I Am The Cranky Old Man at the Gym

We’re in what has to be day 9,999,999 of absolutely horrendously hot weather, so I’m doing all of my exercise indoors. “All of my exercise” means walking on the track at the gym four times this month, plus swimming once. But no worries.

The track, like countless others, alternates days for clockwise and counter-clockwise motion. When I arrived today, five other users were going clockwise, and the white board said clockwise. So, as you might suppose, that’s the way I started. About 20 minutes into my walk, which is only supposed to be 30 minutes long, just one other woman was still going from the original five, while an older man had started off from the other entry point, going counter-clockwise.

We passed once. On the second pass, he told me the sign said counter today, and I laughed and said oh no! The sign on this side says clockwise! and kept going. As I thought he might, he checked, and on the next encounter, he very rudely reported that the sign also said Saturday. Today is Sunday.

My calf had grown tight, I’d made 10 laps, and it was 25 minutes. Lately, I’ve been doing 15 laps in 30 minutes, so I was clearly not at my peak form. I decided after his rebuke to just end my walk there.

I definitely felt chastised, and wanted to explain to him that it would have been a challenge for me, upon arriving, to flag down five other runners (and they were all running) to tell them they had to reverse direction. And, it would have been really obnoxious for me to just start going the other direction, forcing them all to run around me. I didn’t wait for him, but I had that urge.

Since this liquid phase is supposed to be a time for reflection on doing things differently, that’s what I did.

What I realized is that a few days ago, someone else had been going the wrong way (and they were in the wrong, because I checked), and it had totally bugged me. I’d given a few hard glances, in fact, when passing the wrong-way-walker. I’d refrained, but barely, from pointing out the error.

Remembering that made me come to a few conclusions:

  1. My instinct was to do exactly what the cranky old man at the gym did.
  2. I am the cranky old man at the gym.
  3. He looked unhappy. His clearly sour disposition made him look older than he probably was. His face was pinched, and honestly, a description of him would not be very flattering. You think the Abe Simpson photo is harsh, but actually, if you looked at it, then had to pick this guy out of a crowd, it would actually make sense to you.
  4. I let his unhappiness infect and affect me. Instead of stopping to stretch and do five more minutes on the track, in the correct direction, I blamed his unpleasantness for bringing me down.
  5. I’m very glad I didn’t correct the person a few days ago, because then, today would have been even more unbearable.
  6. I don’t want to be the cranky old man at the gym.
  7. I don’t want to give cranky old men at the gym, or anywhere else, the power to ruin my day. Especially over something very insignificant.

I’m writing about this so I can give it up to the universe—he irked me, but I irked myself more.

Sometimes, you simply must follow the rules, no matter what other people are doing. At the gym, it may be OK to simply go with the flow and let the world get on with more important business.

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