Streaming Judgments

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!

23 thoughts on “Streaming Judgments

  1. Daniel! Thanks for this. I am not sure whether to laugh or cry, as I’ve not been back to the gym for nearly two years. Though I did not encounter misspellings – which would deeply unnerve my inner editor – I did encounter lackluster mask-wearing when I went once to decide about returning to the Y, where I’ve been working out for more than two decades. Great that you found a reason to stay in the “judgement free zone.” Perhaps a metaphor for life these days, misspelling (at least here in the US) and all?


  2. Nice post but judgment without action is useless. Tell the manager your concerns. Do you really feel comfortable going there? Tell them they might get more seniors if they truly paid attention to COVID and masks. Write a Yelp review. That might get action Airport. 6 MEN 0 women with poor masking. Nose, mouth , 1 without at all except in his hand. Diane


  3. I briefly went to the Y to check it out about 3 months ago. The young guy at the front counter also wore his mask only over his nose.

    The risk profile of COVID is almost a perfect storm for psychological gamesmanship. I really don’t think it is practical to expect enforcement by staff whom are paid little and as youth face little personal risk.

    The layout of the gym, where I’m at, is really quite good. People can be far away from others for the most part. But it does grill me to see people uncaring about others who – like me – are older and have a riskier proposition.


  4. Great post, though you’d better correct the typo “If feels right” just after the spelling complaint.

    Maybe you should try submitting it for publication. Ask your son.


    1. You forget, Uncle Ted, I’ve heard your war stories. Both those in Europe and those of the next 70 years! I seem to recall a willingness to share your wisdom with others… sometimes with your fists.


  5. Almost had me persuaded to try a gym again, until you described the scene. And I totally agree with you about judgment. And complementary is not complimentary. You might not get Covid at the gym, but if you are there I might be less willing to get close. Maybe slothfulness isn’t so bad, especially if you’re not judgmental.


    1. You put it well. I am struggling as to whether in fact I should return to the gym. In very practical terms, I doubt any assertiveness with gym management on my part will make any discernable difference.


  6. I personally prefer “judgement” and I don’t feel picky about using British vs. American forms of English. Heck, language is dynamic and changing all the time. But that’s a side point, really, since the real thrust of your piece is health and safety. I hope you follow your judgment (without the e) about what feels safe and what doesn’t and quit that gym. Better yet, move up your plans for moving to Panorama. The corporation is exceedingly careful. Things have relaxed a bit in that I can share a two-room exercise studio with another person who is an “exercise buddy.” Still, we do not occupy the same space at the same time.


    1. We’re on the list for Panorama, but many folks have thought about that before us. It does indeed feel “bubble-like” there, so I am happy for you folks.

      It is interesting for me to read all the comments on this string, and am very appreciative of the concerns for my health and the health of others.


  7. When I am in places where some people are not appropriately masked, I am asking them to do so.  We Jews are supposed to take care of the vulnerable among us ie widows and orphans and today those in high risk groups for Covid ie age, overweight, other diseases ie cancer and diabetes for example.  All of my encounters have involved only one or two people,  Don’t know what I would do in an environment which includes many unmasked–perhaps that is time to get staff involved. When I (politely and quietly) ask someone to mask they always do so.  I say thank you.  I don’t go into a long explanation of why masks are important.  To a lady at the local symphony sitting in the row in front of me, “Your slip is showing.”  She looked at me oddly as she wasn’t wearing a skirt.  I said, “Your mask has slipped down below your nose.”  She put it on correctly for the rest of the concert.  Do people think no one notices or cares?  Do they think rules don’t apply to them (like judgment?)? I was in an elevator in an Art Museum last night.  A staff member noticed my friend’s mask had slipped.  She asked her to fix it and my friend complied.  This was followed by a lot of verbiage about the importance of masking etc.  I think that was unnecessary and incited feelings of humiliation.  When most people are wearing masks a very simple request is enough and preserves everyone’s dignity. When offenders are few, I don’t think anyone has to wait for a staff person to make a request to mask correctly.  You just have to feel the empowerment. Roberta Berg


    1. I find it fascinating that so far, the two comments that call for the effective and active engagement with others to behave in safer ways, comes from the two women physicians on the comment string. Diane and Roberta, I am partially inspired by your courage and commitment to health, and partially feel that the same statement coming from a female physician who’s height is well under 6′ could be interpreted differently if from coming from a 6’5″ man with no medical training. I always need to be aware that I have the potential to physically intimidate.


