On the social media platform Reddit, there is a subreddit called “AITA.” Posters tell their stories, and then ask the Internet for feedback: “Am I The Asshole?”
While Redditors do post gym stories on the AITA subreddit, the site is missing out on a separate category for just gyms, something like: r/AmItheAsshole-gyms. Gyms accommodate a volatile mix of people — those who don’t understand gym etiquette or don’t care, the meathead suffering from ‘roid rage, an allotment of narcissists/egomaniacs, and your usual ratio of weirdos. Asshole behavior from normal people, like myself, is almost inevitable.
So here are two borderline stories of mine … AITA?
The aerobics room at my gym is also equipped with a few punching bags. The bags hang close to the back wall, but you can still work the bag in 360 degrees. If you want to use a heavybag, you can get lucky and walk in when there’s no class. Or with a bit of planning, you can time your workout by checking the class schedule posted on the aerobics room door and in the gym app.
One Saturday morning, I arrived at the aerobics room at exactly 11:30 am, just after the prior class was scheduled to end. I was going to get in my heavybag workout, shower, and stay on time for a family commitment at 12:30 pm.
I looked through the aerobics room windows and saw that a yoga class was still in session. There was some kind of cooldown going on: the lights were off, everyone was lying on their mats, and I could see the instructor’s mouth moving as she walked between the rows of students. It was now 11:32 am, and I attempted to catch the instructor’s eye … 11:33 am, there was still no movement … 11:34 am, screw it, I’m going in.
If we’re going to have a civilization, the instructor has only two choices when planning out her class. She can start the cooldown earlier so that the class finishes on time, or she can extend the time of the class on the official schedule. She chose a non-existent third option, which was to dillydally with her private class in a public room.
I strode into the aerobics room, turned on all the lights, and ignored the shrieking as I pulled on my boxing gloves. Several women gathered around me and started jeering as I hit the bag, which frankly was motivational and elevated my intensity. They eventually gave up on distracting me and left. I finished my workout as planned and was punctual for my next activity.
My personality inside the gym is completely different from outside. I’m naturally a severe introvert — observing, peaceful. But at the gym I am focused on the task at hand, and I have no patience for people in my way. My mood is even more grim at the typical gym that is already falling apart and I have to fight the equipment as well as the clientele.
Today at the gym I was running my eyes up and down the dumbbell rack looking for a heavy matching pair. I found one off in the corner, and the other was positioned directly in front of a guy sitting on the edge of his bench. I can’t tell you what exercise he was doing, only that I calculated there was enough room for me to slide past him and grab the dumbbell.
As I brushed past, he screamed, “Are you kidding me?”
“You blocked the mirror!”
Now, in a spacious, well-organized facility, the guy is probably right. But that’s not what this gym is about. The search for twin dumbbells is an adventure, and it’s a race to grab an open bench before the next guy takes it. Besides, pal, are you training for the Olympia?
Trying to figure out whether AITA here, I looked through my own blog archives on gym etiquette. Here’s what I said in 2007 about a similar situation: “Telling me I’m in breach of gym etiquette is like telling Martha Stewart she’s put the salad fork in the wrong place.”
I actually think it’s a good sign that I have only a couple AITA stories to tell. You know what they say about assholes — if you meet one asshole, he’s the ass; if you meet assholes all day long, it’s you.