Friday, April 25, 2008

Membership has...

Earlier this month I decided to return to the gym. I canceled my NYSC membership if you recall and decided to primarily run outside and do strength training in my apartment. This actually worked really well when I had a running partner but became increasingly harder without one. Plus, I was battling with myself in trying to consistently wake up and be out the door by 7am every morning.

Instead of returning to NYSC, which I honestly liked despite them not fixing equipment as fast as one would like, I decided to explore Equinox. Equinox is this pricey, fancy-schmancy gym that I had never set foot in but heard nice things about. I really figured this would be a little posh for my taste but I went in and took a tour. Well. I used to work at Williams Island Spa back in Aventura (spa located on a ultra exclusive private residential island for the rich and famous) when I was 18 and this was better than that: super nice locker rooms, clean environment, a lot of equipment, all beautifully decorated in minimalist chic. I decided to take the plunge and pay a lot more for a gym and committed myself to going. A lot.

As soon as I started to use the facilities I noticed that there weren't a lot of towel hampers or garbage pails. Especially in the locker room. Example: they give out disposable razors but there aren't any containers in the shower area for you to deposit the safety cover or the razor once you're done. In the actual locker area, there's only two towel hampers: on your way in and right by the showers. There are three vanities with lotions, hair spray, gel, deodorant, hair dryers and tissues. There are no small garbage bins underneath the vanities, but only in the sink area and right by the entranceway.

I thought these were major design flaws. On my first day using the locker room, I had to carry my razor (along with other stuff) outside of the shower area and toss it, I had to leave my stuff on the bench and walk back into the shower area to toss my wet towel, I had to take tissues that I used at the vanity, along with my jacket and bag, and toss it in the front bin. I kept thinking how inconvenient all of this was to me, because while they sound like little things, it was inefficient, a handful, and forced me to go out of my way to clean up after myself. I noticed that the other women left their used items behind: they left their used wet towels on the benches, their razor caps in the shower, and their tissues on the vanity. I thought this was very bad form on the ladies part, bad design on Equinox's and it was all leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

At NYSC, they too have vanities and towels. But there are bins everywhere and a grumbling attendant. You're encouraged and asked to clean up after yourself. Not doing so is frowned upon. But yesterday, I noticed something else. Quietly and behind the scenes, a pack of women who work at the club were picking up towels, tissues, razor caps. They wiped down the floor, the benches, the counters. They whizzed in and out of showers, the steam room, the bathroom. They were constantly cleaning and picking up after everyone. Then it hit me: being cleaned up after is an unspoken amenity people were paying for! They want you to leave your wet towel on the bench. They want you to leave the razor cap in the shower. It's encouraged. Because there are women employed to pick it up almost as soon as you put it down. It's like having a maid.

So there I am, standing in the locker area looking around and coming to the realization that not cleaning up after yourself is an amenity for those who can pay $137 a month for a gym. That not cleaning up after yourself is considered a privilege here, not crude behavior.

One word: Wow.

Ok, a few more: Really? Like, really? We're just supposed to toss our wet towels on the bench, leave our used shit around and have other people clean it up? Doesn't' this go against everyone's upbringing? It goes against mine! Whatever happened to common courtesy? I'm supposed to be ok with leaving my wet towel on the freaking bench? Oh, everyone else is doing it. WTF? They make it so hard to do otherwise.... and, and, and.... this is what they WANT me to do! It's designed that way!

Another way to look at it is that I get a break from cleaning up. There, I don't have to worry about it. I get to relax and let someone else take care of the little things. I get to focus on what I'm there to do, not about whether or not I'm leaving the place the way I found it. After all, it's a privilege. It's like being in a hotel room. You know someone will come and clean up after you so you don't worry about using all the towels and leaving them in a heap in the corner because when you come back later on, it's all pretty and clean again.

Fascinating.
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