  8. Really good Daniel. I see myself doing the same thing about judging others. I must admit that I have probably misspelled the word judgment before. Try not to again.

    It is good that you are going to exercise, but I wonder what your mind will tell you about going back to Planet Fitness for a second session. I wonder whether you will adapt or flee. I don’t know what I would want for you. I think you would be fine with the political bias, as you would love to discuss that stuff, but I would not want you to get sick from the virus. Then there is the problem of getting sick becuase you are not exercising.

    Even in Panorama fitness rooms you will experience a variation of the same thing. People consider themselves safe with the full vaccination bubble that we live in and are sometimes slack on the mask wearing early in the morning when there are just a couple of people. I know the politics of these people and they do not watch Fox. I fume a little, because the signs saying to wear masks no matter vaccination status are all over the place. I think there is this longing for normalcy and peer pressure, no matter your political followings or lack thereof. At Panorama it is decidedly mask wearing.

    Anyway, having a good time in Palm Springs. Hiking about every day and mostly eating in, so little risks. I worry more than Deb about the new variant, but since we are keeping risk low, not too much worry. I purchased the rapid tests and decided that I would take a test whenever there was some kind of potential exposure or when I do not feel well. So far no little pink line (positive result.)

    Hope you and Jean are well.




    1. Thanks, Brian. You capture well the questions I’m asking. I’m genuinely torn about returning to that gym.

      I heard (below) from a friend who said that the YMCA in Seattle is requiring proof of vaccination. On balance with what we know now, I would go back if the local Y or other gym would put that in place.

      Glad you are in a place where outdoor exercise is so pleasant.


  9. Daniel, this is quite incisive and bringing up the current issues about whether to imbibe in indoor activities such as the gym. The YMCA in Seattle implemented the policy that all attendees must be vaccinated to enter facility so I felt I could finally consider going back in there – but only to swim. I am not confident about the aeration of the spaces for exercise classes and weight rooms – very low ceilings and crowded. So even if everyone is wearing their mask properly- and they aren’t- because similar behaviors are exhibited as you mentioned – I am still not confortable in participating there. HOWEVER, I have been swimming for a month and so far, so good! Knock on water or is it walk on water? God only knows. I will end with: “Be curious, not judgemental.” Walt Whitman


  10. The reference to complementary was not any comment about you, but my other pet peeve with judgment. It’s crazy that the uncaring mob is determining what sensible people can and can’t do. As much as I’d like to return to a gym I would feel comfortable with what you observed.Any other Medicare approved gyms? I think the Y no longer does silver sneakers, or whatever it is now called. But they’re all probably inhabited by the Mob.


    1. Based on all these responses, I’m leaning toward writing a letter to all local gyms that says, in effect, “If you require proof of vaccination (and boosting), then I’ll go to your gym – Silver and Fit or not.


  11. Daniel,

    I feel for your need to exercise, but you really are putting yourself in extreme danger of getting Covid, especially with the rapid spread of the new variant. please, Please, PLEASE don’t go back for now. Try one of the other methods that have been suggested to you…walk along the waterfront, or at the park. Find an inexpensive, used elliptical machine or tread mill, anything you can use without contact with those @#!?%s that are putting themselves in harms way. You owe it to yourself, to Jean and the rest of your family and friends that love you. It is not worth the potential danger you are putting yourself in for a few temporary pound. The alternative is not worth it. Blessings.


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