The Gym Hello Problem

I am a subscriber to a free newsletter about advice for introverts. The emails are often funny, but not because the author is trying to make a joke. Rather, it’s the bullseye observations that make me laugh. For example, one post described things that are most irritating to introverts: phone calls after 6 pm, talkative hairdressers, other people’s loud music. Yes, and I’ll add another one. Introverts hate forced socializing at the gym.

I learned the hard way that I should wear to the gym only blank shirts — no team logos, no slogans. A couple years ago, I happened to be wearing a New England Patriots t-shirt. Not because I follow the NFL anymore, but because it was in fact a crummy gym shirt. This guy flagged me down as I walked past, and started asking me my opinion of the team’s QB situation. I had no idea, but it didn’t matter. Now, I’m obligated to wave hello whenever we make eye contact across the gym, or actually say hello when I’m in range.

Once when I was giving this guy his compulsory hello, a fellow nearby thought I was speaking up to greet him. What a mistake. Now I have a second guy who wants in on daily hellos.

I am all for giving the nod to people you see regularly. I’m not a crazy person. But I find bizarre the desire among members for the between-sets coffee klatch. I can’t imagine coming to the gym at 5 am (like I do) just to get distracted by, or actually looking for, small talk.

During the five o’clock hour, my club’s front desk attendant has yet to turn on the gym soundtrack. He’s still folding towels and getting things sorted out for the day. As a result, I overhear all kinds of inter-member drivel. Today, two guys — strangers — were working out on adjacent benches. Within seconds of striking up a convo, they got into the one guy’s marital troubles and the other guy’s financial problems. The depth of the dialogue, while misplaced, was quite impressive actually.

In any event, I need to add one more experience to the list of commercial gym hassles. In addition to: pigsties, AWOL key holders, water fountain shenanigans, exterminators crashing your workout, and missing locker room doors, you’ve also got swarms of random dudes just aching to chat you up.

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