Gym Wars


By Harish Pillai:

Exercising has become a fad these days. Our gym at the apartment in Kemayoran, Jakarta is a moderately equipped one. It has three electrically driven machines, one treadmill, a stepper and a cycle.

Then there are quite a few non-operational machines, two multi-gyms, and lot many weights for pumping. Scarcity, just three operational exercising machines, fuels the rush or should I say wars for them. The wars become freighting because all the potential fitness buffs are adults. The kids have already left for school.

My wife wants to maintain so that she does not look bulkier than me. Another lady drags herself to the gym because her ladies club friends hold the daily morning durbar at 0630 hrs at the gym. Mr Alfa male makes it to the gym to show off and maintain his superiority complex alive. His pumping becomes more vigorous when Miss Bomb makes a cat walk entry. The ramp entry ensures the ogling she is looking for. Mr Sleepy enters in his bathroom slippers still sleepwalking. Mr Fatso truly and surely wants to shed the extra large amount of fat he has accumulated as he has no intentions of hibernating. Every one in our apartment complex seems to be up early and wants to flex a muscle. Well, at our gym, muscles are flexed, voices are raised and mind games are played, all for the control of those exercising machines.

I have to admit the gym is a perfect laboratory to do your research on group and individual dynamics. The lessons you can learn about individual and group dynamics are many. But none confirms to the bookish theories. The gym attendants have gotten fed up of the wars and show an absolute disinterest and politely walk away leaving the exercising warriors to battle it out between themselves for their turns.

The war starts the moment we leave the apt gate. My wife keeps looking over her shoulders to see if anyone was nearing the stairs leading to the gym. If someone was near, she makes a dash at full throttle for the stairs so that she makes it to the entry register first. The faster and more alert you are the higher the successes rate of getting one of the machine. Another strategy is the early bird catches the worm. But now the number of early birds at the gym door has exponentially increased. Yet another tactic is to hover constantly around the machines, peeping at the timer once in a while, like the eagle over its prey. This also ensures that your presence is always felt. Mr. ILL-temper uses an interesting tactics to occupy the machine for as long as he desires. He consistently pastes a Grumpy Faceon himself and exercises. No one dare approach him for their turn lest receive a volley of abuses.

You have the cell phone woman with phones in all pockets. She climbs the treadmills, adjusts her phones then her head phones and then starts her grunting. She receives numerous calls in the course of her grunts. The best part is that she stops the exercise machine before she starts to search for the phone that is ringing. I have a suggestion for her, “change your ring tones. It would be easier to locate the phones.” Then she goes on the talk marathon, while still standing on the tread mill. No wonder her mouth is so fit and small with all these talk marathons. In the meantime other aspirant weight shedders grudgingly wait on the sides.

Then walk in Miss Low self-esteem and Miss Self Conscious. Miss Conscious disappears into one corner. With Miss Low self-esteem looming over near the tread mill a fight was eminent. As I stepped down from the tread mill she forces herself on amidst protests, but she refuses to step down. The protests die down after sometime. Miss Low self-esteem then moves on with her head held high having accomplished what she wanted to prove. In the meantime Mr. Sleepy almost always dozes off on the bench press. He has to be woken up by his wife to remind him that, he is in the gym.

Someone has to put the point across to the ladies club that setting the inclination of the treadmill at 0 and the speed at 4 would not help burn the extra calories they so desperately wanted to loose, even if they huffed, puffed and treaded on for 30 min. These ladies were more interested in gossiping while on the machines about their maids and the mall hopping they did. And this obviously frustrates the people in queue.

There was this other trend of exchanging machines once they finished. There were these times when I like a true gentleman offered the lady after me and felt nice about the action, but that chivalry and politeness only ended in frustration. The lady I offered the exercising machine to would then hand over the machine to her friend. Who in turn would then give it to her friend like passing the baton and I would be left fuming at myself and my wife would be having a hearty laugh. There were these tag teams that would form up husband-wife, friends–friends and sometimes the complete joint family with three generations. Alone you never stood a chance.

Seeing all the struggle and fight for the treadmill and the stepper the management came up with time restriction on occupying the machines. It was a maximum of 15 minutes. Pluck cards were put all over the gym, on the machines and on the register as well. But nothing seemed to work. People just wouldn’t let go of the machine once they got on. There is no semblance of order, in waiting ones turn.

I try to be disciplined and only end up being taken advantage of. Enough was enough I decided to finally join the war. Not that I had not much of choice, with my wife constantly nagging me that people were taking me for granted. My niceness and politeness was being seen as a sign of cowardness. If you tried to be an officer and a gentleman you stood no chance of exercising. People didnt know that I was a Navy man and had seen action. You needed to be bullish to get your chance to walk the tread mill or ride the cycle or climb the stepper.


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