Monday, December 1, 2008

Signing up with a Gym as a Microcosm of What's Wrong With Me

So last week I joined a gym. First time ever. I've been eyeing this particular establishment for some time; they're right next to my office, many at America work out there (come see us!), and they have always a deal running. In fact, I've learned more about the fiction that is the retail sale by watching them than I would at any mall. The sign "Sale Ends This Week" never leaves their awning. Truly.

Which makes you wonder, who exactly are they targeting? If you live or work in the area, you know the sale hasn't ended, probably never will end, or more likely never began, you fool. Unless you get hoodwinked as soon as you come to the area -- oh my God, I better get my membership now! (you have to love marketing that creates a false sense of urgency) -- you're not coming. Or not for that reason, anyway.

So that leaves visitors or passersby. There are plenty of visitors in the Midtown area. Especially from now until January, Midtown sidewalks are usually stuffed with tourists walking their gentle way through the war zone which is the New York City sidewalk.

But that's another story.

The thing is, tourists don't need yearly gym memberships. So that leaves passersby, i.e. I live in Brooklyn, but wouldn't it be great to go to the gym in Midtown? Again, no sense this make does.

I guess I don't know who they're marketing for.

So, part of the membership is an opportunity to an "orientation" (read: sales pitch for a workout package) with a trainer. Which made me... nerrrvous. I've never worked with a trainer before, and the image of an oversculpted, head-shaved weightlifter (they all have their heads shaved) yelling at me to PUSH had something to do with it.

But mostly, it's because I didn't want to feel any pressure to buy something more. I was born without the retail vertebrae. In stores where I think the agents are going to ask me more than one question, I run, even though I might be interested in the merchandise. Likewise with a small shop, fuggedaboutit. I ain't goin in. I just don't want the conflict. Leave me alone, play some dance music that makes me replace whether I can afford what you're selling with a desire to get jiggy, and we'll all be happy.

So -- right up front I tell them, sure, I'll do the orientation, but I'm not buying a package of sessions. Fine. Look at me -- I'm tough.

Except I didn't want an orientation session. I want some aerobics classes, a treadmill and some other aerobic machines. That's it. But I'm sitting in this very small glass room, just me, the salesman, his desk (which blocks the way out), and eventually the trainer, "Rick". And the kid working with me asks, will I do the orientation? And somehow it seems rude, very rude to say no. As though he and I are friends -- he's just been kind enough to offer me something I don't really want, the only polite thing to do is to take it. (I'm not saying it ain't crazy. See blog title.)

Today I had that orientation. Sort of. It lasted about 3 minutes, beginning with me saying I don't do weights and ending with me calling the whole thing off when he asked me to do push-ups. (Grade school gym flashback -- not pretty.)

And the crazy thing, the thing that made me want to write it all up, was this -- later, after my workout, I came downstairs and ran into "Rick" and my trainer and another guy talking, laughing. And my trainer was all, "Hey, I told Rick you can come back for that orientation every time." And Rick was all, "Hey, buddy, what happened?" And for just an instant -- just an instant -- I felt the nub of what should have been that fully-grown vertebrae, straightening out my back just a fraction, and I looked at Rick, said, "Didn't want to do it" and went in, victorious, to take my shower.

It was my Hoosiers moment. My final steps should have been in slow mo.

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