Sunday, April 19, 2009

Do You Have "A Spot"?

Having been a while since anything really strange has happened to me at the gym (side note: the man who used to walk the track swinging his arms wildly as if in a cloud of gnats has seemingly disappeared. But don’t worry, the girl who lines up her stuffed animals facing her yoga mat is still with us.) so it was about time for a gym adventure. I just never thought that it would end up with an elderly man laying in my lap. But that’s the fun thing about gym adventures - you never know what’s coming next!

One fine warmish day of late, the Gym Buddies and I were sitting and stretching (read: gabbing with one leg extended in a haphazard fashion) in the stretching area when suddenly a mat was thrown down nearly on top of me. Then, just as quickly, an old man came crashing down on top of it. Or rather, on top of my leg. Contrary to what you are imagining, he did not have a stroke or trip and take a header into the floor but rather his moves were very deliberate. For some reason, despite an abundance of open space all around me, he had decided that the exact square of carpet I was inhabiting ought to be shared. With him.

Well, I’m a sharing kind of girl and also one who is easily amused and so, after a pantomimed chuckle for the Gym Buddies, I looked down and the age-spotted face that was now cheek-to-thigh with me and said, “Why hello, sir.”

Not even meeting my eyes, he harrumphed. You know, like you do when someone butts in line at the returns counter at Wal-Mart the day after Christmas and you’re not sure if they realize they’ve just done something terribly rude or if they really think the rest of you are just hanging around in the general vicinity for fun? His response made it clear to me that this was no friendly Hug-Your-Elders Day request. No, it slowly dawned on me that I had committed one of the cardinal Gym Sins. I had *gasp* taken his spot.

Unmoved - literally - by my giggles, he commenced do some ab exercises that appeared to work everything except his abdominal muscles. There was a lot of grunting, sweating, and - yes - nose hair going on. At last I said dryly, “I’ll just move out of your way, then.”

“About time,” he growled, the first and last words he condescended to speak to me.

The Gym Buddies and I all picked up and relocated about 3 feet to the north and recommenced chatting punctuated by rogue laughter, especially when Gym Buddy Krista offered to let me sit on her lap instead.

The whole experience got me thinking. I’ve run afoul of The Spot issue in the past when I accidentally stood in someone’s spot in Turbokick and paid the price - a problem I have since rememdied by standing right up front and center where not only can I watch my own sweat splatter the mirror but I also avoid most of The Spot drama. (Also, I firmly believe I get a better workout in the front - that much easier to feed off the instructor’s energy like the little leech I am.) However, I am not locked into my front-and-center position. If I get to class late and the room is crowded, I’ll just stay in the back. Or if one side is overly crowded, I’ll run over to the other side just to help maintain cosmic aerobic equilibrium. I’ve even been known to switch spots in the middle of a class, most recently when a man behind me wanted to try out the front row and I was happy to oblige.

However, humans are creatures of habit. Even with all my deliberate flexibility, all things being equal, more often than not I end up in the same general vicinity of hardwood. It doesn’t bother me to not be there and yet if nothing impedes me, I’ll often end up there. I first noticed this phenomenon when I taught college. Even though my students were long out of high school (some longer than others), they still sat in the exact same seats every class just as if I’d made a seating chart. I once made them get up and spontaneously rearrange - I was trying to wake them up and also, I admit, I wanted an excuse to call out “Grab your gal and do-si-do!” - and you would have thought I’d asked them to reenact the entirety of Waiting for Godot.

And lest you weight lifters or cardio machiners are feeling superior, the phenomenon is well documented by the “That’s my weight bench” lifter or the “But that’s my regular machine!” ellipticizer. The trick, of course, is what you do if someone takes your Spot/Bench/Machine.

So now I’m curious: Do you have A Spot? Do you get upset if someone takes your Spot? Will you lay in a stranger’s lap in an effort to get them to move out of your Spot? Would you move if someone said you were in their Spot?