By Annandale humorist Robert Schwaninger
I had an occasion to go to a place called a “gym” where people do something referred to as “working out,” which sounds like what my belly is attempting to do over my belt. Now, if you’ve never ventured into one of these odd places to view the denizens, you might be surprised by what you find.
The people who work there are all dressed in what appears to be elastic. All of their clothes are wrapped around them so tightly that gender was never a question, much less where they sported a birthmark. And these elastic people who reminded me of Stretch Armstrong seemed to favor colors that were brighter than a flagman’s vest at a construction site.
They were toned and tan and chiseled and upright and taut. And their job is to do one thing – induce immediate self-loathing. This isn’t body shaming. It’s body condemnation. Just standing in the vicinity of one of these buff nuts will make you feel fifteen years older, and weaker, and hopelessly hideous.
Being over 60, I believe that I am entitled to some slack. What that means to me is that I no longer have pecs or lats or glutes. What I have is some slightly wrinkled skin that covers organs that threaten to fail, but haven’t; and some loose collection of bones that occasionally ache for no reason.
I have the strength necessary to take out the trash, push a lawn mower, and heft a case a beer into the car. I can run short distances that usually involve a bathroom. I can climb a ladder to hang Christmas lights but I admit that I start to feel vertigo at about the second rung. And, yes, I do sometimes make that “oof” noise when pulling myself off the couch.
With those things as my physical resume it was with great trepidation and wonder that I observed the machinery and tools of the gym.
In one corner were great hunks of metal bars and weights that people just lifted again and again, like Sisyphus working that rock. It’s not like they were really carrying the metal anywhere. They just lifted and grunted, lifted and grunted, making a noise that sounded a lot like me getting out of a chair. Getting out of a chair seems a lot easier if you want to make that noise.
Another contraption was a couple of steps which people would sort-of mount with a kind of climbing motion. Up and down their legs pumped, but they never got any higher and there seemed to be no prize that they were trying to reach.
And then there were stationary bikes. I don’t like decaffeinated coffee because it seems silly to me. It’s a beverage akin to sitting in a new car just for the smell and knowing there’s no gas in the tank. If you wanted to ride a bike, its seems that you would haul out your Schwinn and head to the Giant or a park. I don’t ride a bike because I am convinced that bicycle seats were invented in Spain during the Inquisition.
Mounted on the stationary bikes were sweaty people of various sizes. There were heavy sweaty people, razor-thin sweaty people, muscled sweaty people, and middle-aged sweaty people. Human tributaries to some enormous, rushing sweat river were sporting perspiration in buckets as they swung their legs around and around, going nowhere.
So I have come to a conclusion. A gym is a place where you lift but do not carry, you climb but you do not ascend, and you pedal but go nowhere. Frankly, if I want that experience, I’ll run for office.