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I mentally shook myself and wondered if the clerk had just done what I thought she did.

For years I had wanted to visit the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, MA, having heard raves about the food, the programs and the scenery. A stay is steep, but since I saved, oh, $2,500 by not jetting to New Zealand, I figured $155 a night was a steal.

I definitely felt lighter when I left – $155 lighter, and enlightened by the knowledge that I had finally done something I had always wanted to do, even if I never, ever wanted to to do it again.

My $155 bought a bottom bunk in a glorified hostel, three meals of various pilafs, yogurts and tahini dressings and rather uninspiring yoga on sweaty carpet desperately in need of a good shampoo.

Part of it’s my fault. Seeking relief for repetitive stress injuries when I first moved to Albany, I tried Kripalu. The slow pace, easy stretches and simple breathing weren’t for me. Vinyasa yoga – a more athletic style – hooked me, and I never returned.

The Kripalu Center offers Vinyasa classes, but intimidated by the toned yoga bodies, I stuck with the easy class since I haven’t practiced regularly in about a year. I shouldn’t have been so shy. I remembered quickly why I didn’t like the Kripalu style.

The center offers biking and kayaking, but only in small guided groups. Guests can’t just sign out a boat or bike on their time. The center owns land down to a lake, where I sat and watched the rosy reflection of sunset clouds play across the water – after wandering around the property for an extra 20 minutes because the trails aren’t marked.

But the kicker was the room. When I entered, I found the previous occupants’ underwear, magazines, paperbacks, peach pits and Kleenex. I’m all for glasses half full, but that doesn’t mean I liked having mugs still sporting someone else’s coffee dregs on the dresser. After dinner I asked a woman at the reception desk if the trash could be cleared off. She questioned me: was I absolutely sure the girl had left? Then she told me to check back after my wander down to the lake.

Ninety minutes later I returned. She needed a moment to remember that she had spoken to me earlier. She asked if I had gone to the room. No, I said, she told me to check back. I said this in an even tone – I was patient, I wasn’t upset, though really I had every right to be. The woman looked at me and then – I swear to God – stretched her arms to the side, pinched her fingers, closed her eyes, and breathed deeply, holding the breath for a moment before exhaling slowly.

Now, she may have had a rough day. I don’t know what problems came before me, and she may have just been stressed by the situation. But whatever the reason, she felt it so necessary to de-stress herself that she had to interrupt a conversation with a guest to take a yogic breath and center herself before continuing.

Really? I mean, is life so tough?

I was too shocked to say a word. I went upstairs. The peach pits were gone but the dirty underwear lingered. I just went to sleep.

The next day I before I left I bought a cookbook in the gift store. Standing in line to pay, a woman approached me, asking where I found the book. I pointed. I knew the clerk heard me, so I turned to him and joked, with my most personable smile, the one that’s won over scores of journalistic sources: Glad I could be of service.

He looked at me confused for a minute.

I was joking, I told him, because I told the customers where the book was?

Ah, he said very seriously, thank you.

And with that, I left, never to return.

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