advice."
"No, not too many. Once in a while."
At that moment I realized I had not pushed the button for my stop. Thankfully the elevator only went one floor past mine and when the doors opened I got off, intending to take the stairs back down. There was an elderly woman standing in the hallway.
"Hold the door!" she commanded.
I grabbed the door for a moment but warned her, "It's going up." She glanced inside and saw Kurt and said, "That's alright. I don't mind a little ride."
As the door closed and the elevator began to rise I heard her fading voice saying, "What do you know about rashes? And who is that unfortunate hunched man?"