The Thing that Happened When I Sat Next to The Reverend Jesse Jackson in a Sauna

I’ve been meaning to post this for about a month now, but I mentioned it in a sermon recently, so I figured now would be the timealg-sauna-jpg to do so.

I need to preface this post for those not in the “know” about sauna etiquette.  And, believe it or not, it has less to do with what you wear in a sauna, and more to do with what you say in a sauna.

And here’s the rule: say nothing.

An exception can be made if you came into the sauna with a friend and you are continuing a conversation from your workout, but by and large you say NOTHING in a sauna…especially to people you don’t know.

“Why?” you might ask?

Because no one goes into a sauna thinking that they’ll have to talk to someone.  By and large they’re just trying to sweat and survive…especially if the sauna is of quality construction.  All saunas should test your ability to breathe.  If they don’t, you have a crappy sauna.

So, anyway, here I was all toweled up in the sauna, and I had arrived at the sauna with some of my fraternity brothers…as we get together every so often to drink beer and sweat.  It’s a vicious cycle that we all convince ourselves cancels the other out.

We’re good at self-deception.

Anyway, turns out the Reverend Jesse Jackson was also in the house, and while MLK day was just around the corner and I had about a million questions that I wanted to ask him about MLK, I said nothing when he opened the sauna door.

I wanted to ask him about marching, about where he would be the next day, about what it was like to work on the front lines of equal rights, about how he’s managed to keep his hair.

But I said nothing.

He sat down next me.  I said nothing.

A rather large person came in to share the space, and so everyone had to adjust on the bench, which meant that I was about a foot away from the right Reverend.

And I said nothing.

He got up and started doing push-ups in the sauna, which made me want to crack the joke that he was doing “Rainbow Push-Ups” (a joke a fraternity brother also thought of and cracked when he left) as an homage to his organization the Rainbow Push Coalition.

But I said nothing.


Because those are the rules.

And I imagine the Reverend Jesse Jackson wants a place where he’s neither a reverend nor Jesse Jackson.

We all long for those places.

So I just sat and sweated.

And even when one of my fraternity brothers, who had left to get a drink of water, came back in and said loudly, “J**** Christ it’s hot in here!” and everyone looked at the Reverend with horror on their faces, he followed the rules.

He said nothing.

Because that’s what you do.

So, what happened when I sat next to The Reverend Jesse Jackson in a sauna?

We both said nothing.

‘Cause that’s what you do.