Spandex shorts, wicking shirt, sport socks. Check, check, check. Weight-lifting gloves, yoga mat, roller tube. Got ’em. High-performance shoes carried in my high-performance bag. Yup. And don’t forget the protein drink and proper hydration bottles. At last, I zip up my breathable, rain-resistant jacket, and I’m ready to go.
It’s time to work out.
The late-middle-aged man lifts the shovel. It is full of black Iowa dirt from the large pile dumped on the asphalt parking lot at the Walnut Creek YMCA. The wheelbarrow gives a small groan as the man fills it with a twist of his hips. He works with a steady rhythm. When full, he lifts its handles and wheels the load down the sidewalk where he dumps the dirt into the washed-out edging. Picking up a garden rake, he spreads the dirt, pushing it next to the sidewalk. Setting the rake down, he hauls the wheelbarrow back to the pile. Once again, he shovels up the black dirt.
I go into the Y and work out.
Sometime later, I walk to my car in the parking lot with my sweat wicked away and my body well-hydrated.
The pile is gone.
The man has landscaped and raked and hauled the black dirt around the sidewalks and parking lot and any other place that needed attention. He now has a push broom with which he is cleaning up the mess. Head down, focused on his task, he sweeps the remnants into a small pile to again shovel into the wheelbarrow.
“It is a little ironic, isn’t it?” says Joe Czizek as he pushed the broom on the asphalt. The contrast between his “work” and my “working out” was not lost on either of us.
“It’s a little like people coming to the gym who won’t park an inch further from the front door than they have to.” Czizek gives a soft laugh. “To each his own.”
Nonjudgmental. Proud to be working for the YMCA. Happy to be able to help and solve problems.
“I am one of the District Supervisors for the YMCA. My office is here. My duties are anything and everything.”
Czizek is the guy we all want. No matter the problem, he either fixes it or he finds someone who can. Air conditioning systems, electrical, plumbing, carpet, drinking fountains, the large boilers inside the building. Next week, it is putting in a raised garden.
“I didn’t even know what a raised garden was two weeks ago. They said, ‘Can you put in a raised garden?’ I said, ‘Sure, what is it?’ ”
Czizek laughs at himself.
“What I love about the Y, you can see where the money is going, the projects they do. It is well spent. That’s unique in my experience.”
Czizek can go on and on about the people working at the Y and the people who use the Y.
“The people here are good people. We have a range, from the elderly to young. I call them elderly, but they are active as heck. And then you have small kids. I love the family setting.”
And that’s enough chit-chat. Back to work Czizek goes. And I head to my car with all my gear slung over my shoulder, sipping on my protein drink.
“Oh, one last question,” I turn and shout. “Do you work out?”
I hear the laughter. Then he shouts back.
“No, but I need to!”
And back he goes to pushing the dirt. ♦
Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www. joesneighborhood.com.