On the heels of my last post about gym experiences, today I bring you another short story from my gym going days, which is also a chapter in my new book Gym Wind, Indecent Exposure, and Other Short Stories available for download on Amazon.com.
“A Cast of Characters”
Do you ever give people that you have never met before nicknames? I think we all do to some degree, maybe not completely formal names, but we tend to put labels on those we run across. Easy ones are The Mailman, The Yard Guy, The UPS Guy, The Paper Boy, The Weather Man, etc. I have also had some less-traditional ones around town: Graveyard Gas Station Girl (not to be confused with Swing Shift Gas Station Girl), Taco Guy, Lunch Truck Dude, and Hot Dog Lady to name a few. These are all essentially names I have given to those whose names I would not normally bother to ask. The gym floor is no different. In my early gym years I had quite the cast of characters that I would encounter.
This chapter is a collection and description of 3 different people I came across in the gym as a teenager. I encountered each one on different days, but each one I would see regularly during my workout sessions with my workout partner Ryan. I was seventeen at the time, living with my parents in a city called Temecula in Southern California.
There are a few different types of people you will run into at the gym; scratch that – there are a few different attitudes you will run into at the gym. Some are cool, and some are, well, let’s just call them not cool to keep it clean. The cool people make the gym a fun place to go spend an hour or two. They’ll give you a spot when you need one. They’ll provide just a little conversation in between sets of your exercises – just a little, the right amount – not a ramble that extends your rest time in-between sets to screw up your routine. They are not the know-it-all-types that blab and try to use big words to sound smart and be crowned King of the Gym. No, the Cool Guys will give you a quick, “How about them Lakers” and then let you get back to lifting. They’ll share equipment, rub yourshoulders, let you work-in, give you a drink from their water bottle, re-stack their weights, and they wipe down their equipment when they are done. This type of person and attitude is much appreciated to fellow gym goers. Kidding about the shoulder rub and water bottle.
Then there are the Not-cools, which can really be broken-down into sub categories like Bench Hogs, Blabbermouths, Non Re-stackers (people who leave weights lying around and should have their gym memberships revoked), and Non Wipers (people that leave a pool of sweat on a bench for you), for example.
The Cool Guys make the gym experience comfortable for new guys. Last year when I first started coming, 16-years-old and new to lifting weights, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, but some of the older Cool Guys would take the time to show me a thing or two.
So here I am today, 17 years old. I put on about 40 pounds of weight from last year, partly from working out and partly from experiencing a growth spurt. Today is back day for me. I begin my gym session with a little warm-up on the treadmill, then make my way to over to the weights. Dang it. I wanted to use the lat pull machine, but one is being worked on for maintenance and the other is occupied. I politely ask the guy on the working lat pull machine, “Hey bro, how many sets do you have left?”
“I don’t know – bro,” he says in get-out-of-here-kid tone, “maybe 7 or 8.”
7 or 8. Really? 7 or 8? Who in their right mind does 8 sets of the same freaking exercise after already completing God knows how many other sets? Bench Hog. Oh well, I’ll do some pull-ups to start. I head over to the pull up bar and see a towel on it, then quickly from the depths of the gym floor Back Man appears. “Hey, Glen, what are you working today?”
“Hey…” I suck at remembering names! – “I’m doing back today.” I played in Little League with Back Man’s kid when I was younger, and he introduced himself by his real name to me last year when I first started coming, but all I can think of when I see him is not John, Steve, or Harry, or whatever his real name is – it’s Back Man.
Back Man got his name because, you guessed it, his back is ripped. My workout partner (not with me today) and I gave him the name, unbeknownst to him, when we first saw him on the pull up bar. Dude has wings. And he’s not some bodybuilder either, just a really fit guy in his 40’s that can crank out a zillion pull ups. He is a medium-build man, about my size in bone structure, standing under 6 feet tall he’s not huge, just muscular. Often times at the gym he will be wearing a tank top and today was no exception. His skin is tan and hair is light, both of which are accentuated by years of exposure to California sunshine, I assume.
“You mind if I work in with you?” I ask.
“Sure, let me get my next set in, then you can jump in.” And that ladies and gentlemen is the perfect example of Cool Guy gym etiquette.
He jumps up and grabs the bar, then goes to town. Perfect form. One after the other. You can see the muscles on the side of his back working, and practically popping out of his skin. I am convinced that if, God forbid, Back Man were to die an autopsy could be done and we would find 37 new muscles in his back previously undiscovered by science. After a hundred pull ups or something – I lost count – he gets down. “Go for it,” he says.
I hop on and crank out 23. A measly 23.
“Nice job man. You’re getting good at those! Have you ever tried L’s?”
