aka THE PUSH UP CONTEST.
In my first expose on the joys of knowing Brian, I looked at but one of the many facets of his character: that of his sheer mastery of the art of everyday human conversation. Today I will be exploring another element of the enigma that is Brian: his relationship with physical exercise, and - of course - the way he communicates said relationship to us, his hapless colleagues.
As I said in MEET BRIAN, PART ONE, Brian attends the gym three times a week (or so he claims, I'm not exactly a gym person myself so I've never been there to verify or deny) yet remains as portly and red-faced as ever. One favour that the gym does seem to have done our erstwhile hero is that his guns are, admittedly, rather impressive. This seems to be quite fitting to me, and quite representative of the way Brian approaches everything in his life. He decides he is going to go the gym regularly, and he sees on television or even just in the gym that guys who attend the gym regularly look pretty buff. Problem is, those guys eat a balanced and restrictive diet, as well as doing a full ensemble of exercises that test the body to its limits in every which way possible.
Brian looks at the exercise and diet regimes to achieve the physical perfection he dreams of every night in the bed he shares with his aging mother (actually I think he rents his own place, but work with me here). He realises that he just can't be bothered to put that amount of effort in. Dejected, he moves to leave the gymnasium, head hanging low, dreams of being a top bit of beefcake in tear-stained tatters.
But wait, he thinks, a bolt of clarity striking from the blue. If I just do a load of bench-presses and change absolutely fuck all else in my life, I'll still get big biceps no matter WHAT the rest of me looks like! And if I talk to people constantly about how big and well-rounded my biceps are, they won't notice the fact that the rest of me looks like a sack of potatoes that's been padded out with bacon fat!
And so it was that Brian came to talk about his biceps nearly as often as he talks about his "published works". And oh boy, you better believe it gets a little awkward.
ME: Hmm? Oh. Ohhh. Hi Brian.
B: I was down the gym yesterday.
M: Oh yeah? I hear that's good for you.
B: Yeah. Yeah, it was a good workout.
B: I think my biceps are coming along nicely.
B: I mean, I think so, but I'm not really sure.
M: You're not really sure?
B: Well, I don't really know.
M: You don't really know?
B: Well, no.
M: Have you... have you tried looking at them?
B: Yeah, but, you know, I can't just take my own opinion.
M: A personal trainer, in the gym? Or just, you know, anyone there?
B: Yeah, I did ask a trainer, but I'm still not sure.
B: So, I was wondering, what do you think?
(stage direction: it is at this point that Brian rolls up his sleeve - please remember that we are just behind the front desk and so all the customers in the shop, in addition to anyone walking by on the street outside, can see the older man showing off his biceps, which although large are still covered with a jellylike layer of flab, to his younger counterpart)
M: Oh. Er. Yeah, that's great, man. Nice.
B: Are you gonna touch them?
M: I'm sorry, what.
B: You can't really judge them without feeling them.
M: Brian I am not going to touch your biceps.
M: Brian roll your shirt down and make some boxes.
M: Brian I am going away now.
He's a character, alright.
So at about 11 on one weeknight evening, not much at all is happening but Becky is pissed off with the owner and has decided that she isn't sending anyone home early if they want to stay and rack up a little easy cash at his expense. So there are four drivers and three receptionists, and Becky, and we're just sitting around on tables and worktops talking shit and eating nachos (again, at the owner's expense).
Brian decides this is a good time to start talking about his biceps, but he doesn't get to the point of rolling up his sleeves so we can all admire the flabulous gun show (I don't know if anyone has invented the word flabulous before now, but be assured I will own the copyright on it before this post is finished) before Becky interrupts.
"Brian," she says, in a sweet, caring tone of voice, "you do realise none of us are even remotely impressed?"
Brian looks at her, and his mouth opens, but for the first time since I've had the complete displeasure of knowing him, the silly sod is lost for words. Me and Ben (Ben and I?) are trying our absolute fucking damndest not to burst into laughter, but we only manage for about ten seconds before the chuckles come out.
