I wasn’t even going to go to the gym that night. I mean, I was originally going to go, but then I stopped at home first, which is always a mistake. I got distracted, and soon decided it was just easier not to go to the gym at all.
But when the phone rang at 6:30, and it’s the CEO looking for a difficult report, I lie (yes, lie) and tell him that I’m at the gym but will work with the IT Department as soon as I get back. To make myself retroactively honest, I immediately hop on my bike and pedal to the island’s only gym, which includes a couple of treadmills, a couple of bikes, a bunch of black-and-silver automated weight-lifting machines, some barbells, and most importantly, one 45-lb bar. I repeat: one 45-lb bar – one – which is the equivalent of a Laundromat having only one washer: it’s in constant use, there’s always a line for it, and occasionally someone gets shot over it.
Further, it’s a universal rule of the gym world that whenever you use a bar, you’re supposed to re-rack your weights. Everyone knows this. Not everyone does this, but everyone knows this. And even if everyone didn’t know this, there are signs all over the gym that explicitly state this: re-rack all weights when finished. All you have to do is be able to read, and – while this is not always a given on the island – the “regulars” are now pretty good about running back to the bar and un-racking it whenever they see me coming. It was hard the first time, but by now, everyone is pretty good about cleaning up after themselves when I’m around.
But this night, when I walk in, there’s this new guy I’ve never seen before. He’s not bench pressing … he has the bar on the floor and he’s deadlifting, with pretty good technique, too, so I have to give him points for originality, but of course, this means he’s using the gym’s only bar, upon which he’s loaded a total of six 45-lb plates. It is not easy or fun to rack or unrack all those weights, so when I see it, I automatically think, “This better not be one of those times when he leaves it for me to do.”
While waiting for the bar, I busy myself with a workout involving a series of hand release pushups with a 200m run in between, but I’m keeping an eye on him, so I can use the bar when he’s done with it.
He does a bunch of deadlifts, then goes and does something else, then comes back, takes two plates off each side, and does some more deadlifts. It looks like he’s doing some sort of Deadlift/Other Exercise combo, and that he’ll keep coming back to deadlifts throughout his workout, so even though the bar’s just sitting there with two 45-lb weights on it in the middle of the floor where everyone can trip over it, I’m not about to just take his bar and start using it. That would be rude. I’d be pissed if someone interrupted my workout like that and stole my bar, so I continue to wait until he’s finished.
But after about 20 minutes or so, I start to get the idea that he’s in fact finished with the bar, and that he has no intention of ever putting it away. He’s just going to leave it there, for someone else (ME) to clean up, and I’m tired of getting stuck cleaning up after inconsiderate strangers. I’d never just leave my stuff around like that and expect someone to clean up after me, but for some reason, HE thinks it’s okay. (I guess bad parenting skills of an indulgent mother to be the culprit.)
To confirm my suspicions that this is going to be “one of those times,” he goes over to the corner where’s he stashed his stuff, slings his bag over his shoulder, and swaggers to the front door.
“Hey,” I call, but he doesn’t hear me and keeps walking. Except for the three lumpy Yoga ladies going one mile per hour on the treadmills, hanging onto the handles for dear life, we’re the only two people there. “HEY,” I say again. Nothing. He keeps walking, so I keep walking too, past the lumpy Yoga ladies who don’t have to be mind readers to know that I’m mad; they can just see the look on my face. Their eyes follow me curiously: ahhh, some excitement, finally!
He’s halfway to his truck by the time I make it out the front door. “Hey!” I yell. “Hey!” He finally turns around. “Are you done with your bar?” I say. It comes out nicer than I thought it would come out – just an innocent person asking an innocent question, except he’s out in the middle of a parking lot, miles away from the bar. It’s obvious that he’s done with it.
At first, he looks at me like he doesn’t know what I’m talking about, and then he remembers. “Oh, yeah, sorry,” he says, with a smile and a Southern drawl. “I was rude and just left it there for somebody else to put away.” He even admits it! This is the moment when his indulgent mother – charmed by her strapping son – would pick up his dirty clothes from the bathroom floor instead of insisting that he comes back and does it for himself, because, instead of coming back inside, he just keeps walking off to his truck.
