Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Please Please Please Let Me Let Me Let Me Get on the Arc Trainer

I'm a bit of a sneak at the gym. The limit on the cardio machines is 45 minutes, but I like to do a full hour. How to get around that? I'll tell you: If it's 10 a.m., I'll sign up for a machine at 10:15, because who is going to want to use a machine for only 15 minutes? Voila, le full hour. It's never very busy when I do this. In fact, I specifically time my visits to the gym to fall between 9 a.m. and noon most days so I can encounter as few other people as possible.

Yesterday, my strategy backfired.

As I walked over to the signup sheets, I noticed a guy there adjusting his underwear. Class-y. I grabbed the signup sheet for the Arc Trainer, my new favorite toy. Since it was nearly 11 a.m., I signed up for 11:15. Just as I started to wander over to the machine, Underwear Guy hops on. The gym only one of these things right now. There was no one signed up before me, which means he's breaking the rules. But I'm certainly not going to tattle, seeing that I bend the rules a little myself. But as I got on the elliptical to kill some time, I thought, "Don't get too comfy on that machine, Undie Boy. I'm kicking your ass off at 11:15. You just don't know it yet."

The other thing about the gym is that I really, really dislike having confrontations there. I don't have too much trouble asserting myself elsewhere if I'm getting a load of crap, but usually because I can comfort myself with the knowledge that I'll never see most of those people again. These people at the gym, however, I see them every day. I don't want to kick someone off a machine one day and wind up lifting weights side by side in the free weight room the next. Hello, awkward? I'd just prefer us to all get along and work out in peace.

A few years ago, I had a bad experience with some guy who refused to get off a machine, even though he was 5 minutes past his time. He was also 150 lbs heavier and 3 feet taller than I was, so my only option was to stand there dumbly while he took his sweet time wrapping up his workout. I did make an effort to tell him that my time was just as important as his and I'd really appreciate it if he'd let me have the machine, but without making eye contact he said, "I'll be done when I'm done. You can wait." I still see him from time to time, and I just want to smack him with one of the fall issues of Vogue. When faced with the possibility that I might be called upon to assert myself at the gym, I panic.

The entire time I was on the elliptical, I stared at Underwear Guy, sizing him up, envisioning every possible scenario, preparing myself for the inevitable confrontation. Almost all of them involved him refusing to get off the machine, and me taking various courses of action to remedy this. I push him off. I grab his arm and hurl him to the floor. I grab a staff member and goad them into pushing him. I yell at him. I rally the rest of the people at the gym to form an angry mob. I hit the "reset" button on the machine. I crank the resistance up to 100 so he can't move his legs. I'm dreading it getting ugly, but if it must, it must.


I step off the elliptical and mosey on over. "Excuse me," I chirp. "I signed up for this at 11:15."
"You did?!"
"Yes," I show him the signup sheet.
"Aw, damn! I signed up for the wrong time!"
"I've done that before. I'm sorry!"
"Let me clean off the machine for you."

Why do I get so worked up?