Doing the Polite Thing

I am not a “gym rat.”

In fact, I might be the opposite—a “foot cat,” perhaps? I’ve never enjoyed being indoors, wearing cute yoga clothes, or showering and redoing my hair everyday. That all sounds tremendously repetitive, which I don’t endure well.

Alas, it’s winter and this insomniac can’t sleep unless exhausted. So I did something I haven’t done in 4.5 years: You guessed it… I joined a gym.

Now, as a novice to this whole healthy living thing, I was a wee bit nervous on my first visit. There are rules to every social sphere in life—and I knew the gym world of New York City would be no different. Should I pack a workout bag, or could I stuff the necessities in my trusty purse? Did I need to buy a lock, or would they sell them there?

“It’s polite to use a towel,” my boyfriend had gently reminded me the day before.
I scrunched up my nose. “Why do I need a towel?”
“Because, you know… if you sweat, you’re supposed to clean off the machines. And it says online that this gym doesn’t have a towel service.”

(I wanted to ask him, “How hard do you think I’ll be working out?” But I refrained, knowing that he too was only trying to be, well, polite.)

Bring a towel, bring a towel… His words echoed in my mind as I haphazardly packed my first-ever exercise duffle. I didn’t have a proper “gym towel,” so I ran with the second best option and grabbed a rainbow plaid dishtowel instead.

That’ll do, I thought as I locked up and headed forth on my grand adventure to the land of ellipticals and protein shakes!

The sign-in process and locker room hustle went off without a hitch. My gym wasn’t too crowded so I quickly jumped onto a machine, and did that thing gym rats do, dishtowel in hand.

Call it paranoia but I began to notice a few people looking in my direction. Was I doing something wrong? Was my dishtowel offensive? Mildly embarrassed, I shoved the plaid cloth into the cup holder of my machine and finished up a decent work out.

As I repined my hair in the locker room post-run, a woman about my age approached me. “Sorry, but there’s no toilet paper in this stall,” she said, looking at me expectantly.

I don’t mind passing toilet paper between stalls, or even walking some over to a helpless person who’s mid-squat and sh*t out of luck (pun, intended). But I couldn’t fathom why this chick would specifically ask me for toilet paper when she had two perfectly good legs.

“Uh… Well I see some in that stall,” I said, pointing.
“Oh! You don’t work here?” she asked.
“Ha, nope. Sorry.”  

After she apologized, I continued looking in the mirror for a second, wondering what she saw in me that screamed “gym employee.” I by no means look like a trainer (and I was still holding that blasted dishtowel).

But as I turned to go, I saw the reason.
I knew why she thought I worked at Blink Fitness.

Across my back read the words “STAFF” in big, white letters. The t-shirt was a relic from my camp counselor days—and the exact same color as the employees’ shirts. This locker room revelation also explained why people were starring at me on the elliptical...

Life suddenly seemed a little less confusing.
I should have thanked TP girl.

So here’s what I learned on my first visit to the gym:
1) Don’t wear a shirt that says “STAFF” on it.
2) Dishtowels are only moderately acceptable.
3) If you DO bring a dishtowel, you need to own it. Be proud!
4) On second thought, maybe just buy a gym towel.
5) Or, ask your friends to steal you a gym towel from a fancier gym... #BOOM

Yes, it actually says, "Flex that smile."