There’s a guy who comes to Bally’s gym that I call Ape. I call him that because it’s his name. Well, maybe not, but it should be. What else could his mother have thought when she first saw him?
Ape works out for hours almost every day, mostly in the free weights room. He stands about six foot three and in addition to his beard and pony tail has hair coming out of most every other pore in his body, which is also heavily tattooed. His arms are fire hydrants, his chest a steel vault. To top it, he’s pretty ugly.
The Bally’s gym I go to is laid out like this:
----------------------------------------------- | track | | ----------------------------------------- | | | | | | | | aerobics room | stair | | | | | way | | | | | | | | |~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ---| | | | | | |o | |(office) | | | X| |f | | | | ------- ---| | | | | | | | machines, treadmills, etc. | | | | | | | | | | | |-------------------------- | | | | | | | | | | | | | | free weights | | | | | | | | | | | | | | ----------------------------------------- | | | -----------------------------------------------
The track runs around the perimeter of a large, open upstairs room. (The corners are rounded. Sorry about the limitations of ASCII art.) The aerobics room is partitioned across the back (inside) and right by ceiling to floor walls, which help baffle the noise from the rest of the floor.
Recently Bally’s added some new equipment in the little enclave containing the X in the diagram: punching bags, including one of those dangly doodads would-be boxers train on. I’ve always assumed its main purpose is to help develop hand-eye coordination rather than strength. Ape has no more need for strength. I’m sure he could lift a rock the size of Ohio.
The dangly bag hangs beneath a platform designed to resonate. When anyone hits it even once, the noise thunders throughout the gym. If someone hits it moderately hard, it at first causes people to turn their heads, as if to say: “Whoa, what was that?” And if someone tries to use it seriously for the purpose it was intended, it causes a disturbing racket in a room already noisy with the din of treadmills, clanking weights, testosterone-enhanced grunting, and crude music coming over the excessively loud sound system. The bag goes Whackita-Whackita-Whackita-Whackita-Whackita-Whackita.
Ape quickly discovered the new bag. It’s become his favorite toy. Ape can hit it hard. Real hard — for a long time. When Ape hits the bag he gets utterly carried away with ecstasy. It goes WHACKITA-WHACKITA-WHACKITA-WHACKITA-WHACKITA-WHACKITA. Oooh my! is what I’m sure most of the people there are thinking when Ape starts up on the bag.
Last Saturday I spent most of a day at the gym knocking off a 40-mile run. By 2:30 p.m., I was getting pretty ragged out, but still had a couple of hours to go. Then Ape arrived for his daily workout.
On this day Ape decided that he needed to do some bag work. I’m not sure for what purpose. Suddenly it started up.
Whackita-Whackita-Whackita-Whackita-Whackita-Whackita! WHAT THE!? Oh yeah, it’s just him. Endure it. Time for some more.
Break time. For ten seconds.
Whew! It was pretty irritating already.
How long do you suppose this went on? Ten minutes? Guess again. Twenty? By thirty-five minutes I thought to myself: Say — he’s been at that a really long time! Is he ever going to quit?
Heck, he was just getting warmed up.
Every fifteen minutes or so he would take a break and go to a machine where he could pull on weights that swelled up his enormous biceps. I believe the main reason he stopped was to let a skinny teenager use the machine for a minute or so, a kid who would make it go plunka … plunka … … plunka-plunka … plunka. When he got tired of that, or else found it’s trickier than it looks, Ape would return for a little more bag work.
Okay, the answer to the question is: Ape beat on that infernal thing for a full HOUR AND A HALF!
Now, I don’t fault Ape completely for this disturbance. Bally’s put the bag there, loosely following the Field of Dreams dictum: If you hang it, they will punch it. Ape, as a paying club member, is as entitled to punch that bag for as long as he wants as I am to run around that track for nine hours at a time, as long as the resource is fairly shared with other customers.
But would you go up and ask Ape if it’s okay for you to work in with him?