Irritations

A Suite In Three Movements

I know it is just the lingering snowpack that makes so many things into occasions of teeth-grinding annoyance. I am attempting to imagine them as passing notes in the cosmic music.

1. The Dreeper
(minimalist repetitive melody for bass stringed instruments)

A fellow therapist and sometime member of the gym, who is blonde, became the object of his creaking self-introduction not long before an appointment with me. “I know the guy, he’s sort of always there dreeping around the place,” I said when she described him. “Dreep?” she asked. “Yeah, somewhere between a drip and a creep.”

He is well past retirement age but seems to have labored to maintain a bizarre yellowish tinge in his graying hair. He moves with a halting stiffness that ought to induce compassion in a bodyworker, but I will never forget his saying to my friend Sister Age that “in my tax bracket, I have to vote for McCain,” as if that were the only thing that mattered. I have never seen him really lift much of anything, although he is as much a fixture in the gym as the half-dead dracaena by the entryway, and somewhat resembles it. He just stretches.

He stretches his hamstrings.

He stretches them, invariably, on unique pieces of equipment intended for heavy sets, like the hack sled, the squat rack, and (while we had one) the deadlift platform. It never fails. When I want to huck something up around bodyweight, I can just about count on finding the Dreeper in a meditative trance with one foot up on some projection of the necessary weight station.

He never seems to get any more flexible.

2. Desperate Housewives

(Scherzo for percussion instruments)

I know I should not let Workout Idiots capture my attention, but sometimes they are a bit like the portrait of Cosmo Kramer which has entered even into the vocabulary of television-free folk like myself: “He is a loathsome, offensive brute –yet I can’t look away.”

She had a squashy baby-factory midsection and a muddy complexion that screamed microwave meals. Maybe forty-something? I can’t tell any more. Sensible short mommy hair. She was throwing herself ballistically, arms extended, through a set on the glute-ham bench, which is an apparatus that begs for control and discretion. It was a rotated rib or slipped disc waiting to happen. It takes Nietschzean willpower for me to turn my head at moments like this; think of watching someone deliberately run barefoot across a floor with nails sticking out of it.

But I have learned. The last time I saw a squashy splodgy female thingummy throwing herself this way and that in some sort of vague relation to a piece of workout equipment, I approached her in a restrained and helpful way and got my head bitten off. “This is how I do it!” she snapped at me. “It’s all about what you feel comfortable with!”

I saw her again ten years later in another gym and she was still just as squashy and splodgy. I gave her a wide berth.

3. Trouser Tribbles
(for boys’ choir and Russian basses)

I recently have become deeply enamored of the Duluth Trading Company, which sells clothes and gear for people in the building trades. I love a good gadget and a durable garment and they offer both. Alas, now that I have ordered from them, some sort of cookie feedback causes every ad-supported site I visit to channel the animated ad for their signature “Ballroom Jeans,” a product I personally do not need.

I believe I will go clear my cookies now. If that’s the expression we want.

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9 thoughts on “Irritations

  1. Love the phrase cosmic music.
    I’ve just rejoined a local gym and now will be looking over my shoulder for one of “you”… I fit in the unfit, awkwardly placed, out of place…. But, my ‘salvation’ is that there are no pretenses.

    • I really like to see people who aren’t fit tackling the equipment. It’s how you get there. The thing that makes me clench is watching someone work out unproductively and in a way that invites injury. Bitter experience has taught me that most of the people in question don’t want to hear any suggestions about safer or more efficient exercise.

      My current hero is a woman who’s gone from around 400 to, by now I would say about 225, doing lots of sessions with a trainer and then just sticking with what was safe and worked. And sticking. And sticking. The other day I spotted her and realized with pleasant surprise that she just looked like a normally overweight person and not a heart attack about to happen, moving with spring and vigor instead of laborious wheezing. That, in contrast to the flingers and the loafers, is a total upper.

  2. When I went to the gym I was always at a loss when faced with the mysterious “equipment”. I would have loved having someone tell me what I was supposed to be doing with it, but the gym attendants were always too busy selling tanning products and chatting with the beefcake to pay attention to me. I confess to feeling like if I can’t get enough exercise out in the fresh air and around my own place then I need to modify my habits. But I do understand the need for gyms with their attendant equipment.

    For me the cosmic music is polluted by the whiners and shirkers who keep saying they want to lose weight or get in shape but can’t seem to do anything other than drive to the local fast food emporium for their luncheon.

    • That’s one thing about my gym, it’s fairly glam-less owing to its history as a gritty muscle-head place. So, very little in the way of brainless beefcake or ditzy attendants. The irony is that the new ownership is trying to coax a “no-muscle-head attitude” into the management, but those scruffy old thigh-armed guys from the longtime staff are the ones showing the serious but bewildered people what to do.

      It’s like anything else you would take up: think of walking into a room full of musical instruments and proposing to play them without at least browsing a manual of where your fingers go and what end you blow into. Most people at least want to be informed. But there are those that just think they know a better way even if they know nothing, and don’t want to learn from observation or advice, like an unruly kid banging a piano who isn’t interested in being shown a five finger exercise. Hurts to watch (and hear), don’t it…?

      I think the gal tossing herself spastically about on the glute ham had absorbed a lot of fast food from the look of her….

  3. “ballroom jeans”?

    Genius. Sheer genius.

    But I completely understand where you’re coming from on the ‘you’re going to injure yourself like that” gym-users. I used to row at university and it still kills me to see people on rowing machines in gyms putting ridiculous and unnecessary strain on their back with little or no cardio benefit. Have. To. Walk. Away.

  4. “Get a pair.” Hilarious.

    We’re a tight group in the center of the gym usually and I gather from what the gal who’s joined us says about it — she makes up for her slight build with a take no prisoners attitude — that other gym-goers find us intimidating or at least annoying in that muscular-group-in-the-center-of-the-gym sort of way. But in truth we’re often laughing and always friendly and I always want the underweight / overweight guys who are just starting and look all self-conscious about it to know they’re doing the right thing and that we’re glad to see them there. Of course if they stick around a little while that becomes apparent.

  5. Pingback: Standing Where I Want To Walk « Sixteen Tons

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