She was a black woman in her 40s, but she could have been any race, age or gender.
I know her type.
The dictator. The bully. The 800-pound gorilla in the room. The person who always gets their way because people rarely stand up to them.
She first caught my attention when she grabbed the bottle of spray cleaner that was right beside the elliptical I was using. There are dozens of spray bottles and towels throughout my gym. We use them to clean the exercise machines we’re using. Most people spray and clean a machine before using it. Many will also spray and clean the machine after they use it as a kindness to whoever uses the machine next.
Even though there were other bottles she could have grabbed, she decided to grab the one next to me (I didn’t notice what had happened until much too late). She didn’t grab the towel, though. No, that was too germ infested for her. Instead, she had paper towels she brought from home.
She walked up to a treadmill and cleaned it. Then she grabbed the only box fan (pictured) in the cardio area of the gym, unplugged it and moved it directly in front of her treadmill.
When she was finished exercising, she turned off the fan (thereby depriving others of feeling its cool breeze) and left without cleaning the treadmill.
For several days, I witnessed the same selfish routine. She acted as though the box fan was for her personal use and hers only. She would take spray bottles near other gym members even though there were other bottles near the treadmill she would eventually claim as her own. And she would always turn off the fan when she was finished and would never clean the sweat she’d left behind.
I observed her actions, but did my best to ignore them since they did not directly impact me.
Until yesterday, that is.
Yesterday, I get to the gym and find the box fan pointing directly at my favorite elliptical machine. A cool breeze while exercising isn’t a necessity, but when you’re on the elliptical for 60 minutes it definitely feels good.
“The Gym Dictator” was on an exercise bike directly to my right. After about five minutes, she gets up, grabs a bottle of spray cleaner, and makes her way to the treadmill directly to the left of the box fan.
No, she didn’t turn the fan away from me and towards herself. That’s what I expected her to do. Instead, she turned the fan OFF.
Because she was reading a magazine and didn’t want the fan ruffling the pages.
I was dumbstruck for several moments.
“Did this woman really just turn off a fan that was pointed at someone else?!”
No way was I going to let that stand. I paused my elliptical, walked right up beside her and turned the fan back on — on its highest setting, no less.
As I turned to walk away, she took off her headphones.
“Hey,” she says, trying to get my attention.
“The fan makes it really difficult for me to enjoy my magazine,” she tells me without an ounce of kindness or civility in her voice.
“Well,” I replied, “your magazine makes it really difficult for me to enjoy the fan.”
Her mouth went agape. I’m sure she had expected me to cower, apologize and immediately turn off the fan. Me more or less telling her “tough” was the last thing she expected.
“But since I do care about my fellow man,” I continued a few seconds later, “I’ll compromise with you. I’ll turn the fan down to LOW.”
“Oh…okay,” she replied.
About ten minutes later, she got off her treadmill. Usually, her routine is to follow up the treadmill workout by getting on one of the elliptical machines. She usually also, of course, points the box fan towards the elliptical she will be occupying.
But not yesterday.
The only available elliptical machine was the one directly beside me. So, instead, she grabbed her paper towels and headed for the exit.
Will she be back to her selfish ways tonight? Probably. But she won’t be pulling any of that nonsense with me.
I stared down The Gym Dictactor and kicked proverbial sand in her face.
Stings, don’t it?