Almost-human intelligence in the steam room


There’s not much of an intellectual or cultural ‘scene’ in the town I live in. Indeed, some might argue that ‘culture’ and ‘Redhill’ were a contradiction in terms.

But a lively debate on the issues of the day can often be found in the steam room at my health club, where a little crowd of fellow self-employed odds and sods accumulates around 5pm, seeking out someone to talk to after a day of solitude, ‘water cooler conversation’, as it were.

This gathering of the great minds of the town has become known as the Cheeky Boys’ (most of them are male) After-Work Steam and Sauna Club. While some of their conversations reach a level of almost-human intelligence, others are frankly rather bizarre, so I’ve been keeping notes of the subjects discussed, just to illustrate the sheer breadth of the subject matter that occupies what passes for their minds.

Topics of Steam and Sauna – or TOSS, for short – of the past month have included: bee-keeping, lawn-mower maintenance, capitalism, mothballs, non-iron shirts, volcanoes, insolvency, knees, homosexual dogs and how to cook mutton.

Additionally there is usually speculation about someone or other’s love life, with some outrageous remark being dropped into the conversation to see how long it takes to become accepted fact. This happened only the other day, when one chap glanced at the clock, saw it was 6pm and hurriedly dashed off, muttering that he had to “go to Haslemere”. A discussion followed about why anyone would want to go to Haslemere, especially on a Friday night, which led, via a meandering logic, to the decision that he must have been off to a swingers’ party.

Another day, one chap remarked that he had been for a ‘hand massage’: after he’d left, it quickly passed into historic steam room fact that he’d enjoyed a ‘hand job’.

And it’s widely accepted now that another member washes his dirty drawers in the shower at the club and dries them in the sauna, to save wasting money on using the washer/dryer at home.

One day a hotel guest, an Australian, was in the spa pool on his first visit to the club. He listened for a while to the conversation – it was about what size stick you would need if you got into a fight with a gerbil, or something – then enquired whether we’d all spent too long in the water. “Why d’you say that?” we asked. “Cos it sounds like you’ve been inhaling too many chemicals!” he said.

Fair point. The Cheeky Boys’ conversation might not always be intellectual, but it never fails to amuse.

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