Sunday, November 21, 2010

Patience pays off

Years ago I belonged to a gym where several of Canada’s national rowing teams worked out. One afternoon one of the rowers was lifting a barbell with a lot of cast-iron weights stacked at each end. At the end of every lift, he had to set the barbell down and, contrary to standard gym etiquette, he was dropping them the last few inches. This made the weights clang together which is really noisy and unpleasant when it happens twelve times in a row, but what made my trapezius muscles climb right up my neck was that I knew it was going to start up again for his second set of twelve repetitions and again for his third.

So I asked one of the gym staff to “suggest” that he not drop his weights any more. She threw back her shoulders, raised her chin, marched over and made the request.

From the top of his six-foot four frame, he looked down at her five-foot one.

In the patient tone we reserve for children and idiots, he explained, “But it’s really heavy.”

I didn’t say anything because I was taught that patience is a virtue and nice girls don’t make scenes in public, but it just about killed me because for once I actually had a good comeback.

If it’s too heavy for you, I thought, maybe you shouldn’t be lifting it.

Fast forward to last week. Different gym. A middle-aged guy in the freeweight area was lifting a barbell with a lot of weights stacked on each end and then dropping them. Every. Single. Time.

I was up on the mezzanine and the noise of crashing metal ricocheted off the metal walls and pierced my eardrums like a skewer. Every. Single. Time.

After he finished a set, I opened my eyes and unclenched my shoulders, but I knew it was going to start again in a couple of minutes. This time there was no staff on duty to run interference for me, so I either had to go home or act like a big girl and ask him to stop.

I trotted down the stairs and crossed the floor.

As soon as I could make him notice me standing beside him, I said, “Excuse me. When you drop your weights, the noise reverberates through the whole gym and really hurts my ears.”

“Too bad,” he said, then as he turned to walk away, he tossed over his shoulder, “That’s the way it is.”

I don’t think my jaw hung open for more than a second or two before my brain delivered.

“Maybe you shouldn’t try to lift it,” I called to his mossy back, “if it’s too heavy for you.”

I think I blew a bunch of karma points, but it sure felt good.


  1. Ah, the age of ME! It used to drive me crazy when my mother said "what would the neighbours think" but I'm nudging closer to her world view. Consideration for our neighbours us a worthy value that has fallen by the way in our modern, narcisstic age.

  2. I sort of expect self-absorption in children and adolescents because they're so busy learning about themselves they sometimes seem to forget that the rest of us are real, but I would have hoped that by the weightlifter's age he would recognize that the rest of us are just as important as he is.

    The Golden Rule has many different names, but for me what it boils down to is basic consideration, as you say, Alice.

  3. Wow! Most of the time, I think of a snazzy comment two days later.
    Good for you for saying what you were truly thinking.

  4. I'm with you, Jodie, thinking of the great comeback two days later. That's why I was so thrilled that I'd saved this one and could deliver it right on cue.

    I'd so love to be one of those people with the perfect witty response always at the tip of my tongue!

  5. Right on Rachel. I'm always 2 days late, but I
    now store some of my comebacks in the back of my mind. I have used a few of them.

  6. Now if only I could be sure my memory would serve up the right zinger at the right time…