“Yeah, let me show you.” He gets back on the bar and positions his body as if he were sitting on the floor with his legs out in front of him and proceeds to do pull ups while his body is in an “L” shape. They. Look. Hard. “Give ‘em a try,” he says.
I give it a shot and do 7, and I’m sure my form was shot too.
“Ah, there you go, that’s something to work on. Those are hard, but keep doing them and you’ll have ‘em down in no time.”
“Yeah, those are tough man! I’ll keep trying.”
“Just remember to keep your core tight when you do them.”
We chat for 20 seconds or so, and as quick is he came, the Tanked Crusader is gone, off to conquer another back exercise. Back Man!
My workout partner Ryan and I are at the gym doing our normal thing: He does a set; I do a set; repeat. We finish up on the bench press and head over to the dumbbell section. “What are we doing now, decline dumbbells?” he suggestively asks as we make our way over to the dated, teal-blue-upholstered freestanding benches.
“Yeah, that sounds good. Why don’t we do that, and then…” – I suddenly lose my train of thought when I see her, then motion to Ryan with a head nod and eye roll. “Look who’s here.”
“Again? Dude, she is becoming a regular over here.”
She is Buttwoman. I don’t know if she is new to the gym or just new to the weight room area of the gym – a section of the gym, which is typically dominated by men, yet is perfectly acceptable and extremely beneficial for women to use. Anyway, at first glance you would not be taken-back by Buttwoman, she is just a gym goer in her late 40’s (I think) with a lean physique, and by all that looks can tell it seems like she takes care of herself. She has dark hair, about shoulder-length, which is tied up in a pony tail. She is average height. Caucasian by birth, but she has skin-tone that is a little overly tanned, probably from a tanning bed. Her typical clothing includes a tight-fitting athletic tank top with short workout shorts, none of which is revealing. At least not revealing at first glance.
I don’t know how else to describe it other than a long butt. Not really a big butt, just long. Any exercise that involves a slight lean – and I’m not even talking about deadlifts, or bent over rows, or anything – just the slightest bend and you can see cheeks. A slight lean when doing triceps extensions on a bench and the bottom of her butt is then exposed, hence her name. It’s one of those things that might go unnoticed until you see it; then you can’t unsee it – it sticks out like a sore thumb every time.
It’s not even a sexual thing. The lady is old enough to be my mom. And I guess in other circumstances it wouldn’t be a big deal when you consider at the beach you will find there are tons of women wearing bikinis, and even one-piece suits, that reveal a little butt cleavage, but at the gym you just don’t expect to see woman’s butt cheeks. Yet it still makes me chuckle, and I’m not laughing at her; not with her either because apparently she has no idea of the amount attention she is getting and the amount of red faces she is producing with her too-short shorts. I don’t know, maybe she does and the joke’s on me.
On the other hand, part of me feels embarrassed for her. Embarrassed to the point I almost want to let her know that gym attendees, both male and female, are getting lower gluteal cleavage shots each time she wears those shorts. Almost. How do you do that though? Have you ever seen a member of the opposite sex with booger in their nose and think, “Should I tell? Should I let her (or him) know?” I’ve had the booger thing happen to me, it’s slightly embarrassing, but once that secret is revealed it’s easy to dispel. The booger scenario goes a little something like this:
“Umm, hey, you got a little, uh…” as the hot stranger’s hand gestures toward the nose region.
“Oh, crap! How embarrassing.” Face starts to blush a little as I wipe a booger away.
“Yeah, uh, I’m sorry – I wouldn’t say anything, but…”
“No, no, no – it’s okay. Thanks. I’m glad you didn’t let me walk around for another hour like that.”
Only this is no booger. We’re talking butt here. How do you say, “Um, excuse me, ma’am, I don’t know if you know or if you feel a draft or anything, but we can see, uh, your buttocks?” And I have to assume that at some point the gym staff has taken notice as well. How as a gym manager do you engage in that conversation? “Ma’am, your shorts are a little too short, not too short for other gym members, it’s just the way your butt is shaped. Would you mind finding some new shorts?” I don’t think that would go over too well.
Ryan and I get on with our workout. As we are working out we can see guys in the near distance looking, gazing at the butt, all of them with “Is this for real?” looks on their faces. This became a regular occurrence.
After a couple of weeks it just became normal. She was no longer the elephant in the room, she was just Buttwoman – doing her thing, lifting weights, hitting a few of the machines, just like anyone would. I think all of the gym’s regulars became numb to the daily display of cleavage. Occasionally a new member would come in and get the butt show for the first time, and you would see the chuckles and whatnot, but overall Buttwoman was just one of us, unique in her own way.
My gym partner Ryan finishes his set on the decline chest press machine. Getting up he announces, “I’m going to go get a drink.”
