Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Not working out

Two Fridays ago, I suddenly and mysteriously threw my back out, really with no warning and with no apparent cause, so I didn’t go to the gym that night as planned.

This backache persisted, again inexplicably, so I didn’t go on Saturday or on Sunday, or the days following, and then as it drew close to my trip to Ohio to see Pere Ubu in what’s essentially the vast back yard of my friend the synthesizer player, I didn’t want to risk some recurrence or furtherance of the mysterious back outage, so I didn’t go then. (More about this trip, and my getting to meet a fascinating writer friend in person, soon.)

I assure you, honestly, none of this was procrastination — zero; zip — because I actually like going to the gym. I do. I go every other day. By happenstance, my sister texted me this morning to say that her hands ache from painful carpal tunnel and she knows I have some condition (I’ve had genetic, painful, early onset arthritis for about 10 years now, mostly in my hands and neck; thanks, Mom). “I remember you having a problem,” my sister texted, evidently not remembering in detail the exchange earlier this year when I was visiting her in New Jersey and we were playing pinochle and she looked at my fingers when I was dealing the cards and audibly gasped and said, “Oh, Lee! Look at your fingers!!!!”  in a clear indication that I have visible arthritis and its effects, and as though I haven’t been looking at my fingers every day of my life but especially a lot more lately. Now she asked, via text, “What did you do for treatment?” And I replied, “I go to the gym, which reduces systemic inflammation.” And I do. I go for that reason, and because going helps the confoundedly insomniac me sleep better, and because the competitive me likes increasing his weights and his routines and pushing himself.

Tonight, with that glorious trip to Ohio safely in the rear-view mirror, and feeling completely blocked while trying to write something, I went to the gym.

I like my gym.

I like the attractive young people who greet me at the desk without ever look askance at me because I’m no longer in their age group.

I like the easy camaraderie and courtesy offered by fellow workers-out. They’ll offer to let you “work in,” or they’ll politely ask if you’re almost done, or they’ll step aside if they’re blocking your locker.

I like the hours. The gym is called “24 Hour Fitness.” Guess when it’s open. Works for me.

I like its availability. There are 400 locations throughout California and across most well-populated areas of the country — which leaves out where I grew up, of course, where I had to join another gym to use when I visit, but I’ve been able to visit outposts of 24 Hour Fitness up and down California and in Omaha, NE and New York City. My membership works at all of them. It’s handy!

I like the offering:  sauna; jacuzzi; free weights; machines; cardio; showers; lockers. Basketball courts, yes, but I don’t use those, just as I don’t do Zumba or spinning or any other group activity. I do enough group activities in the rest of my life — when I’m at the gym, I’m there for me, solo.

What I don’t like about the one I go to — and this is the only thing I don’t like — is the soap. Or, better, the lack thereof.

After my workout and the steam room, I always shower. I want to, and believe me, if you were around, you’d want me to as well. I’m kind of old-fashioned in this regard:  I like to use soap when I shower. To do that, there would have to be liquid soap in the showers. Now, there are definitely liquid-soap dispensers, but too frequently they’re empty. All the soap has been used, one can infer, and the dispensers have not been refilled. And I don’t mean in just one shower — I mean in every shower.

I have complained about this.



Sometimes not politely.

I have even taken to interrupting their sales tours, when a manager is walking around a prospect who has no idea that this is a friendly and well-outfitted gym that is customarily out of soap, and saying to that manager in direct proximate earshot to the prospective member, “There’s no soap in the showers. Again.”

For a long time, this accomplished nothing.

Then:  a miracle happened. Several months ago, I arrived to find that, now, every shower had been equipped with two soap dispensers. (Or, at least, the men’s showers had. I can’t vouch for anything that happens in the women’s showers. Although I’d like to be able to.) Mind you, this didn’t strike me as the best solution — I would have just had someone go around on a regular check-up basis throughout the day and night, say once every two hours, and refill the single dispensers — but I was glad to accept their solution. It seemed idiotically bureaucratic, but hey, now we’d have twice as much soap!

And that seemed to work well. There was always soap.

For a while.

I say that because tonight after my workout and the steam room I discovered — you’ve seen this coming — that, throughout the men’s shower complex of eight showers, each with its own shower door, every one of those dual soap dispensers was empty. And this wasn’t the first time. In a way, the problem of empty soap dispensers is now twice as big.

What I was thinking while pulling apart all of the dispensers and trying to squeeze out just enough soap to be able to use was this:  Yes, I could go on Yelp!, and other social-media platforms, and I could really raise a stink. (Which is what will indeed happen if I never get any soap.) I could write a letter to corporate. I’m certainly not going to complain to managers again; that’s pointless. Even though it seems stupid because, after all, they’re theoretically offering it, I guess I could bring my own soap and then find a way to deduct that cost from what I’m paying them every month.

Or maybe this is the best solution, one guaranteed to get some sort of a result:  After getting into the shower and then finding no soap, I could walk naked to the front desk and ask for some.

That ought to have a cleansing effect.

5 Responses to “Not working out”

  1. Dan Says:

    DON’T DO IT!

    Think of all the women who will see you, then go home & throw rocks at their husbands.

  2. Joe Stafford Says:

    How about forwarding this blog entry to the CEO of said company?

  3. Lee Wochner Says:

    Love this idea. What’s the correct email address?

  4. Uncle Rich Says:

    Hope your back has come back. I had similar problems years ago. Got some therapy and was given floor exercises to do. When I had occasional reoccurrences, I just repeated the exercise and got the same positive results.

  5. Lee Wochner Says:

    It’s fine now. (Hence the return to the gym.) Usually you can point to an incident: sneezed and threw out your back, or picked up something heavy in a way you shouldn’t have, or slept funny, or wrenched your neck, or something. In this particular instance, I was just standing there in and it suddenly happened. Bizarre. But it’s now back to normal.

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