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  • Bill Chastain

TOYS AND GAMES: O. Henry Comes to Mind at Fitness Center

A pet peeve of mine among many is parents who believe everybody else wants to enjoy their children.

I bring this up after what I experienced at the Camden Marriott in Baltimore on Saturday morning when a father — looked to be in his early 30s, unloaded his kids in the fitness center.

While the father worked out on the elliptical machine, his four kids attacked, much to the chagrin of everybody inside the crowded facility, save for Fitness Center Father.

One kid bounced the exercise ball off the wall, another rode a bicycle at break-neck speed and the other two fought over who could occupy the lone vacant treadmill.

Fortunately, I had on ear buds and watched Masters coverage while this unfolded. But I would occasionally sneak glances in the mirror at the loyal Marriott customers leaving the facility. No doubt all were preparing to fire off strongly-worded letters to corporate about being Platinum members and never witnessing such a spectacle.

Somewhere along the way, O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief” came to mind.

For those who haven’t read the classic short story first published in 1907 in The Saturday Evening Post, it’s about two men who kidnap and try to ransom a wealthy Alabama man’s son. The kid is such a terror that eventually the men have to pay the father to take him back.

Similar to the Alabama man, Fitness Center Father seemingly had his fill of his children and said, “Fuck it. I’m stuck with them, if you want to do something about it, they’re yours.”

Obviously, there were no takers.

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