I was in the fitness center, mindlessly pedaling away on the recumbent bicycle machine, as I do every morning.
My earbuds were firmly in place, tuned into one of the 24/7 news outlets that helps me stay current as well as pass the time as I burn calorie after calorie. If I close my eyes, time seems to go faster.
Then I heard a muffled voice coming from the machine next to me. It was my exercise buddy/nemesis.
"Mifflewhapda mizzou odernable ants?" she asked.
"What?" I asked, pulling out my left earbud.
"What do you think of the ban on immigrants?"
Uh-oh. Danger, Will Robinson. I briefly saw my life flash before my eyes. Even though I knew we'd probably end up wrestling on the fitness center floor before this was over, I answered anyway.
"I don't like it," I said. "I think it goes against American values. It's not who we are as a country. What do you think?"
"I think it's tremendous," she said, and so the volleying began.
We bantered like this for a few minutes, each stating our case. I'm not a good real-time debater. I usually think of my best retorts about an hour or two after the discussion has ended. But this was an informal collision between friends.
"It's only vetting for three months," she said. "That's not long. Why not try it and see?"
"There's already a vetting process in place that can take up to two years," I said. "Why add to it?"
At this point, I happened to glance at the digital readout numbers on my machine. I usually pedal about 85 revolutions per minute. I was up to 89.
"How do you know terrorists aren't coming through in spite of the vetting now?" she asked. I didn't have an answer and said nothing, although I'm not sure 90 days of extra vetting will make any difference. I tend to think this is all about optics anyway.
I was cranking out 93 rpms.
Then she hit me with a good one, the kind that buries a liberal persuasion with a sense of guilt. "Well, are you going to take in any of the refugees?"
I'm at 95 rpms.
"Isn't that what churches are for?" I asked. I was thinking of the Montagnard refugees that came to the Piedmont in the 1980s through church sponsorship, and a friend of mine later reminded me of some Serbian refugees who were sponsored by churches during the same era.
"Lookit," I said. "You got me pedaling up to 98 rpms. I never go that fast."
"Me, too," she said. "Look at my heart rate. It's really up there. This is great."
"Maybe we should make this part of our exercise program," I said.
"Yeah, aggressive exercise. I'll talk to the director about it. This is wonderful."
"Same time tomorrow?"
"OK. See you then."
If the machine can be believed, I burned 787 calories in 70 minutes, although I suppose it could be giving me alternative facts.
But when I got home and stepped on the scale, I was down another pound. Not bad for a Monday.