Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Livin’ the Good Life

The greeter at the gym actually called me “fresh meat.”

Then, before I could ask for the membership rates, I was whisked off to the far regions of the gym. I found myself sitting in a dark corner across from Karen, my gym introductress.

She handed me a book and told me it was mine to keep, just for coming into the gym.

On the cover of the book was a terrifying photograph of what appeared to be an 80-year-old man doing a push up. His smiled like a Cheshire cat and his teeth gleamed iridescent blue/white. He had those botoxy expressionless eyes that made him look like a cross between Chucky and a wax figurine.

“What is this?” I asked.

“Oh,” swooned Karen, who tilted her head and caressed the cover, “that’s the founder of our gym. This gym is not just a gym. It is a lifestyle. This book will introduce you to that way of life. It’s kind of, like, inspiring.”

Sorry to digress, but is it even possible to buy a product or service without purchasing a lifestyle? In Naomi Klein’s book No Logo she discusses the Starbucks phenomenon and quotes the CEO as admitting (actually boasting) that their coffee is no better than any other coffee on the market. We pay a premium at Starbucks, so he argues, because we are buying our own little piece of Starbucks lifestyle. (I must admit, it is a lifestyle that I have bought into in a big way).

“Um, no thanks. I mean, I’m sure it is a great book, but I have lots of reading to do for work and..”

Karen’s face flushed momentarily with hurt, “Suit yourself.” And she grabbed the book from the table and ceremoniously placed it under the giant clip of her clipboard.

Tour time.

Karen paraded me around the gym in a mechanical way. She seemed to have a personal anecdote for every machine along the way. Most of her stories began like this:

“I remember, when I was like you, first starting out and I had never used machine X…”

I was beginning to wonder whether Karen herself was a machine.

I asked Karen if we could just skip the equipment and head to the group exercise facility.

“I don’t really like exercise machines. They kind of freak me out,” I told her

“Freak you out?” I could see that this comment had thrown Karen into a state of severe cognitive dissonance. Her robo-mind could not retrieve the Gym-endorsed response:

100 Print = “this is our state-of-the-art thigh master”
200 If n$ = I use thigh masters, goto 400
300 If n$ = I don’t use thigh masters, goto 500
400 Print = “I remember when I was starting out on the thigh master..”
500 Print = “I remember when I didn’t use the thigh master”
n$ = “I don’t like machines, they freak me out”
Output = Does not compute, terminal error, reboot

[Yes, as a nerdy child I dabbled in Basic programming. I mainly programmed ‘choose your own adventure’ games. Then my parents discovered I was writing an erotic choose your own adventure game and cut me off]

But gyms are scary places. I see thirty people running on treadmills in The “Cardio Theatre,” silently sweating to CNN news, and I can’t help thinking about how bizarre and unnatural it is. We’ve evolved to the level where many of us can refrain from any form of physical exertion during the day, and then we rely on machines to relieve us from our sedentary lifestyles.

I wonder whether it would be possible to harness all that energy that we expend on exercise machines and use it to generate electricity. Screw the new nuclear plants, let’s get the Bay St. elite to power our computers!

Finally, Karen was ready to talk about rates.

Now I know this particular gym gives out weekly trial passes. But they only give them out as a last-resort sales technique. Karen was not going to give one up without a fight. She wanted to close.

Thus began our verbal sparring:

Karen: So if you are ready to sign up, I’ll just start processing your details
Nadine: Actually, I think I need a bit of time to think about it. Can I try a class or something?
Karen: Well sure. Actually, if you sign up today you have ten days to change your mind, so you can try all the classes you want for 10 days.
Nadine: Oh, like a cooling off period?
Karen: Well, we like to call it a “comfort period”
Nadine: Well, I’m still thinking of checking out another gym nearby
Karen: You know, I remember when I was like you, looking for a gym….
Nadine: Karen, maybe I should just come back later
Karen: You know, you owe it to yourself to start today

Just before Karen and I went into full-out BodyCombatTM, something strange happened. Karen somehow figured out that she knew my mom, who had taught her graphic design in college. Suddenly, Karen’s hard sales persona melted away and we began discussing her dreams of pursuing a career in advertising.

She confided in me, her face for the first time showing signs of humanly emotion, that she found this job so exhausting that she was devoid of any creative energy when she got home at night and was having trouble building up her portfolio. Karen gave a furtive glance towards her director’s office, said under her breath, “oh, what the hell,” and quickly wrote me up a one-week pass, and ushered me out the door.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:04 AM  
Blogger Rye said...

A bot camp post under a post about boot camp. Will the computer metaphors ever cease?

I think people take pride in performing their jobs well. In defense of hapless sales lady, it's hard to initiate personal relationships until the other side finds some relatable tract. At times I have slipped into happy robot mode because it seems the most effective way to properly perform the sales function.


9:13 AM  
Blogger Nadine said...

That's a fair comment and I agree. But my problem with gyms is not with their sales people but with the fact that they are such well-oiled and rigid machines, their front people have no discretion in what they can offer or how it is presented.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that your 'introductress' was just trying to get the sale without any real consideration of why you were there. Had you felt that she was trying to figure out how the gym could fulfill your needs instead of just trying to get you to commit to signing up, you would have been more receptive to her efforts. Luckily you were both able to establish a point of genuine human contact!
PS Love the Basic programming bit.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm sorry. i'm having a tough time with this one. um .. a really rough time.

*$ coffee is "no better than any other coffee on the market"? who thinks these crazy things?


7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think everyone is missing the point here... you wrote an erotic choose your own adventure story?? can that please be your next post??? keep them coming, i'm really enjoying your honesty and humour.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're really getting into the whole writing thing, because I liked this blog a lot more than the first one (which I also liked!). When I checked out a Good Life near my home, I had almost an identical experience (minus the programming part), which supports your assertion that they are well-oiled and rigid. I admire your ability to turn that experience into such an entertaining story!

7:17 PM  
Blogger Nadine said...

Anonymous friends,
Thanks very much for commenting! I will try not to let this blog fall to the same fate as my career in aerobics instruction, hobby in b&w photography, or co-president role in the brunch club (which I plan to resurrect!). However, my interest in basic programming of erotic choose-your-own adventure stories is one interest better left in the 80s. Nadine

8:30 AM  

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