I’m on the elliptical machine at the gym. Perhaps you know the setup. Rows of machines with about 2 inches between each one. You can just barely haul yourself on and off without knocking over the person next to you. But it’s a great workout and a pretty decent alternative to Zumba.So today, I am rocking out while listening to my playlist titled, appropriately enough, “Elliptical Rock-out,” and preparing to burn off the donuts I’m planning to buy when I’m done.
A youngish blonde woman with a ponytail starts to get on the machine to my right. But then she recognizes the woman to my left and goes over to talk with her. This is where everything starts to go horribly, horribly wrong.
I may just be making this up, but gym etiquette says that if you must stand around and talk to someone on an elliptical or treadmill, you should stand in front of them, not next to them, so you’re not encroaching on someone else’s space by planting yourself in the 2 inches between machines. This should be posted on the wall, along with “No Cell Phones” and “Wipe Down Machines.” “Don’t Encroach.”
But there’s no such sign and she is too close to me. I’m starting to hyperventilate, and it has nothing to do with increasing the incline on the machine. Her back is to me and yet she still seems unaware of my penetrating glare. Her friend should see it, though, and get the message, tell her friend to move. I give her a few hard looks (™ my Great Aunt Mil) but nothing happens.
They are yapping, and I can hear them, even over my blasting music. Turn it up, you say? It’s as loud as it will go. That’s how close they are. I mean it—she is RIGHT there. I close my eyes but my elliptical rockout has been ruined. She’s so close that if I cock my elbow—thusly—oops! Sorry! Now move it! But she doesn’t.
I turn off my music for a second. She’s talking about losing 10 pounds. That’s great. Now get your ass on the machine and lose 10 more.
I try accidentally dropping my pen (yes! I am writing this ON the elliptical, that’s how devoted and angry I am!).
(photographic proof of devotion and anger)
As I bend down to retrieve my pen, I’m in the perfect position to head-butt her. She apologizes but still. does. not. move.
No, I should clarify. She’s moving all over the place. She’s one of those gesticulators. This makes it even worse. I’m staring straight ahead but I can see her arms flapping around out of the corner of my eye. Who needs to be so animated at the freaking gym?
I try to distract myself by watching one of the TV screens, but that damn Huckabee is on there with . . . Chuck Norris? The hell?
And another thing! All of the elliptical machines are now taken, and hers, with her towel draped over it, is being held up, because she won’t stop talking and start working out. This is none of my business, which makes me even madder.
I’ve worked up enough sweat that if I start whipping around my mighty ponytail I might be able to spray her. No luck. My aim has been compromised by my stiffened body.
So far she’s stood here through “Stranglehold“—8:24, “Poke Salad Annie“—4:46, “Leppo and the Jooves“—4:55, “Oh!“—3:58, and “The Night Before“—2:38. That’s . . . 8, 12, 16 . . . a lot of minutes. Way too many minutes. God! I’ve done the elbow knock, hard looks, the head-butt, the ponytail spray, am I actually going to have to say something?
My 50 minutes are up, but I’m not going anywhere. It has just now occurred to me that this is intentional. No one would stand there so long and not be doing it to personally spite me. She’s trying to psych me out and take over my machine, so she and her friend can work out next to each other and keep talking forever. But I am NEVER getting off this machine, even if it kills me, which, combining the stress of over-exercise and the stroke I’m developing from blinding anger is seeming more and more likely.
Oh! Oh! Now she’s flicking her ponytail at ME! No one flicks their ponytail at me. Obnoxious people like this are always the recipient, not the giver, of the ponytail flick.
Several more minutes pass and I wonder which body part will give out first. Probably my knee or hip, but I’m grinding my teeth so hard maybe my jaw will fall off. All of the sudden, the friend gets off of her machine. Oh, thank God. But . . . oh, no. Wait. Now the friend—who is SWEATY—has moved to my other side and is talking to Blonde Ponytail as she finally gets on her machine. Oh, this is hell.
Is it any wonder we hate going to the gym?
If you want to observe gym etiquette:
- Nix the perfume. Men, I’m talking to you. No, when it smells like that, it’s perfume.
- No talking on cell phones. Actually, to be safe, no talking at all.
- Ladies, the locker room isn’t a spa. It’s a gross, sweaty locker room. Take your bananas and granola bars and eat them somewhere else.