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| Tony Kornheiser

Failure to Follow Treadmill Etiquette at the Gym Becomes a Running Joke

May 17, 2000|Tony Kornheiser

Lately, I've been trying to lose weight (again!), so I've been going to a gym and running a couple of miles on a treadmill in the mornings. I'm on the treadmill for 40 minutes. I run at a very relaxed pace. If I ran any slower, I'd go backward in time.

The gym I go to has two rows of treadmills. One row of seven treadmills faces the interior of the gym. There's a TV you can watch while running. But if you are on one of the outside treadmills, you have to crane your neck to see it, and you run the risk of flipping sideways off the treadmill. Is a glimpse of Matt Lauer really worth a ruptured spleen?

The other row of treadmills faces out, onto the street. There are eight treadmills on this row. This is where I prefer to run, because watching the commuter traffic provides a more pleasant visual distraction than watching a bunch of fat geezoids on StairMasters. (The gym I used to go to had the treadmills facing the aerobics studio, and you could watch young babes bounce around while taking "step" class. It was heaven. The day after they turned the treadmills to face the weight machines, I quit the gym.)

So, the other morning, I'm in the gym jogging. I'm on the last treadmill on the right. That means there are seven treadmills to my left. And all of them are empty. Suddenly, a fat dope in a Hobart College sweatshirt gets on the treadmill right next to me!

Talk about invading my space. In some cultures, that act would have meant we were engaged.

I looked down at my time. I had 27 minutes to go, and now, I had to spend it close enough to this yutz to exchange bodily fluids.

I was furious. I thought seriously of reaching over to the control panel on his treadmill and slamming down on his "Stop" button, so he would pitch forward and crash through the plate glass window into the street and oncoming traffic.

That afternoon, I related the story to my boss, George, screaming, "How dare this jerk get on the treadmill next to me when there were seven empty treadmills on the same row!"

George said I was an idiot and a baby, and offered the possibilities that this was the guy's "favorite treadmill," or that maybe he "wanted to meet" me.

Oh, please. I'm up there schvitizing like a collie. Meet me? Who is he, the Welcome Wagon?

Finally, George said, "Look, the guy pays the same amount of money as you do to belong to that gym, and he can run on any treadmill he wants. Get over it."

But most folks sided with me on this one. My friend Nancy told me her hubby, David, was once running in a gym where the treadmills were surrounded by mirrors. David glanced at the mirror to find a man on another treadmill looking into the mirror blowing David a kiss! Now, there's a case of a guy wanting to meet someone.

My friend Tom was appalled by what the Hobart guy did. Tom equated it to violating "The Urinal Rule," which holds that you never, ever step up to a urinal next to someone if there is an open urinal somewhere else. That is just not done. Nor is there any talking at the urinal. Or any eye contact. Never. No way. You look straight ahead no matter what. Even if someone is being murdered two urinals down. Like in the movie "Witness."

"Men don't stand there and chat?" my friend Nancy asked.

God, no!

"Women have conversations between the stalls," Nancy said. "Sometimes, they say, 'Hold it, I've got to flush.' "


(This reminds me of the time in 1978, when as a sportswriter I was in Washington, D.C., to cover the NBA finals between Washington and Seattle. At halftime, I went to the bathroom, and as luck would have it, the only open urinal was next to Sen. George McGovern, whom I recognized immediately. I was so excited, I violated the urinal rule! I actually began talking to him. But I digress.)

You'll recall that my boss, George, said I totally overreacted to the guy getting on the treadmill next to me.

So, a few days later, George is on a treadmill in his gym, and a woman ascends the treadmill next to him, even though there are open treadmills down the row. George notices--but he can't say jack; he's trapped by his own self-righteousness.

Well, they're running together, side by side, for a few minutes when, in George's words, "the woman passes gas that would kill a moose." It all but brings him to his knees.

Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

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