Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Health Club Horrors

What Naked Men Shouldn't do in the Locker Room

The wife barked in her typically angry, unhappy and deeply troubled voice:

“Why don’t you go to the gym? You’re getting fat. You stink from being lazy. You good-for-nothing slob. It’s a Saturday, and you’re just sitting around vegetating.”

“You lie! I’m not vegetating,” I rumbled with the anger that flashes when I’m falsely accused. “I’m drinking a 12-pack, smoking cigars and staring blankly into space.”

“And what do you call that?” she snarled with a triumphant indignation.

“Enjoying my Saturday morning.”

“Why don’t you just go to the gym?”

“I can’t. It’s not my type of place. I can’t be happy there.”

“Why not?”

“Because they don’t serve beer.”

It’s true. I became deeply distrustful of gyms after the first time I went to one and was thrown out when I yanked a couple of cold ones from my gym bag and popped them open.

It wasn’t what I was used to, and certainly not what I was taught. All the sporting events and athletic competitions that my dad and uncles took us to as kids involved heavy beer drinking and athletes with big beer bellies. After every roll of the bowling ball, Uncle Frank would drain a Bud, a Hamms, a Pabst and a Schlitz. He never bowled more than 73, but neither did anyone else on his or the opposing team.

Frank was a rigorous competitor who bowled five or six games every Saturday afternoon, and he had the belly to prove it.

Uncle Stan, who drank even more than Frank, said those bowling and drinking marathons helped get him in shape for his home and married life. When he arrived home after an afternoon or evening of strenuous competition he passed out and never had to listen to his wife yelp about what a worthless drunk he was. Before he died, Stan proudly and happily recalled that because of his ability on the lanes he remembered only 12 days of his 63-year marriage.

But it’s not because of their misguided aversion to beer and other adult beverages that I stopped going to gyms. Hell, I could load up on Falstaff or Schlitz before going in and plopping myself down on the couch in the lobby and watching sports on their wide-screen TVs.

No. I stopped going because gyms, or clubs, as they’re now called, are loaded with creeps, misfits and jerks who really shouldn’t call themselves men and who should be drummed out of the human race.

What would you call a guy who stands naked in front of a locker room mirror and lotions himself up in full view of other guys? Frank and Stan would have called the cops. But nowadays, other men smile benignly at this sight and pretend there’s nothing wrong with it.

Go into the steam room, where it’s always more than 100 degrees, and some inconsiderate jerk is hosing down the thermostat so that the steam comes on and makes it incredibly and unbearably hot! I don’t mind a little steam, but if I wanted to be scalded I’d build a time machine, put myself on a 1850s Mississippi River steam boat, stand next to the boiler and wait for it to explode.

Same thing with the sauna. I go in to sweat for 10 minutes, not to bake like a rotisserie chicken. I set the thermostat at 190 degrees and wait for the beer to slowly leak out of my pores. But then another inconsiderate jerk, who can see that there’s someone already in the sauna and who has already set the temperature, waddles up, turns the thing up to 230, and plops his fat, buttery butt down, and then stays for 30 seconds because it’s too damn hot!

And then there’s the women in the sauna. Everyone knows that you’re supposed to go topless in a sauna, that you’re required to let those beads of sweat roll down your glistening, heaving body and caress every last crevice and crease of your smooth, silky, forbidden skin. But I’ve yet to see one babe do the sauna the right way. Does anybody know anything about proper gym etiquette?

The main reason I no longer go to gyms, though, is that I was traumatized in one about a year ago. In the locker room were the usual fat men shaving naked in front of the mirror, and hairy-chested guys happily slathering themselves with lotion.

One guy, though, decided to use the blow-dryer that was permanently attached to the wall. As usual, he was shirtless, sockless, pantless and underwearless. I knew right away that he needed a good tailor, and I was about to recommend one, when he yanked the blow-dryer out of its wall mount, clicked it on and began directing that warm, soothing air at his thick mane.

It was all smiles, pleasure and heaven-on-earth for him as he put that dryer ever so close to his dark, curly locks. He weaved that dryer in and out and all along his hairline, making sure that every strand was dry, fluffy and coiffed to perfection. When it seemed that all was done and dried and fluffed to a degree that would get him a job as a TV news anchor, he started all over again.

This time there was no doubt that this was a man who was experiencing solid enjoyment.

And then it hit me. He wasn’t blow-drying the hair on his scalp, nor the hair in his armpits. No! He had gone much lower than that. He was coiffing the hair on his crotch!

I fled, guzzled several warm Buds that I had stashed in the trunk, and drove away, never to return.

So when the wife shrieked again, “Why don’t you just go to the gym?” I told her:

“Because the last time I was there I saw a guy blow-drying his crotch.”

She stumbled backwards, nearly fainted, and then strengthened and said:

“I’m out of here!”

“Where you going?” I demanded.

“To the store.”

“For what?”

“To get you another 12-pack.”

I guess the gym ain’t so bad after all.

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