*Of course, there are those who claim that cheerleading is not a real sport, but these are generally the same people who spend hours watching golf on ESPN. To them, I say this: the day Peter Jacobson or Phil Mickelson set down their gin and tonics and clamber out of their motorized golf carts to perform a full-up liberty heel-stretch with a double-down cradle dismount then I will gladly welcome the comparison.
Bam. You're welcome.
But I digress. . .
My point is (and, yes, I do have one): I have always been athletic. Unfortunately, when I got to college, my primary form of exercise became running my mouth, doing diddly squats and jogging my memory as to why I woke up on the floor smelling like Jager bombs. So, in a valiant attempt to stave off a life of hoovering Moon Pies on my way to the cardiac unit, I became a runner and a gym rat and I can truly say that today I am one of those widely vilified miscreants who honestly LOVES to work out.*
*Which is not to say that I don't also honestly LOVE to sit on the couch watching 'Hoarders' and eating Wheat Thins...It's all about balance, y'all.
For me, there is no greater joy than lacing up my kicks, popping in my earbuds, and stepping through the doors of my local 24 Hour Fitness. But for all the endorphin-laced bliss my gym provides, there is the inevitable glitch. That being, of course, other people. Don't get me wrong, I am not completely xenophobic; but, when I am in the exercise "zone", I am about as socially interactive as Boo Radley on lithium and the sad fact of the matter is that gyms are a breeding ground for a lack of civility. Believe me, I know from experience. I worked at an upscale fitness club for almost seven years and during that time I came in touch with more a@@holes than a six-fingered proctologist. So, it is of no great surprise that when I enter my gym, my force field goes up and I become more inpenetrable than a Duggar daughter. Most of your garden-variety gym goers are relatively harmless, and their minor breaches of etiquette can be considered a victimless crime. But there are a few. . .those select denizens that lurk like snipers on the "crassy" knoll whose sheer douchebaggery will have me running for the locker room faster than Michael Vick on PETA Night at MetLife Stadium. So, for their own edification, I would like to issue the following commandments. . .
I. THOU SHALT NOT MARK THY TERRITORY
Throwing your sweat-soaked towel over a piece of equipment while you're between reps does not hold your place in perpetuity. This is not the Oklahoma Land Rush; it takes more than a white, terry-cloth flag and some gumption to stake your claim on the lat pulldown machine. If you pulled this shit in 1883, do you really think your chosen territory would have been protected by a 4"x 6" piece of cloth? Hell, no. Some vaquero would have rode up, stolen your land, nailed your wife, and wiped his sack with your towel while you were at Oleson's Mercantile buying gunpowder and molasses. And the same goes for those of you who feel that sweating all over the bench is tantamount to licking all of the doughnuts at the breakfast table: "As long as they're coated in my bodily fluids, these babies are all MINE!" Nice try, Thunderdome, but if I toddle up to do some bench presses and find so much of your DNA on the equipment that Gil Grissom is swabbing it down, then I reserve the right to bludgeon you with a bottle of hand sanitizer.
II. THOU SHALT NOT BE CREEPY
Yes, I know the sight of me red-faced and wheezing in my sweat-soaked Seattle Seahawks jersey is enough to whip any heterosexual man into a frenzy of desire, but I assure you that my poses in yoga class are not some live-action Kama Sutra designed to "nab me a fella". And I get it. . .it's a jungle out there; and in the daily maelstrom of speed-dating, fix-ups, and the pseudo-prostitution ring known as Match.com, finding "The One" can be an elusive quest. But I assure you, looking for true love at the gym is a little like looking to a Kardashian for marital advice: an exercise in futility. So, the next time you approach my weight bench, grabbing your crotch like Bryce Harper in Game 5 of the World Series, please. . .for the sake of our mutual dignity. . .pack up your copies of 'Watchtower' and go banging on the next front door, 'kay?
