My gym is overloaded.
Never have I seen a place more replete with notices; it operates on the fundamental Hong Kong law of physics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite sign to be posted.
It sounds like overkill, but through observation of members and their various behaviours, the notices are warranted.
In many ways, the gym is like any other; it has the requisite equipment, including various cross-training machines such as Stairmaster and Life Fitness, along with Nautilus, Flex, Flite, Icarian, Hammer Strength, and free weights. It has aerobics rooms, suntan booths, a sauna and steam room. It even has a beauty center, which judging by its patrons isn't working that well.
But I digress.
The gym's differences are represented by the numerous signs designed to moderate the propensities of its members. A fraction of clients are serious about exercise, while the rest consist of social butterflies, newbies, couch potatoes and a host of personalities, which upon examination reveal the reason for all the placards.
Consider these characters:
· Floaters: people who drift through the facility with no apparent purpose, like the feather in Forrest Gump. They settle at random on equipment they don't know how to use and make a lackadaisical effort to work out.
· Laggards: folks so indolent I'm surprised they found the energy to show up. They set machines to the easiest state of resistance and pretend to exercise. The biggest offenders (no pun intended) are overweight, middle-aged women wearing — for the love of God — spandex.
— To counter these, stickers on the equipment request members to be considerate and not rest on the machines between sets.
Sad to say, no warnings exist against poor fashion choices.
· Strutters: men who parade about the gym like Banty roosters, proud of their powerful physiques, which exist only in their imaginations. One guy leaps to mind; he's built like a garden rake, yet swaggers with his arms bent out as though he were Markus Rühl.
· Poseurs: men who lift too much weight with ridiculous form and then slam the equipment or launch dumbbells onto the floor. Here's a tip: if you look like you're trying to take flight while performing lateral dumbbell raises, you're doing it wrong. And you look silly.
· Narcissists: I have no problem with people grunting through a set; I do it too from time to time. A world of difference exists, however, between that and screaming through every repetition to get folks to watch you. The only people more annoying are guys who block access to equipment racks because they're admiring themselves in the closest mirror while doing barbell curls.
— For these people, placards warn against using foul language or dropping weights.
Notes on mirrors read, "Caution: Windows". Perhaps the egomaniacs think people are watching.
· Illiterates: idiots who never return weights to their proper places. Setting a pair of 70-pound dumbbells in the 10-pound space on the rack speaks volumes about their mental acuity.
· Jerks: people who don't return weights to the rack at all, don't strip plates from machines when they're finished, or don't wipe their perspiration from equipment they've just used.
— Despite clear markings on the racks and machines, these guys ignore basic rules of etiquette. Additional reminders wouldn't work because these clowns can't read.
Other characters include:
· Stinkers: men who don't use deodorant or wear mildewed clothing, leaving behind a toxic vapour cloud wherever they roam.
· Pigs: men who treat the washrooms like public toilets: they miss the bowl, refuse to flush, and either don't wash their hands or give them a cursory rinse and leave the door handle dripping.
· Nudists: men who strut about naked in the locker room. A large number use the sauna or steam room without a towel, leaving behind pools of butt-sweat wherever they sit.
A few who don't sit are worse, using the small rooms for calisthenics instead of relaxing. One fellow I've observed numerous times likes to perch on a seat edge and do crunches in 46 Celsius heat. Others forget the concept of personal space and stand too close, with their tackle hanging out. These men have no shame.
— I'm amazed by the lack of signs in the washrooms regarding hand washing. Instead, stall doors have stickers reminding people not to smoke. As for other personal habits, they're impossible to regulate; to combat the steam room problem I wear trunks and bring water to rinse the bench.
· Blabbermouths: men who insist on using their mobile phones in the locker area.
— Since the inception of camera phones, notices abound banning their use. Few if any heed the warnings, despite that several courtesy phones have been provided. I'd complain to the staff, but I guess voyeuristic images of naked men aren't in high demand.
· Philistines: guys who use the supplied hair dryers on their armpits, backs, feet and even their crotches. Some fellows also think it's a great idea to blast hot air into their stinking shoes or air out smelly socks.
— Abundant placards which line the walls read: "Hair dryers are strictly for drying hair only." A more detailed version states: "Indecent behaviour, such as drying other parts of body or clothing, etc., are prohibited."
Lousy grammar aside, the signs are worthless. People do whatever they want, which is why I'm glad I keep my hair short and thus don't need the dryers.
Aside of the many restrictions, the gym and locker rooms are awash in posters offering referral promotions and perks to those who extend their memberships, along with upcoming concert announcements for the gym's celebrity spokesperson.
But as necessary as all the notices are, people reach a certain point where, as with advertisements, they tune them out. Signs, that classic hippie tune by the Five Man Electrical Band, is a perfect fit:
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?
So while some of the notices are needed, most are ignored. The gym would be better off taking them down and handing out the rules when people join.
First item on the list: forbid spandex.
June 18, 2005
Next Tale: Hamper, Stall, Bind & Clog