I’m not his mother, nor am I charmed. “So you’re just going to leave it there?” I continue.
He turns around, not smiling anymore. Good, because neither am I. This is obviously the first time in his adult life that someone has followed him out into a parking lot and made him be accountable for his actions. “You want me to come back in and put it away?” he says incredulously, like I’ve just asked him to sacrifice his first born son.
“Yes,” I say, “That’s what I want you to do.” I’m kind of holding the door open for him, and I use this opportunity to gesture at it illustratively, like I’m Vanna White presenting the prize behind Door #3.
Now, I know. What’s the big deal. Just put away his stupid bar for him already. But when it’s happened as often as it’s happened, enough is enough. One last straw and the camel goes down, and this was it. And, I know that some girls could have sweetly pulled this whole thing off in a charming manner and probably have turned it into a dinner date, and there’s also the whole thing about catching more flies with honey, but 1) I am not one of those girls, and 2) who wants to catch flies? Flies are disgusting. Flies spit on your food every time they land on it, and I could not care less about charming some lazy person who admittedly leaves his sweaty crap around and expects other people to clean up after him. If he’s like this with the general public, imagine what he’s like in private.
We both kind of angrily walk back in and I drop down and do 10 more hand release pushups right next to the bench press rack (not because I’m monitoring him but because that’s where I’d done all my other pushups that night), so I just so happen to have a front row seat when he picks up the whole bar with the weights still attached to it, slams it onto the rack, and begins to walk away.
It would have killed him to finish the job?
“Hey, no problem,” I say, sarcastically. “I’ll just take care of the rest.”
“I’m SURE you can handle it,” he says, just as sarcastically, the big jerk.
“READ THE SIGN!” I say, and then I read him the sign just in case he doesn’t know how to read (a distinct possibility on this island): “RE-RACK YOUR WEIGHTS!” But this time I lose. He just keeps walking and doesn’t come back and I can tell that this conversation is over. I’m so mad that I’m having an out of body experience. I storm up to the front desk, past the twittering Yoga ladies, because THE FRONT DESK are the ones who should be doing the dirty work and not leaving it up to the Vigilante Society of One all the time, but are they? No.
Three girls are standing there, and with a 3-to- 5 worker/member ratio you’d think they’d have their place under a little more control, but do they? No, they’re just chitchatting and gossiping, and it takes them a few seconds to finish their very important conversation about NOTHING and realize that I’m standing there forcefully staring at them. “THAT GUY IS A COMPLETE JERK!” I say, pointing out at the complete jerk who was now getting into his truck, having the exact same thought about me, no doubt.
They strain their necks to see who I’m talking about, and then all kind of talk at once. “Who, Matt?” says Paulette. “He stopped coming for a while and now he’s back.”
“Why, what did he do?” said the second one. “I saw you go out there and wondered what was going on but I just thought you were friends with him.”
I tell them what happened.
“How rude,” says Paulette. “You’re always supposed to rack your weights. Everyone knows that.”
“You actually went after him and made him come back in?” says the second. “Good for you! I never really liked him either.”
“You’re my new hero,” says the other one. “He’s a cop!”
Crap. He’s a cop? Not that I would have acted any differently had I known. What does he think, that he’s above the law? But, here’s the thing: the island only has about two cops, and while I wouldn’t normally worry about running into him, since I’m not involved in criminal activity, unfortunately, almost nobody else on the island is involved in criminal activity either. So, there’s not a whole lot for the two of them to do except sit alongside the road and wait to pull you over for going 56 in a 55 mph speed zone, and everyone knows how easy it is to go 56 in a 55. Considering that I drive the island’s only bright yellow jeep with four big headlights on top, which makes me easily recognizable from a mile away, you can pretty much guess how this is going to end for me: with points.
The good thing is that my jeep wasn’t there that night. I was on my bike, so he doesn’t yet know what I drive. Give it time, though, give it time. I can’t be riding around on my bike forever.