As I often do on a Tuesday lunchtime, I had nipped away from my desk and gone out for a run alongside the canal, looping back by the river Trent. For once in this miserable summer, the weather was nice enough that I could wear my sunglasses, and it was warm enough that by the time I walked back into the changing rooms at work, I was pretty hot and sticky. I heard the sound of running water as soon as I walked through the door, and as I walked past the doorway to the showers, I saw out of the corner of my eye that someone was in there. It doesn't do to linger by the showers though, and I wasn't particularly interested, so I continued on towards my locker, my thoughts starting to drift to the double egg sandwich waiting for me on my desk.
Before I reached my locker however, I was shaken out of my bubble by the sound of someone hailing me.
It was coming from the showers.
I tentatively backed up and peered cautiously through the doorway.
Standing before me was Darren. Darren joined the company a few months ago as the manager of one of the programmes that I work on. He's got quite a military manner about him and is always absolutely immaculately presented and briskly efficient. He seemed nice enough, but not so nice that I would really ever want to pop down to the pub with him to chew over my lack of project status reports or anything like that (perhaps I'm being unfair, but he doesn't look like he would have all that many other avenues of conversation). And yet here he was, standing stark bollock naked in the shower and apparently wanting to engage me in conversation.
"I thought it was you" He had paused in the act of soaping himself to turn so that he was fully facing the doorway, and he was beaming at me. I looked him coolly in the eye.
"You been out for a run then?"
I looked down at myself. I was wearing a sweat soaked Helly Hansen top, a pair of shorts and my running trainers. I was carrying my sunglasses and my iPod.
"Yes, I have." Was he really expecting me to just stand here and chat whilst he washed the soap off himself? Apparently he was.
"Oh yeah? Where do you go?" He was still grinning at me, but now he had a look of slightly demented enthusiasm too.
"Along the canal and back down the river" I was struggling not to be monosyllabic. YOU'RE NAKED MAN! NAKED!
"Yeah? You do a lot of running then?" I had a horrible feeling that this conversation could go on for a while. How short could I keep this without being rude?
"A bit." A edged away from the doorway and made a break for my locker. I took a breath, fished out my key and stripped down, getting ready for the moment when I would head back to the shower, hoping that Darren was going to be finished. I don't mind showering with other guys - hell, I went to boarding school - but I didn't really want to be chatting to Darren as he stood there beaming at me, perhaps with his hands on his hips.
As I started to wander over, I heard the sound of the shower being switched off, and Darren emerged through the doorway.
"Do you do half marathons or marathons or anything like that?"
He stepped out of the showers and -- Oh God -- moved towards a bag on the bench directly opposite the doorway. I resigned myself to the continuation of our little chat as I showered.
"No. My knees tend to give up the ghost after about ten miles." Darren - still naked - was nodding at me now, his eyebrows so far up his forehead that they were disappearing into his hairline. "I do triathlons occasionally though."
I hung up my towel and selected the shower furthest off to the side of the doorway and out of Darren's direct eyeline. I had a feeling I may have offered him a conversational window of opportunity. He duly took it.
"Oh yes?" His voice drifted in through the doorway. "I've always fancied doing them, but I don't think my swimming is good enough"
"Oh, you don't have to swim all that far. Only 400m in a sprint triathlon". This wasn't so bad. I flicked open my shower gel and began to soap myself down. Just as I was working my way methodically from arms to shoulders and down my body, Darren appeared in the doorway. Naked. I think he might have brushed his hair, but he was still naked.
GO AWAY GO AWAY GO AWAY I'M NAKED AND ABOUT TO WASH MY BITS ! GO AWAY! "Yes. It should only take you 10 minutes or so" PISS OFF PISS OFF I'M FEELING A TOUCH EXPOSED AT THE MOMENT.
"Right. Perhaps I should give that a go then." His head disappeared again, and I quickly finished my shower and began to dry myself down. I usually like to towel myself dry in the shower area before I head back to my locker, but just as I was getting on with this, I realised that Darren wasn't finished yet. I don't think my piss off vibes were working.
"So have you got a locker here then?" His head had appeared in the doorway again. At least he was now wearing his pants. I however, was still naked.
I nodded, and tried to hide behind my towel.
"I've just been taking my bag into the gym. I'll have to look into getting one of them" Hiding wasn't working, so I decided that perhaps I would dry myself off beside my locker. I quickly wrapped the towel around my still dripping body and walked past Darren into the changing room, quickly heading off towards my locker in the other corner of the room.
"How far do you run then?"
"About 4 miles, I suppose" STILL NAKED! I was wondering if I should move a bit faster to cut this conversation short, but I supposed that Darren didn't mean any harm and I was still so hot that if I rushed now, I was going to be quietly overheating at my desk for the next couple of hours.
"Perhaps you'd show me your route next time?"
I shrugged. I hate running with other people. I like to disappear into my own little world behind headphones and sunglasses. Besides, Darren would probably shout motivational phrases at me to pep me up and to keep me moving. God no. Oh, and I WAS STILL NAKED.
"Yeah, why not?"
"Perhaps I could share your locker....?"
Good grief man. Forcing me to engage in conversation with you when you are naked and covered in lather is one thing, asking me if I'd share my locker with you is quite another.
Is nothing sacred?
"Right. Well see you later then mate."
The door banged behind him as he left but the changing room quickly fell blissfully silent. I paused for a moment, as if checking that he was really gone, and then with an almost imperceptible sigh of relief, I continued to towel myself down.