Dressing rooms can be odd places.
When one plays a sport that requires a significant (ish) amount of equipment, there is usually (always?) a place to change into that equipment. It might be called a dressing room or a locker room or a change room but it doesn’t really matter what you call it — a rose (not me) by any other name would smell just as bad. I’ve used them to complain about unnecessary (and presumably costly) executive meddling, to muse about mortality, to reminisce about how I can offend people just by existing. Today I’m going to do it again.
I’ll leave out some stuff at the curling club (At the curling club I usually change in the foyer; those times that I use the locker room I habitually sit on the floor in the doorway and people snarl at me. I can’t think of a way to make that interesting, even to me.) and move on to a couple of things that happened in arena dressing rooms. One involves hockey, one almost involves hockey.
Second one first. (One of the teachers that attempted — tenaciously but ultimately vainly — to teach me high school English was fond of quoting Matthew 20:16. Blame him.)
Once upon a time there was this broomball tournament. (Broomball is a little like hockey without skates. A little.) It wasn’t intended to be a ‘real’ tournament but a ‘fun’ one; it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously and was aimed at people who didn’t normally play broomball. (The organizers did little things to encourage this — things like prohibiting broomball shoes in order to level the playing field and ratchet up the opportunities for collisions, injury and comedy.) I do not play broomball but the person who entered the team knew that I played at least one other ice sport and clearly assumed that once you’ve played one (even if you’re crappy at it), you’ve played them all. After all, ice is ice, right? I didn’t try to explain the many ways in which her assumption was flawed, I just nodded, took the nonessential gear out of my hockey bag (it’s heavy after all) and showed up for our first game.
Our team had half-a-dozen-ish men and half-a-dozen-ish women (it was a co-ed tournament, after all) and we had been assigned… one dressing room. (One team, one room — can’t argue with that.) We decided that this wasn’t that big a deal because there probably wasn’t a serious need for, you know, gratuitous nudity — all we really needed was somewhere to sit, a floor to put things on and a door with lock on it so we could leave our keys and things behind and not worry too much about them. We all agreed and into the room we filed.
Dressing rooms in arenas are all, to a first approximation, the same: floors covered in a material (often interlocking rubber tiles) that is tough, won’t dull skates and will retain dampness, benches along every wall, clothing hooks over the benches and an onmipresent smell of old socks, dirty underwear and slug nematode symbiont. We each staked out a piece of bench and those of us with bags of gear started strapping
Broomball has its own equipment of course but I’ve implied that none of us was a broomball player so none of us had any. We had several hockey players, though, and hockey equipment is Good Enough. There’s a particular ritual to putting on hockey equipment and everyone’s is a little different. One thing that many people will do early on, though, is put on a layer of… something to absorb sweat, blah blah blah. A bazillion companies offer a huge variety of options for this but a lot of people will use something as simple as an old T-shirt. For people like those, there’s always a T-shirt or three in their bag. Sometimes those even get washed.
So there we were in the dressing room. One of the team members (a geologist by training, though that isn’t particularly relevant) dumped his bag out on the floor and picked three T-shirts from the resulting pile. He then carefully smelled each one and put on the one that (presumably) was the least… pungent.
The young lady sitting next to him turned a very fetching shade of green and fled the room.
A few years later the issue of co-ed dressing rooms popped up again. I was playing for an old-timer’s (mostly) hockey team at the time. I said ‘mostly’ because the league we played in was semi-organized at best and didn’t look too hard at little things like whether or not the players were actually legal. Which was a good thing because our goalie was a talented young lady — and by ‘young’ I mean ‘at least a decade too young to play on an oldtimer’s team.’
Like I said, semi-organized. But in a good way.
For a while after joining the team she changed in splendid isolation in her own room. This was a little annoying, though — the arena guy expected one room per team and if someone needed two someone had to find him (sometimes quite time-consuming) and get a key. Eventually she gave up and used ‘our’ room. It was just easier. This continued for, well, a long time and in general worked pretty well: it was efficient, didn’t waste time and no one seemed to have a problem with it.
Until the day we were short of players.
I mean, this happened fairly regularly but this time none of our regular spares could make it. This was a minor problem. “Not to worry” our goalie said, “I’ll bring someone from my women’s team.” Problem solved. Sort of. Because, while she brought a spare for us (an excellent player, by the way, one that made me look even more inadequate than usual) she clearly didn’t explain the full details of the change room… ‘arrangement.’ They arrived first (goalies need lots of time to change) and when the rest of the team started to arrive our guest looked… surprised. And more than a little uncomfortable. (Then again, that much back hair can make almost anyone feel uncomfortable.)
After the game she changed quickly — I’ve never seen anyone change that quickly (not that I was looking) — and fled the room.
And no one had smelled a T-shirt or a harmonica or anything.