My new gym might be new for me, but it's growing old for many other people. There is this Mile Swimmers club at my gym. There is a giant board where you're supposed to move up your marker every time you swim a mile. Once you reach 25, you write something like, "Add 25+ to Walter Cherepinsky" and then they put a "25+" (and eventually "50+", "75+," "100+," etc.) sticker on your marker.
The purpose of this? I was informed by my lifeguard friend that people are given prizes for reaching certain goals.
"At 100 miles, you get a free t-shirt. At 250 miles, you get a free massage. And at 500 miles, you get a free month's membership," I recall him saying when I first joined.
This was so great. The massage would be awesome because I have severe back spasms - seriously, my entire back pulsates if you press down on it - and Awesome Girl Who Loves Football is too far away at college for me to force her to massage my back. And as for the free t-shirt, I'm so lazy about doing laundry that I'll have my mom and sister buy new clothes for me just so I don't have to do it. A free t-shirt would buy me an extra day. I absolutely had to have this free t-shirt.
This Mile Swimmers club helped encourage me to keep coming. The free t-shirt and massage were great enough, but increasing my mileage total was also motivational. I liked seeing my number rise each time.
Unfortunately, the Mile Swimmers club turned out to be a giant farce. About a year ago, when I was at 99 miles and finished one more to reach 100, I proudly wrote, "Add 25+ to Walter Cherepinsky! I'm at 100 miles!" I was so happy with myself. I expected confetti to drop from the ceiling the next time I scanned my gym ID. But that didn't happen. And even worse, I didn't receive my free t-shirt, which meant that I had to do my laundry on time. Can you imagine how horrible that was for me?
I was closing in on 225 miles around Thanksgiving. I reached the end of the board, and as usual, I asked to add "25+" to my total. No one has changed my sticker since. It still reads "200+" - even though I'm currently around 270 miles. I didn't receive my massage, and as a result, my back is spazzing out more than ever.
If you're wondering, yes, I tried writing that down again. Nothing has changed. It's not working for anyone else in the Mile Swimmers club either. In fact, someone wrote on the board, "Bye to what used to be a great gym!"
The members of the Mile Swimmers club aren't the only ones enraged by what's been going down at my new gym. An older guy who swims there stopped me one day and said that he's never seen the gym emptier than it's been lately in the 10-plus years he's been going there. His main beef with the place was that they removed the old hot tub, promised a new hot tub and then reneged on that plan.
"Everyone used to love going into that hot tub! In fact, people used to just come into the gym just to use the hot tub, and now it's gone!" he shouted incoherently. "They said there'd be a new hot tub, but all they've had there are f***ing plants. F***ing plants! No one likes f***ing plants!"
I excused myself before I'd be obligated to call an ambulance for this guy's impending heart attack. I completely understood where he was coming from though. I loved going into the hot tub after swimming a mile. Sometimes my friend Body Burner and I skipped half the mile and went into the hot tub together. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The guys in charge of the new gym tore down the old hot tub because the pipes were broken, or something. They hung up fliers promising this cool, new, hi-tech hot tub. One day, however, they took the fliers down, and they placed a bunch of plants where it used to be. Because having a garden near the swimming pool makes so much sense.
Just thinking about this made me sad. I had such great hot tub adventures, as I chronicled in the Hot Tub Etiquette entry. Now it feels like there was no purpose to writing those rules. It was a waste of time - pretty much just as futile as the Mile Swimmers club.
I guess the one redeeming quality about my new gym is that I can easily find jerks to write about. I mean, there are jerks everywhere, but being pissed off at the lack of a hot tub and the broken promise of a free t-shirt heightens my jerk-sensing ability.
1. Inconsiderate Brats:
I almost forgot to vent about this: Something else that angers me about the new gym is how cold the pool gets sometimes. I've mentioned this before, but I refuse to go into water that's 80 or colder. I'm a fat man, so you'd think my blubber would protect me from freezing temperatures, but that's not the case for some reason. In fact, I'm more sensitive than most to the cold.
It's so bad that I just leave the gym upon checking the temperature sometimes. I might stay and chat with the lifeguard, but I usually just angrily walk out, texting Awesome Girl Who Loves Football something like, "It's 80 again ugh I'm too old and fat to put up with this!"
An alternative to leaving is swimming in the therapy pool. That's usually heated to 88 degrees. Eighty-eight usually tires me out pretty quickly, but I'd much rather swim in that rather than icy-cold 80 degrees. The problem with using the therapy pool is that it sometimes tends to be too crowded by old and/or fat women. It's not designed for lap swimming, so going in there when there are more than four old and/or fat women is pretty futile.
I lucked out one Monday night. The pool was 78 for some reason, but the therapy pool was completely empty. So, after getting changed, I plopped in and began swimming. I was about three-quarters through my mile when the kids from the Smelly Swim Coach's practice jumped into the therapy pool. They were done with their swimming lessons, so they wanted to have some fun in a warm pool with a beach ball they brought with them.
I moved to the outer edge of the therapy pool so they could play. As long as they didn't bother me, I wouldn't care. However, most of these kids were Russians, and as I've written many times, Russians are the most inconsiderate people on the planet. I was pretty confident that these kids would get in my way - and sure enough, I was right.
These damn brats were swatting the beach ball around in the air. It naturally moved to where I was going, so they, of course, followed it. They soon all gathered around my swimming path. I had to swerve around them just to avoid them. I figured there was a chance they'd get the message and move out of my way after retrieving the beach ball, but that was definitely not the case. They just continued to get in my way.