III. THOU SHALT NOT TREAT THE LOCKER ROOM AS YOUR PRIVATE BOUDOIR
I understand that the $29.99 we pay per month allows one a certain sense of entitlement, but I assure you: the locker room is not your inner sanctum. The popcorn ceiling and phalanx of dun-colored lockers are not a force field, shielding you from the rest of existence. So, when I emerge from the shower and do a three-point landing after tripping over the contents of your Lululemon gym bag that has burst open like the bomb-bay doors on a Boeing B-29, I reserve the right to be a tad put out. And for the love of all that is good and holy, can I just once squat down to tie my shoes without having someone's chocolate starfish winking in my face after they've decided to do some naked hamstring stretches? Don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude. I am all about body-acceptance and embracing the naked, but last week I saw a woman with one foot on the counter, blow drying her pubes and. . .no. Just. . .no. This is not a solipsistic society, ladies. And as proud as you may be of your well-manicured lady gardens, the sight of your bleached bungholes and the smell of your freshly-dried cooters just makes me profoundly sad, so please. . .save that level of intimacy for your gynecologist.
IV. THOU SHALT SILENCE THY CELL PHONE
OMG, I know that Katie is being SUCH a skank, and can you BELIEVE what Travis was wearing last night? I know you can hardly contain your ebullience over last night's kegger/Arbonne party/gangbang but here's an Amber Alert: We. Don't. Care. I am as guilty as the next person of checking my cell phone like I'm on an organ transplant list, but people who take their private conversations into the public sector? Well, you can file that shit under the Jeopardy category of "Things That Make Me Want To Stab Kittens".*
*"I'll take Kristen Stewart for $500, Alex".
I'm sure you have a fascinating social life. And I'm sure you are a truly complex individual with more personal baggage than Paris Hilton on a Trans-Atlantic flight, but unless Dr. Drew is pumping away on the Stairmaster next to you, murmuring "I feel your pain" then this is neither the time, nor the place to be discussing your latest pregnancy scare, or reliving your childhood trauma de jour. As my gym does not (sadly) have a hard/fast corporal punishment clause for cell phone offenders, I like to kick it old school and go all Code of Hammurabi on these bastards. Start blathering into your Samsung Galaxy about that odd rash on your ass and I will begin singing aloud from the cringe-worthy playlist on my iPod. Let's see how your verbal vomit weighs up against a few choruses of the Selfie song. Check and mate, suckahs.
V. THOU SHALT TREAT STAFF WITH RESPECT
This is a personal favorite of mine as I was that "gal behind the counter" for almost seven years. And here's a valuable little nugget of information to file away for future reference: I had feelings. I had emotions. I had hopes and dreams and a family and friends and a functional human existence. And so do each and every person working at your gym, from the Zumba instructor, to the hapless night cleaning staff who spend the wee hours of the night swabbing your ball sweat off of the leg-press machine. So, here's some free advice: you are not special. You are not privileged simply because you shell out $200 a month to say that you belong to 'Club ___' and flash your fancy key fob at parties. You are not a unique snowflake. You are made up of the same blood and guts as the kid with the name tag handing you your towel so SHOW A LITTLE FREAKING RESPECT. Put away your cell phone when ordering at the juice bar, show your card at check in instead of breezing by with a "Don't you KNOW who I AM!?!?" mentality. . .*
*News flash: Yes, we do know who you are. And we hate you.
. . .and once; just ONCE, when handed a locker key, shown a difficult yoga pose, or given a friendly 'good-bye', say 'thank you'. It may seem awkward at first, but once you get past the initial cramping and twitching, you'll find that not being a self-entitled dillhole is relatively painless.
I realize that, for many, the gym is a place of escape; a place where one can let down their guard and release their days frustrations. And that's all well and good, except. . .people. There are other PEOPLE. And in a world where common courtesy is dying off faster than the cast of 'Diff'rent Strokes', can't we all agree to at least make an effort to peacefully coexist with our fellow carbon-based life forms?
Feel the burn, party people.