#SOL17: Can You Hear Me Now?
Every gym has its own culture. Here, in this northwest city where my husband and I will soon resettle, we signed up for a trial two-week gym membership near our Airbnb. My view of the gym’s culture came into focus from the seat of my stationary bike.
Sometimes it seems like a young city. Portland, I mean. Maybe it’s that our daughter lives here and we’ve come to know some of her friends. The gym members who strolled in and out of the huge free weights area were young. And mightily tattooed. But there were older folks, too, greying heads intermingling with black and brown, blue and bald. I was relieved to see people of color mingling with what sometimes seems like an overwhelmingly white city. One of the things I’ll miss about living so close to NY city is its diversity, of color, language, and culture.
There are other differences. The number of overweight people sweating and straining was strikingly low, at least compared to where I currently live. I’m reluctant to generalize, but it does seem true across the city. I’ve read that overweight people tend to be surrounded by other overweight folks. Mixing with trim older folks certainly made me aware of my own weight-related goals. I always want to be in the in crowd. This may be one time I’m glad of that longing.
But there’s a problem. I’ve pooh-poohed the popular fretting over how “addicted” people seem to be to smartphones– I
believe resistance to technology can often be the source of these complaints. In this gym, though, most people not only carried phones, they checked them frequently, texted often, even answered calls on bikes or in the locker room. Once I watched a woman move from one weight machine to another,
phone in hand. She checked her phone before and after she started the first machine. When she sat at the second machine, she checked again and proceeded to sit there for several minutes as she typed, scrolled, read. I’m not exaggerating when I say she spent more time on her phone than she did working out.
Is that another aspect of the gym culture that’s common across the city? I haven’t paid that much attention. My husband, a techie, and I theorize that people new to technology often get sucked into its ubiquity. The notion of turning off notifications seems foreign; the banners and bells seem like coals, burning into the awareness of the phone’s user. Just because someone emails or texts, does it mean you are obligated to answer? Puh-leeze. It seems the mindfulness movement has been sparked by more than the pace of a global world. It’s hard to pay attention to two tracks of life at once– the one your body moves through and the one where notifications smolder, urging you act.
More than once during these weeks, I’ve turned my phone to “do not disturb”. Nieces, nephews, older family members texted their hearts out. Often we were trying to herd the 12 of us, staying in different places across the city, to meet in specific places at certain times. But not everyone needed to be part of those decisions, certainly not me. I’d say it’s because of my age, but other family members– my peers– were right in the midst of the fray. (And yes, when the doorknob stuck at my brother’s house and locked me in the bathroom, and they couldn’t hear me knocking and yelling to be let out, the logical solution seemed to text. Yes, I got out.)
Me, I’m not interested in interacting with anything/anyone at the gym besides my Spotify playlist. I want the thin ethic of other members to rub off. Phone habits? Not so much.