I was doing squats at the gym yesterday when a young woman stepped into the squat rack and picked up two five pound plates off the floor near my feet. Safety issues aside, that I might’ve wanted to use them was obviously no concern of hers. I’d have said something if I didn’t have two hundred and fifty pounds balanced on my shoulders. After completing my set and racking the bar, I shot her a dirty look, but she was too busy texting on her phone to notice. If I had done what she did back in the 80’s some neon wearing muscle bound gym rat at Jack Lalanne would have chewed me out, and deservedly so. Then again, most young gym goers are Ipodded and oblivious these days. I leave my phone in the car.
After powering through another set, I sat down huffing and puffing to rest and chug some water. Before my surgery I could squat three hundred pounds and have slowly been trying to get back to what I was before. But since the sweet bird of youth seems to have taken flight, I might just be kidding myself. While my oxygen levels returned to normal, I watched as the young woman who swiped my weights finished up her deadlifts and then walked away, texting furiously, not bothering to strip her weights off the bar. How rude.
When I was done with the squat rack, I moved over to the leg extension machine to work my quads some more. But as I moved the weights up and down, I was treated to a pair of broheims filling the air with loud talk about their sexual exploits or, rather, their lack thereof.
“That Brittany is one stone cold stuck up bitch,’ the first said.
“She ain’t worth it bro,” the other said. “Plenty of other poontang out there.” I don’t know about you, but I think Brittany dodged a bullet. Remembering I was once a clueless young man myself; I tried blocking out their chatter by focusing on my form – but my concentration was shattered by what seemed to be loud noises of sexual release.
“Oh yeah, baby! Do it! Do it!”
“Ohhh! Yeah! Arrrgh!” Groaning inwardly, I didn’t even have to turn my head to identify the source of the orgasmic vocalizations. I knew it was Porno Couple.
“Porno Couple” is the mental nickname I’ve given to a thirty-something man and woman who like to cordon off several machines with their gym bags, hoodies, weight straps, water bottles, gloves and towels so they can do “supersets” without anyone hopping on “their machines” and then proceed to grunt and groan like they’re in a swinger’s club. They also waste a lot of time socializing and high fiving people instead of using those machines, not caring if someone else would like to use them.
Sure enough, when I looked, Porno Couple had laid claim to the entire back station. Then a guy around my age stepped in to use the lat pull down bar.
“Mind if I get a set in?” he asked.
“Dude,” Porno Guy, who’s quite built, said. “We’re using that.”
“You’re using all of them?” the man said, pointing to their gear strewn all over the floor.
The man just grinned. “No worries, bro. I’ll only be a few minutes.” Then, ignoring the dagger looks these vocal exhibitionists were giving him, he proceeded do pulldowns with the weight pin set to the highest setting. Seeing this, Porno Guy just stared at the floor and said nothing. – mostly because the guy who’d interrupted him was built like a brick shithouse. I’m talking huge. I guess there’s always a bigger fish.
Chuckling, I returned to my workout and then, when I was finished, moved to the calf raise machine. After I’d finished my second set, the huge guy who wasn’t impressed with Porno Couple tapped me on the shoulder.
“Mind if I work in?”
“No worries,” I said.
Being much taller than me, he set the shoulder pads to max height, set the weights as high as they would go, and performed his calf raises with what seemed like minimal effort. Then, when he was done, he set everything back to how I’d had it before and wiped off the pads. Simple gym etiquette.
“You got good calves, man.” Huge said when I was done with my turn.
“Not the weight you’re moving though,” I said, returning the machine to his preferences. “Impressive.”
Huge shrugged. “I’ve been doing this a long time. You got strong calves naturally, I can tell. Some guys can work for years and not have ones as good as yours.”
“I’ll take all the compliments I can get, thanks.”
Then a young woman and her boyfriend walked past us and proceeded to dump their winter coats and gym bags on the floor, creating a tripping hazard. After they left, Huge said to me, “Don’t they know what the rules are? No gym bags on the floor.”
“Inconsiderate,” I said. “But what are you going to do?”
“Kids today,” he grunted. “No fucking respect. Not like in our day.”
“When I started working out,” I said. “I remember being schooled in gym etiquette by some no shit guys.”
“Can’t do that anymore,” Huge said. “Kids today will claim you’re making them uncomfortable. Pull out their phones and start recording you.”
“I asked a girl last week if I could work in with her on the pulldown machine and she looked at me like I was a child molester.”
“They never learned how to share. I blame the parents.” Then Huge walked over to the kids’ stuff and moved it to where no one would trip on it. The girl’s boyfriend looked like he wanted to stay something but, when he crunched the numbers, thought better of it.
“Don’t want anyone to fall, bro,” Huge said to him, smiling. “Have a nice workout.”
“You’re my hero,” I said, softly when he returned. Huge shrugged his massive shoulders again.
“I see you around here a lot,” Huge said. “You work out hard.”
“Just trying to salvage what’s left,” I said.
“Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
“My name’s Steve,” I said, extending my hand.
“Pete,” he said shaking it. “See you around.” And, like that, two middle aged men made a small connection while youth cavorted around us with blind indifference.
Done with the weights, I decided to get a little cardio in on the treadmill, but all the machines were taken save one – and a pink gym bag lay in front of it. Since the bag probably didn’t belong to the old man on the empty machine’s right, I figured it belonged to the young woman running like a gazelle on the left. So, I scooped up the bag up and placed it out of the way.
The young woman turned her head and looked me up and down. “Were you holding this machine for a friend?” I asked. But since a pair of earbuds were hanging from her ears, I figured she didn’t hear me. Getting no response, I cranked the machine to four miles per hour and set the incline on high.
As my blood started pumping again, I looked at the television above me and wondered why anyone watched the 700 Club at the gym. “Your body is a temple of the Lord,” I guess. Bored, I looked across the gym and watched as Huge performed sitting dumbbell curls with what looked like eighty pound weights in each hand. When it comes to pumping iron, God must have a soft spot for this big fella.
Someone needs to start a gym and run it the way the people who run the Alamo Drafthouse run their theaters: no talking, no texting/cell phones. They’ll ask you to leave.
For the gym? The staff should warn people if they block the machines, put items in walkways. Three strikes, and your membership is canceled. Probably won’t happen, but one can dream.
I sincerely miss gym etiquette along with a general lack of basic consideration in this new society.
Thanks for the good post Steve.
So we’re now talking about 25 years ago, I went to the local gym with a guy that I worked with who was in town for a conference. He is ex Marine, freaking huge. Voice like a soft light whisper. We were good friends so going to the gym with him was fun. We’d been there for awhile and he hit the bathroom while I worked on a machine. Some dumb ass started bitching that I needed to get off the machine because he needed to work out. I told him “my friend is working out with me and will be back in a second.” Guy wouldn’t quit bitching so I finished my set, and he got on the machine, talking shit about me. Until my friend came up and I said, “This guy wants the machine.” The guy saw my 6’5″ buddy with shoulders you could land the planes from ‘Top Gun’ on, blanched and ran out of the gym. Later on, my buddy was doing the leg machine and said they didn’t have enough weights. He had racked it to 1800 pounds and I sat on the machine so it could get close to 2000. No one bothered me ever again at that gym.