I grab a couple of 10-pound weights to add to the plates stacked on the machine, before I begin my set. It’s about mid-workout and I have a nice burn going on in my pectoral muscles. We already blasted out sets of incline bench presses and cable flies, and we’re halfway through these sets of decline presses. Sitting down, I take a couple of quick breaths, try to draw up some adrenaline, do a zero-to-sixty-in-two-point-five-seconds mind psyche, and then push with the number eight in my head. One down. Then another. Three. Four, and it’s getting a little tougher now. Five. Six. Sevvvvven. Come on Glen! One more! Keep your form halfway decent and do this! (All the self-talk rambling in my head). Eight comes with a slight grunting exhale. Done. Whew.
I see Ryan about fifty feet away returning from the water fountain with a look on his face like he wants to burst out in laughter but can’t. He looked like he was about to cry. As he arrived back at the bench he was cracking up and I couldn’t help but smile along with him. “What? What’s so funny?”
“Oh my God,” he continues to crack up, “Go over to get a drink and see if you notice anything about the dude next to the ab equipment.”
“Just go man,” he says still laughing.
“Alright.” I head for the ab machines. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be looking for – what if there is more than one guy by the mats and ab equipment? I continue over, eyes wide open, and then in the distance I see just one guy, an older gray-haired gentleman. Still unsure of what exactly I am looking for, I get a little closer and, oh, there it is.
Let me first describe what this guy is wearing: A black t-shirt, basketball-style shorts, white socks, and Adidas tennis shoes. Only the basketball shorts are not your typical 90’s style shorts that come down to just above the knee. No, these are the late 70’s/early 80’s reissue that you would see Larry Bird and Magic Johnson wearing back in the day. And our friend here at the gym today purchased the shorts that are a size too small. Now, I’m not one to describe another man’s anatomy in detail, so I will leave you with one word: cucumber. That big. Thanks Ryan. That’s exactly what I needed to see right now.
So here we have one other character in the gym, Buttwoman being the other, that is wearing shorts that are probably not inappropriate for any average human being to wear to the gym, yet entirely inappropriate for the people wearing them. Unreal. Cucumber Man was over by the ab equipment, just stretching out and taking the “If You’ve Got it, Flaunt It” Rule to the next level. Freaking hilarious! Disturbing. Inappropriate. Still pretty funny to a 17-year-old kid (looking back as a dad, if my daughter attended that gym I probably would be pissed off).
Thinking about it, this is another gym manager’s nightmare. How do you approach a man in his 60’s and say, “Sir, could you please find some shorts that don’t quite show off your penis as much?” I don’t know how you would handle that.
Now, I’m trying not to laugh. I proceed to the water fountain with images in my head I can’t unsee. I take a detour, the long way back to the decline machine, to avoid seeing it again and completely losing it. As I return I am shaking my head at Ryan, laughing, as is he. “Thanks bro,” I say, “for sharing that with me.”
“Hey man, I didn’t want to leave you out.”
“Wow man, that was… yeah.”
“Yeah,” he replies nodding his head as to say ‘there is not much else you can say about that.’
After we collect ourselves and try to think of something else, anything else, we continue with our workout. We hop to one exercise, then another. To wrap up the chest workout we are going to do a few sets of push ups over on the mats by the simulated rock climbing wall. In the gym there is this open space with a few mats where you can do push ups, sit ups, some stretching, or whatever. We are there on the mats for just a minute, then guess who shows up to do some shadowboxing (of all things)? Yep. Cucumber Man. Why me?
He just starts throwing punches into the air. Jabs, crosses, uppercuts, and even what I think is supposed to be like shadowboxing a speed bag. As if this scene isn’t disturbing enough, the sounds he starts to make have a life of their own. It sounds like Lamaze breathing that laboring mothers do during childbirth, only on steroids. We’ve all heard the Lamaze pattern: A whisper-breathed he-he-hoo, he-he-hoo. In this case, each jab comes with the sound “he” (short e) and each hook or uppercut comes with the sound “hoo.” The rapid-fire jab with occasional uppercut punching combination is something special. “He-he-he-he-he-he-he-he-he… hoo… hoo.” Impressive. Now he slows down a bit and breaks into the straight Lamaze combo: jab, jab, hook (he-he-hoo), jab, jab, hook (he-he-hoo).
So, standing there on the mats, just me, my workout partner, and a guy with comical enormity below his beltline doing Lamaze shadow boxing, I come to a conclusion: No push ups today. I’m going home.
To get this story and 4 others on your Kindle or Kindle reading app, CLICK HERE to download and have some more laughs at my expense.
P.S. No gym required for this workout here, just 30 minutes a day: