Tales from the Gym Episode One: Elliptical Courtesy Flush
If you spend enough time in one place at a specific time of day every day for many days you begin to notice people, patterns, and rhythms you otherwise wouldn’t as the background becomes the foreground once the initial foreground has become routine. For instance, if you leave for your morning commute at relatively the same time each morning, after several weeks you may notice say a green Honda Civic at the same stoplight, its driver scarfing an entire canister of pepperoni Combos paired with a vintage yesterday’s Mountain Dew. Or a husky badger out for his morning flower snuffle at the same little knoll before the turnoff in front of the Circle K. Or Bill doing that thing at 5:37am that Bill has refused to stop doing at the intersection of Main and 2nd Avenue which the city council has at long last decided warrants a vote.
The same can be said of my morning workout at a small, reasonably-priced gym near my work. There is a cast of characters if you will, mostly men, whose names I do not know because I do not talk to them. I get in. I do muh moves. And I get out. Time is money, and I have neither. But as my workout has gotten monotonous, I’ve noticed certain behaviors. Some amusing. Others… disgusting.
There’s Leg Day, a forty-something gym stalwart, who as his nickname blurts seems to have forgotten that he possess arms or a torso. I swear he could leg press a green Honda Civic complete with driver and Combos.
There’s Pippin, the wiry and tattooed but hobbit-like bruiser who steals the incline bench bar every day to do itty bitty deadlifts even though there’s a spare deadlift bar available.
There’s Abercrombie, who had to have worked for them at some point. Or Hollister. One of them. Standing at the front of the store, shirtless which makes sense because Abercrombie and Hollister don’t sell men’s shirts based on their advertisements. A culturally appropriate pseudo-stripper pushing a musky teen cologne body odor cocktail and a lifestyle that could not stomach my awkwardness. He’s chiseled from burnt sandstone and I hate him. Mostly because he seems really nice and not nearly as douchey as he looks.
But this episode will feature a character who has had the greatest impact on me thus far. I shall call him Terror Stinky. Because he is gross, and I’m afraid of him. A fear not of his muscle mass as I think even Pippin could manhandle him but a Howard Hughesian fear. He has personally engendered my newfound germophobia.
Every weekday morning I arrive at the abovementioned gym under cover of darkness. My headlights falling on gym patrons through the large plate glass windows of the bargain strip mall location. Leg Day is pressing the Civic, Pippin is deadlifting, visualizing Frodo’s rescue, Abercrombie is finishing his 37th chest exercise, flexing, remembering fondly his mall glory days.
And on the elliptical, as he is every morning for upwards of an hour, is Terror Stinky. Huffing and puffing and sweating and making me insane with the ickiness.
You’d think with Pip and Abercrombie and Leg Day and me all on the weight floor, Terror Stinky shouldn’t bother me all the way over there in the cardio row, but it’s not his elliptical obsession that makes my skin crawl. It’s what comes after.
Every day, after huffing and puffing and sweating and secreting, Terror Stinky comes into the locker room and takes a horrendous cacophonous shatbasket at the exact moment I’m brushing my teeth. Like freaking clockwork. Regardless of when I arrive at the gym or how long my workout takes. While I’m brushing my teeth. While my mouth is open to taste and savor the locker room air.
It’s as if he’s in a perpetual state of impaction and his GP’s last ditch prescription is a daily hour of elliptical butter churning to plunge his apathetic viscera.
To his credit, he does give a couple courtesy flushes, but I’d trade all of them if he would WASH HIS FLIPPIN HANDS WITH SOAP.
If other men notice his presence in the locker room, he’ll run his hands under the faucet, but he won’t use soap. Ever. Never does he use the free-of-charge-society-sustaining-soap. If he thinks he has crapblasted without notice, he’ll just walk from the turdlocker right out the door back to the gym floor with his poop hands and then I imagine touches every touchable shared surface.
I’m at the point where I will only touch things in the locker room after I’ve fashioned a paper towel glove. I watch him like a hawk in the gym to see if he diverts at all from his guano cardio so I can avoid whatever he touches with his filth paws.
When my membership is up, I may leave. I may go to a more expensive gym, not because there’s a problem with gym ownership or the equipment or the heat of the water but because one of their patrons is so hygienically horrifying, I’m scared he’s Petri dishing a new plague in my face.
Maybe if I can catch Abercrombie’s eye, we’ll gather Pip and Leg Day and corner Terror Stinky and plead our case. The future of humanity and at the very least my gym membership depends on it.