By Thomas Cushman
I should have said something. I had the perfect opportunity. The thing is, I was so busy looking at his meaty biceps and wide shoulders that I didn’t realize what he was doing until he’d done it. I admit it, I got a bit distracted; he was nice looking and lumberjack-big in a natural, farm-fed sort of way. Strange though, that he was about to get on the treadmill, he didn’t look the type. I suppose he’d been told he needed to ‘tighten it up’, get those arms and shoulders ‘cut’, reveal that ‘six pack’. I assume that’s why he was in the gym. I’d never seen him before and god knows I spend way too much time there and recognize just about everybody. Toning down his naturally beefy body would have made him less appealing in my opinion. But that’s not my business.
What is my business is that he changed the channel on the TV right in front of me. And he never even tried to ask me if it was okay. He didn’t ask me or the people using the half-dozen other treadmills facing that one TV. Lumberjack just walked up, pointed the remote and ‘click’. Suddenly, instead of watching Shauna and Mark (I love Shauna) I was now watching some kind of ESPN sports highlight show which I am not necessarily opposed to, but it’s a week after the final game and they’re still showing Steph Curry highlights. And yes, I did know that without googling anything; I like basketball. But who needs week-old sports highlights? Not me. What I did need was the forecast; was it supposed to rain or should I keep my sprinklers on? But how could I decide if I couldn’t see Sterling’s Fresh Air Forecast?
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a half-dozen of us, maybe only two of the six treadmills facing that particular TV were in use. It was just me and a woman on the treadmill directly behind me, who were running fast. Too fast, in my opinion. I admit it; I think anyone who treadmills faster than me is running dangerously fast. And she always does. Not to mention she’s usually running before I start and still going when I’m done. She is fit, American Ninja Warrior fit.
How did I know she was running too fast if she was behind me? The mirrors. It is required that all gym walls be covered entirely in mirror. I believe Congress passed a law about this during the Reagan administration. And no, these mirrors are not for looking at yourself; so stop posing with curled arms to see how big your biceps are, and stop lifting your shirt after every set of sit ups to see if that roll is still there. I’m gonna bet it is. No, the mirrors are not there for your vanity check, they are there to check out everyone else. Slyly. Including those people behind you.
Even so, even if there were only two of us — who may or may not have been actively watching the TV at the time — that just indicts Lumberjack more quickly. Because with only two of us in question, he could have easily caught our eyes, held up the remote, pointed it toward the TV with a questioning look on his face, and in this way, he could have de facto asked permission.
Because that’s how we do things at the gym. No one actually talks. We are all wearing headphones. So if you want to use a piece of equipment and you’re not sure if it’s free, then you just catch the eye of whomever is in the vicinity and you gesture toward the dumbbell / incline press / recumbent bike / TV (!). If you are visually loquacious you might raise your eyebrows or shrug your shoulders as you gesture silently at the squat rack / yoga mat/ shoulder press / TV(!), to clearly indicate you don’t have to use it but you would like to; if, of course, no one else is currently using it.
What I mean by currently using it is that you are actually exercising with the piece of equipment or you are briefly resting between sets; up to two minutes of non-activity is generally acceptable (to me) so long as you remain nearby. After that brief rest you will again use the curl bar / thera ball / rowing machine / the TV wouldn’t apply in this case because one uses the TV steadily, you certainly don’t need to rest between sets of TV watching.
What I do not mean by currently using it is when you try to ‘save it’ by putting your towel over the squat bar and then going over to the yoga mat for 20 minutes of stretching. But you think that by putting your water bottle on the bench press you are ‘saving it’ for when you get around to using it, even though five other people wanted to use it while you wasted half an hour chatting up that little hottie, who was clearly out of your league anyway.
You think your workout is more important than anyone else’s and therefore you should be able to reserve the leg press / kettle bell / preacher curl bench / (but still not the TV) until you deign to use it. I don’t mean saving it when I say currently using it because you are clearly not currently using it, damn it, so let the rest of us use it because your time is not more valuable than ours!
And I’ve watched you use the preacher curl bench, meathead, and you don’t know shit about lifting anyway. Ever hear of isolating the muscle, or full-range of motion? Oh, it hurts to bring the curl bar all the way down, it’s too hard to do it correctly? Well take off all the damn weight, because you’re not impressing anyone anyway. Or maybe you just should give up lifting altogether because your biceps, they’re the size of my ankles. And you are gonna ruin your lower back the way you strain it to raise the bar, which is CHEATING anyway, and sooner or later you’re gonna force out a FART the way you are squeezing everything but your biceps, which is what you are supposed to be exercising, and then you’ll be totally humiliated, so just let me use the damn preacher curl bench!
Anyway. Where were these people when Mrs. Hauser taught us all about sharing in first grade? Were they home-schooled? Were they the only child of two overly-indulgent parents, who were perhaps very busy professionals and already 40-years-old when they conceived?
I don’t know, but what I do know is that these self-absorbed lunks are almost always men and they are (as far as one can tell by appearances) almost always straight. It is not a coincidence that Lumberjack completely disregarded the gay boy and the woman. What is it with you straight guys? Why do you think you should get to control the remote? Why do you think everyone else should wait while you super-set bench press and tricep curls? Do you not realize that you are not the most important person in the gym?
And for fuck’s sake, do not ever switch the TV from CNN to Fox News again or I swear I will pick up that 15-pound dumbbell and bean you with it. I think the 15-pound dumbbell would be perfect because it is light enough to get some real velocity on the swing but heavy enough to do some damage. It’s kind of like the proverbial brass candlestick on the fireplace mantel. Perfect for mayhem.
Seriously though, I don’t care if Donald Trump is president. You straight men do not own the world anymore. Stop thinking that just because you want something, you have a right to it. Start sharing! And try, sometimes, to think of others before yourself. You could start this at home, probably most important to start there. And then maybe bring it into the workplace. And someday, maybe, bring a little humble selflessness into the gym. And then, when you ask me (non-verbally) if you can change the channel, I’ll smile and gesture in a way that means, “Dude, it’s all yours. But thanks for asking.”
It just would have been nice if he had asked.