Almost every morning, I head to the gym. I used to be an afternoon or evening exerciser, but I’ve found that tormenting myself with intense physical activity first thing in the morning is the only way I can really prepare myself for the full day of job- and chore-related torment that lies ahead.
Going to the gym around the same time each day gives you a full view onto the panorama of human nature. You see, humans are ritualistic creatures of habit, even if some of those habits are questionable at best. You never speak to your fellow gym-goers, and avoid direct eye contact at all costs, but you know them. A little too well, perhaps. For when you see the same strangers over and over again, patterns start to emerge. Broadly-stroked characterizations are made. Creative names are bestowed. What. You don’t do this?
In any case, gather ’round, folks, and bear witness to this collection of the finest specimens from my local gym:
The American Idol Reject. Me, I count it as a good day when I can simply get on and off the machine without falling down. This lady is mysteriously so well-coordinated that she can dance while she works out. Techno beats blasting from her earphones, she sings along with the lyrics and sways her body in place, capping it off with rhythmic claps and air punches in time with the beat. This necessitates removing her hands from the arms of the elliptical machine, of course, which in turn causes me to want to protectively lunge at her in order to prevent her from getting knocked off balance by her momentum and crumpling to the floor like Amy Winehouse on a bender. Then, she grins. Grins! Like exercising is a really great time! Either that or her alien overlords just beamed her the message that they are pleased with her progress and are promoting her to Lady Gaga’s body. I guess I’d be excited about that, too.
The Phlegmatist. When this man enters the gym you may as well just give up and go home, because from this point on your workout will be peppered by a gut-rupturing throat-clearing sound that can only be written as HOENNGH. It does not matter how far away from you this person chooses to work out, or if you maximize the volume on your iPod — you can still hear him. It does not matter whether he’s lifting weights, riding a stationary bike, or cranking it out at the top of the stair-stepper — he still does it. Every 1.5 minutes he unleashes a compulsive HOENNGH upon on a room of unsuspecting sweaty people, just like clockwork. If only Amtrak trains were so precise.
The Rabid Prancer. There are a few words that spring to mind when witnessing a display of physical prowess such as this. Fierce. Relentless. Spasmatic. Perpetually clad in a blue bandanna, fingerless gloves, and what appears to be clothing stolen off the rack from the children’s department, this lady is a visual performance before she even approaches a machine. Once she actually gets on the treadmill, you can forget about finishing that magazine article. She rachets the incline all the way up to 10, clutches the top of the machine in a death grip, lunges forward violently with biceps bulging, and — just when you think she’s about to beat everyone in a 50-yard radius into dust particles or simply explode in a pure flash of searing blue flame — she commences mincing. No, really. She takes these timid, tiny steps forward while rhythmically shaking her head from side to side — fifty minutes straight of what appears to be an anguished internal debate along the lines of “No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!” I am happy to watch this over SportsCenter any day.
The Ride ‘Em Cowboy. Imagine, if you will, that you are working out on an elliptical machine when you hear the sound of a muffled slow clap. It’s not stopping, so you start looking around for the source, only to realize that it’s the guy next to you, and he is rhythmically slapping himself on the ass in time with his steps. The first time this happened I did a quadruple take, blatantly violating my personal gym rule of not looking at anyone or anything, ever. He was still merrily going at it. For the record, it’s always the same hand and the same buttock. Hey, if your self-motivation requires a little self-flagellation, who am I to judge?
The Philosopher. What’s the point? The true philosopher knows there isn’t one. This frees her mind to consider other things, like movies on AMC. I once counted over a minute pass in which she stood motionless on her elliptical machine, watching the film on the tiny screen before her intently. Every so often, she breaks her stance by making one full circuit in the foot pedals, then pauses again. When the mood strikes her, she will sometimes keep her legs moving for a handful of minutes at a stretch before slowly coming to a full stop again. After a sufficient amount of time has gone by, she then gets off the machine and leaves the gym. I suspect the philosopher is smarter than all of us combined.
The Youthful Oblivion. Oh, honey. Oh, honey. I don’t know what’s worse: that she is working out in a t-shirt paired with what looks like a prepubescent boy’s boxer briefs, or that the t-shirt is so long that from certain angles it looks like she isn’t even wearing underwear at all. And not only is she NOT WEARING PANTS, I can actually see the very bottom of her derriere. No one is trying to slut-shame anyone here, I just want her to PUT ON SOME PANTS. As a personal favor to me, okay? I can understand a simple mistake every now and again, like maybe she was in the middle of getting dressed when she got distracted by the part in that Nicki Minaj video when the crazy-eyed dude seemingly loses his shit in a pink room and starts chest-flexing like his life depends on it and she just utterly forgot to put on pants, WHICH SHE DID. But when one no-pants workout turns into a no-pants repeat offense, you start to wonder. Maybe she simply can’t afford them? Poor lass. I am tempted to take up a pants drive in her name. PANTS.
I hope you have enjoyed our time here today. Remember, when going to the gym, please remember to mute your cell phone, wipe down your machine, and leave your crazy in the locker.