Workout Blues

By Ernie Witham   |   May 23, 2019

Recently, I was describing my gym experience to some friends.

“You go to the gym?”
“On a regular basis.”
“Really? Then you must be doing sit-downs instead of sit-ups.”
“Do people get upset when you hog the five-pound weights?”
“Who wakes you up when you fall asleep on the exercise mat?”

It was about then I began to regret bringing it up. But I told them the point I was trying to make was that it was hard to read some days at the gym.

“You read at the gym? What, Barbecue Monthly?”
“Or, The World According to Beer?”
“Wow, you guys should get your own TV show, then I could at least turn you off.”

But it’s true. Navigating the gym can be a bit a workout all by itself. My gym has a giant speaker that hangs over many of the machines, which, yes, before you ask, I do start up. Some days they play non-descript music at a reasonable level and I can still read my book. Other days they play music at a level that makes dogs howl three blocks away. Plus, the made-for-the-gym channel has commercials that repeat on a regular basis.

“On sale today. Keg-o-Protein Powder. Enough for 1,500 delicious shakes. Plus you get a workout carrying it to your car! Also, get a healthy look. Buy a logo towel in our shop. They are so cool you’ll want to wear them around your neck everywhere you go.” 

“Hm if your regular towel is as half as old as that sweatshirt, they might have a point.”

“Anyway, I’ve learned to stop and listen for a few minutes before making my choice. Too loud to read, I go to another section. But that’s when I have to watch for… Phone Lady!”

“Lily Tomlin from Saturday Night Live?”

“I wish! This is all business Phone Lady. Recently, she was complaining about a piece of furniture she had ordered online that came in the wrong color. She kept telling the company that it must come in red because she knew she had seen it on some website and who would want it in green anyway? Why did they even make a green chair? And what about all those hideous lamps they had? Or the coffee table that looked like a door, for crying out loud? They must have had a bad connection because she kept redialing, repeating her name and phone number so they could look up her order. It took almost a week for me to be able to get her number out of my head. “

“You should have called her from home to tell her it was the store and that they had shipped the 15 blue chairs she ordered, listen for the sound of her head exploding.” 

“Now you think of it.”

“Another day I climbed onto a bike next to a normal looking gentleman who did not have a phone. I no sooner got my bike going and my book open than he loudly cleared his throat. I had to reread the first paragraph. He cleared his throat again. I reread. He cleared. I reread. He cleared. I reread.”

“Why do you keep going to this gym?”

“I get in free with my Senior Card.”

“Wow cheap and out of shape.”

“So the next time I went I listened for ear-shattering music and ads, searched for Phone Lady, and listened for throat clearer. Everything seemed normal. So I picked a machine as far away from anyone as I could get. I started reading. I was at an exciting part when I noticed a guy climb on the machine next to mine. He seemed normal – until he began to count. One huff, two huff, three huff, four huff… eighty-six huff, eighty-seven huff.

“Did he ever stop?”

“Yup. Got to two-hundred and eleven, hesitated like he lost his place, then started from one again.”

“What did you do then?”

“I gave up and went to the weight room instead.”

“Had you ever been to the weight room before?”

“Of course! I go there every time after I finish my cardio stuff.”

“I think I have a solution for you.”

“I’m all ears.”


“You can bring your beer magazine, read to the rhythmic slurping sounds.”

Why do I even try?


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