I was so angry about this. There was a kid right ahead of me on one of my laps. I was so fed up with everything that I was not going to veer out of my path. If this a**hole didn't move, I was going to crash right into him. I got closer and closer, and he didn't move, and, WHACK! My arm, in its freestyle motion, whacked him in the face. I stood up and yelled, "Get the f*** out of my way!"
The kid started crying, but this made me happy. The lifeguard took notice and approached the therapy pool. Here we go, I thought. The kid was in my way so I had to hit him, and the lifeguard is going to make me out to be the bad guy!
I was wrong. "Hey, you kids!" the lifeguard screamed. "Get out of his way so he can swim!"
That was when I realized I wanted this guy to be my best friend. The brats moved aside, and I was able to complete my mile in peace. After I was done, I went to talk to the lifeguard.
Me: Hey man, thanks for yelling at those kids.
Lifeguard: No problem! I hate those damn kids.
Me: Ugh, me too. This gym would be so much better without them.
Lifeguard: Yeah, really. If they got rid of them and brought the hot tub back, that would be perfect.
Wow. Even the employees are frustrated with my new gym. I guess I can't say I'm surprised.
2. The No Friend Zone:
It's rare to see children at the pool who are not associated with Smelly Swim Coach's practices. In fact, there's usually only one - and it's a kid I like to call the No Friend Zone.
I feel bad for the No Friend Zone - because, as his moniker may suggest, he has no friends. He's a chubby Indian kid (about 11 years old) who always has a sullen expression on his face. He sits on the pool steps with a t-shirt on and almost never goes in. Despite this, his dad, a man I like to call Owl Face Man (because he looks like an owl), stares him down intensely.
Owl Face Man is the meanest-looking human being I've ever seen. He stood by the wall in the gym hallway once, glaring angrily into space. As I approached him, he shifted his focus to me. I nodded my head to say hello, but all he did was continue to scowl menacingly at me.
I used to think Owl Face Man stared intently at his son because he was concerned about his kid's well-being, but that apparently is not the case. One day, the No Friend Zone came to the pool with his mom. Instead of sitting on the steps and looking super sad, he gleefully jumped into the pool. The mom, who had an afro, just read a book on the bench the entire time. It didn't seem like she gave a crap about what her son did.
It was at that point that I had a good picture of what a regular conversation in their household was like.
The No Friend Zone: Dad, can I go to the park so I can meet new friends?
Owl Face Man: NO YOU MUST STUDY SO YOU CAN BECOME A DOCTOR AT THE AGE OF 14!
The No Friend Zone: But I want to make friends, dad.
Owl Face Man: FRIENDS WILL NOT HELP YOU BECOME A DOCTOR AT THE AGE OF 14!
The No Friend Zone: But I already read the textbooks you gave me. All 45 of them.
Owl Face Man: GOOD, AS A REWARD, I WILL GIVE YOU MORE TEXTBOOKS TO READ! IN THE MEANTIME, I WILL TAKE YOU SWIMMING, BUT YOU MAY NOT LEAVE THE POOL STEPS!
On the bright side, the No Friend Zone will be able to move out of his parents' house once he's earning a doctor's salary at the age of 14.
3. The Secret Hot Tub:
The pool was about 81 a couple of weeks ago. That's still cold for me, but I hadn't exercised in a while, and I was also stressed out, so I decided to go in. I was about halfway through my mile when I noticed that two hot girls wearing bikinis were about to jump into the pool. This was a pretty rare sight.
One of the girls, who was wearing a light-blue bikini hopped in. I heard her yell that it was cold, and she immediately got out. When I finished my next lap, both she and her friend were gone. They couldn't go into the therapy pool because there were dozens of fat women bobbing up and down in a water aerobics class. They probably would have taken a dip in the hot tub, but that no longer exists. So, they just went to get changed, to the utter disappointment of every male in the pool at that moment.
Oh, and to my lifeguard friend as well. I went to say bye to him after I finished my mile. I did not expect to have a mind-blowing conversation with him that would change my entire life.
Me: I'm heading out. I'll see ya.
Lifeguard Friend: See ya. I wish I could leave too, but I'm stuck here another three hours.
Me: That sucks.
Lifeguard Friend: Tell me about it. It'd be nice if those girls stuck around.
Me: You know, they probably would have if there was still a hot tub here.
Lifeguard Friend: Yeah, that's definitely true.
Me: Ugh, I wish they had a hot tub. I miss being in one.
Lifeguard Friend: Well... why don't you just use the hot tub in the locker room?
Me: Wait, what?
Lifeguard Friend: There's a hot tub in the men's locker room.
Me: What? Where? I didn't see one in there.
Lifeguard Friend: I'm not talking about the pool locker room. There's a men's locker room on the other side of the building. There's a hot tub in there.
Wow. I couldn't believe my ears. I gathered my belongings and walked to the other side of the building. I located this abandoned men's locker room and wandered around, and sure enough, there was a hot tub.
This hot tub looked like it hadn't been used in years. The water was a shade of green, and it sounded like there was water leaking somewhere, but I didn't hesitate. I climbed right in and relaxed in the warm water.
It felt great. I was in heaven. For a brief moment, I didn't even care that this gym gypped me out of a free t-shirt.