Originally published in crunchy newspapers on August 6, 2009
In a civil society there are things that are just not done. These are actions not expressly prohibited by law but rather behaviors widely recognized as being outside the social norm. You would not, for instance, wear clown shoes to work unless you were indeed a clown. There is probably no office policy against the wearing of clown shoes but most of us know it is just not done. Also, we help old people cross the street. Not that there are tons of senior citizens crossing our streets these days but when we see one, especially when there’s no Boy Scout in site, a conscientious person will ask the elderly pedestrian if they could use some assistance.
A growing number of people, it seems, are either ignorant or in blatant defiance of what are acceptable and unacceptable societal behaviors and I encountered one of these hooligans earlier this week. I consider it part of my civic duty to educate others so that we can curtail these actions.
The incident took place at a local gym where I am a member. I was using one of the machines, which happens to be directly across from the pull-up bar. I was minding my own business, listening to my “80’s Workout” playlist on my mp3 player and headphones, and struggling through my second rep of ten when someone enters my peripheral vision and heads to the pull-up bar. He does a little hop to grab the bar and then proceeds to do 50 pull-ups in rapid succession without even a single bead of sweat surfacing on his well-muscled, 20-year-old body.
Can you believe the gall of this kid, to put on such an obnoxious spectacle right in front of a me, an overweight nearly-45 year old? This sort of show-off behavior should not be tolerated in our community. At the time, I considered pulling a Kathy Bates move from Fried Green Tomatoes when she rams someone’s car in the parking lot and says, “I’m older, and I have more insurance.”
A little later, I cooled down and decided I shouldn’t fault the guy too much. I can clearly remember the invincible feeling of being in my late teens and early 20s, with a body at the peak of its performance. I could run the lengths of soccer fields and basketball courts for hours at a time, pushing every muscle to the point of exhaustion, then get up the next day and do it all again. I never thought of it as exercise, it was all part of playing ball – conditioning, practice, and games.
For the last 20 years of my life, exercise has slipped way down on the priority list. Fifty-plus hour work weeks, family and civic duties, seem to leave many fewer hours in the day. Since last January, when I joined the aforementioned gym, I’ve managed to find an hour a day for usually five days a week. This has been a very different experience than when I was younger. Although I was never as lean as the pull-up punk, my body could do nearly anything I asked of it (except dunk a basketball). I was like a fine musical instrument, maybe a guitar - smooth, taut, and ready to rock n’ roll.
I guess what pull-up boy was really saying to me is that no matter how much time I spend at the gym, I’ll never again be like a guitar. Nevertheless, I continue to go to the gym, think about what I’m eating (although not always making the best choices), and nursing along my many physical ailments. I guess my best hope is to be like a tuba, a finely-tuned tuba. I’m okay with that and thankful to still be in the band.