GUEST CURMUDGEON: Gymnauseum
This week, we're honored to have as a Guest Curmudgeon the talented and prolific playwright, lyricist, and all-around word wizard David Goldsmith, who has a particular axe to grind. I wholeheartedly approve. TWC
I do not like to work out. This should come as no surprise. Going to the gym is a punishing, hellish experience.
But I do it. I stretch, I do yoga poses, I plank, I side plank, I lift weights, and I do cardio.
For all that activity, I still have the body of a soft, middle-aged man who spends most of his time sitting in front of his computer writing articles about things that annoy him, like going to the gym. This should also come as no surprise.
So, in order to mitigate the annoyance of submitting on a semi-regular basis to a brutal routine designed to prolong a life of complaining of annoyances, I have committed to one of the most expensive, luxurious, ridiculously overpriced “sports clubs” in all of Manhattan. I have done this for two reasons: One, if I’m going to have a miserable time, I’d prefer to do it in a place where I may enjoy every amenity, from hot tubs to cafés to an abundance of free, warm workout towels, and two, there is a price point I know I need to roust my curmudgeonly ass to said facility, and that price is only going to be one I can barely afford.
There is only one insurmountable and inevitable problem with this plan, and it is the universal conundrum that plagues every public space: other people. You can’t control them; they take up space; they walk around shamelessly naked in the dressing rooms and ask if they may “work in” with you on the weight training floor. (Please don’t ask me if you can “work in”; I don’t need a gym buddy, I need this triceps pulldown machine for the next three minutes. Think you can survive?).
But all of those annoyances within the annoyance of gym-going are within range of the gym-goer’s social compact; these we have mutually accepted and agreed upon as behaviors we will countenance in the spirit of the pursuit of good health and long life. Where I part company with some of my fellow longevity enthusiasts is this:
DO. NOT. TALK. ON. YOUR. CELLPHONE. IN. THE. GYM.
How many times have I found the perfect elliptical trainer—the only one that isn’t broken, has my news channel, has a working jack for my earphones and a TV with a clear signal—and I’m just about to settle in for a good long 40-minute sweat-a-thon, when someone with an iPhone and a complete lack of personal space or modesty clambers onto the machine right next to mine having already launched into a one-sided diatribe with their personal life coach? Or their boyfriend? Or their urgent conference call? No ma’am, I am here to burn 300 calories and watch Joe mansplain politics to Mika for forty minutes. I do not want to hear about how you are managing your anxiety with veganism and kale colonics.
And don’t tell me to just turn up my volume. First of all, the level at which you’re speaking cuts through even the loudest of Dr. Dre’s beats. Second of all, I shouldn’t have to adjust my volume. I also shouldn’t have to ask you to cut the conversation. Know why?
THERE ARE SIGNS ALL OVER THIS FREAKIN’ GYM TELLING YOU NOT TO TALK ON YOUR PHONE:
FEELING CHATTY? TAKE IT OUTSIDE.
DO NOT USE CELLPHONE ON THE GYM FLOOR
PLEASE DON'T TALK ON YOUR PHONE. USE OUR WiFi TO BROWSE AND STREAM.
That last one’s really sweet. It’s trying to remind you that you have options for your entertainment, and they don’t involve making anyone else suffer through the details of your impending engagement to the hedge-fund manager of your dreams who’s never around when you need him.
Now, whether you got all the way to the ripe old age of whatever-it-is-you-are (old enough to be able to afford this $250-per-month membership) without somehow learning to read, or you just think that price tag entitles you to just do whatever the hell you want because that’s what your level of privilege buys you outside these walls, policy signs be damned, you really have no excuse for such damnably selfish, rude, boorish, thoughtless behavior, and as such I hate you with the passionate heat of a thousand public saunas. Because you have put the onus on me to police and correct your behavior, so that I may have the experience I paid (and sweat) for. It shouldn’t be my responsibility to sheepishly garner your attention, point to my ear or your phone, try to calmly and politely inquire as to whether you’re planning to still be on your phone while we’re both, essentially, working out together, and just pray that you don’t act offended and irritated at me for having the audacity to demand the respect and decorum that we both signed up for when we contracted to become members at this exclusive club. And we both know you will. I’m the bad guy, now. I’m the curmudgeon.
Well yes, I am. I freely admit it.
But you, ma’am, you are an a-hole.
You’re spending a lot of money here too. I get that. So you could argue that your experience should get to include you talking on the phone while you aerobicize, if that’s what floats your endorphins. But if your experience is the one impinging on my experience, then yours is the one that’s got to go. And here’s the other thing: There are signs telling you not to. Here’s one. Read it, shut off your cellphone, and weep.
David Goldsmith writes things, and every so often they get produced. He can be found posting grumpy left-wing diatribes @davelyrics on social media.