I learn a lot at the wellness center I go to. Most of my acquired knowledge is about fitness, but sometimes it’s simply about people and life. This morning, as I was changing into my workout clothing, the older ladies at the locker near mine, were gossiping about their neighbors with messy yards. “He bought a motorcycle that he works on every weekend, but he can’t get his lazy behind out there to trim his bushes!” Another group was talking about a family from their church, “I don’t know what made them decide to come. They certainly don’t fit in with any of the other members!” These conversations taught me to not buy a house near an old lady with too much time on her hands, and to continue sleeping in on Sunday morning per usual!
I learn other things, too. Today, I walked/ran a few miles on the track. and when my favorite machine, the Octane, became available, I hopped on and adjusted the timer for 30 minutes. The Octane, of which there are three, has caused quite a bit of controversy among gym goers because there are several members who don’t respect the 30 minute time limit. One member, in particular, I’ve witnessed spend two hours at a time heaving and pumping away on it, always, always with a terribly grumpy scowl on his face.
At first I thought this dude’s scowl was just his “work out” face. That look of concentration that one gets when they’re in “the zone.” So, one day, when I passed him on the floor, I decided to test out his expression, by giving him my
friendliest smile and saying hello. His scowl only deepened as he turned his head as far from my direction as he could. I tried to attribute his lack of response to his inability to hear me, even though my years of teaching have caused my voice to project far above the loudest din. I spent the rest of my workout time pondering his unfriendliness. Had his wife just died? Did he just have to have his beloved dog put to sleep? Was his daughter on heroin and living in a crack house with her drug dealer and eight children? Maybe he was living with chronic pain, or suffering from a mental illness? Whatever the reason, this guy gave me a bad feeling. His whole energy and being seemed to suck the life straight from the air. I soon found myself picturing him as a Dementor , from the Harry Potter series, in a skin suit.
Today, about 5 minutes before my Octane time was up, Mr. Grumpy Pants came and stood by my machine. While he’s the type of guy who would set his timer for additional minutes if he saw someone waiting, I’m the opposite. I’m a rule follower. I smiled at him and said, “I’m almost done–just five minutes left.” He rolled his eyes and began stretching out on the floor in front of me. Once again, I began trying to figure him out. Is he a lawyer who helps drunk drivers, wife beaters and child molesters get shorter sentences? Does he run a sweat shop full of kidnapped five year-olds that make sneakers 15 hours a day? Perhaps he’s an executioner–I could definitely picture him flipping on an electric chair switch, gleefully placing a noose around someone’s neck, or administering a lethal injection.
My last five minutes felt like an hour with his shiny bald head bobbing up and
down as he readied himself for my machine. His dark presence slowly crept over me, changing my mood, and causing me to turn off the machine with 24 seconds left to go. I got off swiftly and began to clean the machine with a gym wipe. Like I’ve said, I’m a rule follower. “Don’t do that!” he said abruptly to me. “Now the seat’s all wet!” he added curtly, as he climbed on the machine before my water bottle was even out of the holder. “Have a nice workout,” I said sweetly, as I walked away.
Back in the locker room, I found myself feeling defeated and wondering why one unfriendly, middle-aged, bald guy would even begin to make me feel that way. There are all types of people in the world and 99.9% of them are extremely nice, even in the midst of hardship or despair. This guy just isn’t a part of that percentage. Though I’m sure there’s a reason for his general rudeness, it’s uncalled for and it’s not up to me to fix, or figure out.
Though I’ll still be friendly to him, because that’s just who I am, I won’t take his curt behavior personally, and I won’t waste anymore of my precious energy or time pondering his negativity. Sorry, mean gym guy, I’m giving up on pulling you over from the dark side. That’s ultimately your job.
How do you handle rude people? Do you feel the need to win them over, or do you avoid them for your own good?