Joining a Zone
Vaxxed, boosted and haven’t been to a gym in nearly two years. At a certain point, a 66-year-old has to gauge the odds. What is the greater danger? Exposure to COVID from the errant spray of fellow fitness freaks, or utter failure, for a seemingly unending time, to truly get aerobic and muscle toning workouts on a regular basis?
Sure, I hear you snicker. “Why doesn’t he just buy equipment for the home?” or “Can’t he jog to the park or follow those Sliver and Fit videos daily?”
Answer: I’m a failure at such discipline.
There. Got your pound of flesh? Or in my case, about fifteen pounds of flesh. Snicker away, but for me this question of sloth drags me down and out.
Heckling, with all loving intentions, but heckling nonetheless, from my wife Jean – or should it be called “encouragement”? – had me finally check out a free (for Medicare recipients) gym in town. It is West Olympia’s Planet Fitness, one of over 2000 sites where that company has located its outlets.
Initial impressions of the place are positive for COVID. Wait. Cross that out. I mean positive for its attention to COVID health protocols – mask-wearing, sanitation centers, distancing between members and equipment, and verbal reminders over the intercom to follow those protocols. So, I join, and make an orientation appointment with the site’s fitness pro.
Two days later we are facing each other across a table, developing my new regimen. As he talks, his mask sags below his nose. He does not readjust. Midway through development of my workout routine, he also mentions “You know, you don’t really have to wear your mask over your nose, just your mouth.” I am feeling disappointed and on edge about his statement, but I don’t say a word about it.
The Misfit Begins
The next day my “regular” workouts commence. Getting dressed in the locker room, some men are wearing masks, others not. Walking out onto the main workout room, everyone has a mask on in one way or the other. Three formulations of “wearing” can be observed. Most have properly fitted masks over both their mouths and nose. Some go for the “mouth only” approach. And still others find that protection of their chins is paramount and have decided that interfering with either of their breathing apparatuses would be harmful to the work out.
I take all this in, mulling and sorting, as I climb aboard the elliptical machine for 20 minutes. I have not brought my cell phone and earbuds for an opportunity to focus on anything other than my surroundings. Taking in the visual stimuli is all I’ll have to work with.
When one has little but one’s mind for companionship, well then, stuff gets telling quickly. Out flows your biases, predilections, and confused musings. Here spills an example of both psychological mayhem and a semblance of who you are as a person. Well, at least the inner life of your bored mind.
Pick the machine close to CNN. Oh, FOX news is next to CNN. And look, no MSNBC and there are twice as many FOX screens as CNN. Got it. Political bias. Pisses me off. Vast majority of customers completely ignoring screens. But the corporate tilt is apparent.
Starting up machine, when will the “go” sign light up… there, it did it. Good. Now increase the resistance up and the incline. Yes. That’s good for a start.
Stream of Elliptical Conscious Nonsense
Improve your posture, Daniel. Stretch back and lift neck… there. That’s good.
Read signs on the wall. “Planet Fitness = No Criticism,” “You Belong,” and the most dominant one of all “Judgement Free Zone.” Geez, “Judgement Free Zone” has been written on virtually every machine in the place. Judgement Free Zone. Judgement Free Zone. They have misspelled judgment and the damn sign is the theme of this corporation:
Welcome to Planet Fitness. The Judgement Free Zone®
Spelling “judgment” with an extra “e” is wrong. It feels right. But it’s wrong. I’ve looked it up before. The extra “e” is appropriate sometimes in the UK, but not America. What kind of corporate culture would permit the main theme to be misspelled? Could you imagine someone – some big personality boss – coming up with the theme. Doesn’t ANYONE in the echelons of a corporation with 2000 locations bother to do spell check? And if they did, were they too chicken to mention it. Or if they were not too chicken to mention it, would they have been batted down. Ridiculed as nerdy. Had the judgement with an extra “e” already become the corporate theme?
But how many people would know that in America an extra “e” is “wrong?” 10%? 5%? And how many who know it, would care? At all? What’s wrong with me that has me obsessing over this?
Look. Over there. Those three young guys, with chin-straps for masks. They are laughing. They’ve got pretty good muscles. Don’t they frigging care – seemingly – about COVID? Are they Trumpsters? Or just apolitical? Do they read? Do they care about the frigging extra “e” in judgment?
Which is why, of course, we liberals are losing. Egad! Who could stand the judgmentalism that I am displaying inside my brain as I’m doing this stupid elliptical? Do those three guys – who can outvote me three to one if they bother to vote – know that an old man on an elliptical is thinking about them and being highly judgmental in front of a sign that says, “Judgement Free Zone?”
But COVID is real and real dangerous. Do I have a duty to go over there and ask them to put on masks? Do I go to the Planet Fitness staff and ask them to enforce proper mask-wearing? Even as I look at them, only half of the staff have masks over both orifices.
And then there was the stop at the health food shop before the workout to pick up some lactase. As I go to the counter, other customers are wearing no masks at all. This, even in a state which requires indoor masking while shopping and even in a frigging store whose purpose is to advance health.
CNN is talking about the omicron variant. Bummer. Why does the Fox News chyron say “Crime Up in Democrat Cities and they don’t Care?” Exhausting.
Why is that guy to my left talking on his cell phone with his mask down? A few feet away from the sign that says “cell phone calls only in the lobby.”
But ya know… I do seem to be sweating nicely. That’s good. Pretty far from other exercisers. Good too. I like the easy adjustability of the elliptical settings. The shopping channel next to FOX has a highly silly sweatshirt they are selling. It’s so wonderful that my heart is sound, almost three years after the mitral valve surgery. I wish I brought a larger towel to wipe off my brow.
Judgement Free Zone indeed!