And you know what it's like when you've been trying not to laugh. Something that would have only been a short guffaw's worth of mirth becomes the funniest fucking thing since Little Man as the pressure of holding the giggles in builds up, and up...
Yeah, we were just laughing our fucking asses off. Pretty much in his face! I mean he was sitting right next to us! In retrospect, I feel bad, but not much, and to be honest I'm over it already. Seriously. Do you blame me.
Brian looks shocked and hurt for about a second - not that anyone really notices - but then his lip curls into the indignant pout of the thwarted child and he jumps up from the counter.
"You're not impressed? Well, come on then. I'll show you. Push up contest!"
I swear on the life of Konnie Huq from Blue Peter I am not lying to you. That is what he actually said.
"W-what?" I ask him, fighting down a fresh wave of laughter as the noble gladiators fought down the savage Christians. "A fucking push up contest? What are you talking about?"
"A push up contest!" Brian retorts, the repetition adding a sombre gravitas to his challenge. "If you're not impressed, let's have a push up contest! We'll see!"
"Brian," says Ben, getting up off the counter, "you know a 'push up contest' hardly qualifies as a test of physical fitness, right?"
"It'll show us whose biceps are better!" Brian exclaims, a mad gleam creeping into his dour eyes.
"Just, please, don't roll your sleeves up," says Becky.
It's about another minute before we've managed to stop laughing enough to line up for THE PUSH UP CONTEST.
Tom goes first. He manages a paltry 9 before he collapses, and there is much jeering, mocking, and consideration of exactly how much correlation there is between his homosexuality and his complete lack of upper body strength (I'd like to clarify that Tom is actually gay... gay for DELIVERING PIZZAS HOT AND ON TIME, that is).
I go next. I'm actually pleasantly surprised when I manage to force myself to 20 before giving up, my arms groaning like a ghost who's just realised he left the ghost-oven on back at his ghost-house. There is some generic jeering, but not much, for my fellow PUSH UP COMPETITORS know they have just seen a true man pushing up.
Brian goes next. He forges on, and he makes it to 41... even though the whole fucking time we are telling him to stop and start again because what he's doing barely qualifies as movement, never mind push ups. He's doing those weird gimpy "ass way up in the air and a slight flexing of the shoulders as your nose moves about an inch closer to the ground before going up again" push ups that are the general forte of kids, women, and homosexuals (political correctness disclaimer: fuck you, this is the internet).
We are informing him of this the whole time he is pushing, but he completely ignores us, his face growing redder as he barely moves, just that slight little movement of the shoulders that seems to count as one push. I swear I have no idea how he only managed to do 41 of them: as I said, his biceps are actually fairly impressive, and I'm pretty sure anyone can do as many of those shitty "push ups" as they want. I mean, the amount of free time and dignity you are in possession of are the only two factors.
Brian climbs to his feet, a laboured effort after his herculean performance. A smug grin spreads across his face: he is the king of push ups. The king of men. The king of biceps.
Becky breaks what I'm sure Brian imagined was an awed silence.
"That was embarassing. You're disqualified."
"Yeah." I have no choice but to agree. "Back of the class, flexy."
Brian protests, quite loud and quite long, but no one listens to him. We've all developed quite a knack for tuning him out by this point, and besides, there's one competitor left to enter the PUSH UP ARENA. For some reason, the four minutes we've been playing this game have got us all - competitors and spectators - hooked on the pure adrenaline sport that is the PUSH UP CONTEST, and our attention is locked on Ben, who steps up to the plate to push like his life depends on it.
And who knows. Maybe it does.
Ben knocks out 30 then jumps up, declaring he doesn't want to humiliate the rest of us any further. He might have taken home the prize (his staff meal) that night, but in a way, I think the real winner was everyone who is not Brian.
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