Suburbanites are so opposed to being seen on the streets of their neighbourhood that instead of taking their recreational exercise outdoors, they pay for the privilege of going to specially enclosed indoor day camps filled with torture instruments that make them grimace and sweat while at the same time deluding them they’re going to live longer. Otherwise known as the gym.
There are certain rules at the gym. The main rule is: don’t look at anybody, you pervert. Even though gyms are about as sexy as bank managers. Because although everyone’s striving for the perfect body, it’s all about the journey – none of us have got there yet, and most of us never will. If we had, we’d be living in California showing it off, not suburban DC with its cold, grey winters and close, clammy summers that last from May until October.
Second rule: don’t talk to anybody, except to grunt when asking if you can ‘work in’ with them on a torture machine. When grunting, don’t look them in the eye. Usually when someone talks to me and makes a vague gesture, I’m listening to my iPod and have to take the earphones out to ask them to repeat themselves, which makes them irritable. What else would they have been asking other than if they could ‘work in’, stupid? Do you always sweat like a bison? Do you really think this is ultimately going to enhance your sex appeal? The only time I talked to anyone was to tell a genial old bloke how much I liked his t-shirt, which showed Bush and Cheney above the caption: Meet The Fuckers.
But there’s no room for politics at the gym (just like everywhere else), which brings me to rule three: talk sports in the locker room. When you get the lunchtime jock crowd, rushing in for an hour of pumping and heaving between manly business deals, they use those five minutes of changing time to talk about last night’s game, usually to complete strangers, the assumption being that if you’re in a gym locker room then you’ll know all about last night’s game. There’s always been a game the night before, somewhere, in some sport, so it’s easy to bluff along. “Yeah, amazing play,” you can venture. “What a finish.” “Can’t wait for the playoffs.” “He came out of Duke, right?” “But thinking about it, what a supremely pointless waste of fucking time for all concerned.” Careful with the last one, though.
Final rule: use as much energy as possible, and not necessarily your own energy. Until we’ve burnt every last atom of available fossil fuel, it is our duty as human beings to exhaust our dwindling supplies in line with the President’s attitude on climate change – which is, we don’t give a fuck because the energy crisis is going to be a problem for the next generation, not mine. Yesterday I was on an exercise bike behind a woman walking on a step machine. Not only was the apparatus using electricity to aid her stationary perambulation, but she was on her mobile phone for 25 minutes, and watching the TV screen attached to the front of the machine too. That’s three sources of energy wastage while doing a simple activity – walking – that she could have done on the street outside, for free.
Which begs the question why I wasn’t out on a real bike instead of sitting on one fixed to the floor of the gym sneering at soccer moms on step machines. But if you ask such questions, you don’t understand the nature of suburbia. I’m no rebel. I’m just keeping a low profile out here, abiding by the rules, and keeping the streets free so cars can drive faster.