Gym Etiquette, Vol. 13, Issue 16

It will be a cold day in the downtown business section of Hell before you see Etiquetteer at the gym. But should that day come, you may be sure that Etiquetteer will know how to behave with Perfect Propriety. Inspired by Bos Guy, Etiquetteer wants to share a few tips about negotiating a workout in a shared space:

  1. The most important thing to remember at the gym is that you are not at home, and you cannot use workout or locker room facilities as though they were only available for you. All other guidelines stem from this essential instruction.
  2. It's a machine, not a coat rack. Don't leave your stuff about on those Weightlifting Things. Especially don't try to "reserve" one by hanging a hoodie or a towel over it. This inevitably leads to confusion and a lot of tiresome Alpha Male Posturing.
  3. It's a machine, not a barroom. Don't lean all over those devices just talking with other people. It inhibits other members from finishing their workouts. Besides, that's what the steam room and the sauna are for, sitting around and talking. Isn't that right?
  4. Etiquetteer was horrified to learn that people use hair dryers provided in locker room for hair well below the neck - both in front and, in this horrifying Not Safe For Work photograph, in back. Stop it at once!
  5. Conversely, reports of people showering in their swimsuits, or even underpants, belie a ridiculous modesty. No one cares what you look like. The most Perfectly Proper suit to wear in the shower is your birthday suit.
  6. Clean up after yourself. If you're perspiring all over the equipment (and who does not?) or shaving at the sink, wipe it off with your towel before leaving.
  7. There is only one Perfectly Proper place to, ahem, Eliminate Metabolic Waste, and that is the toilet. It is not the swimming pool or the hot tub, and it is certainly not the shower. Etiquetteer should not even have to tell you this.
  8. Give people some space. Etiquetteer recently overheard someone complaining that, in a nearly empty locker room, another gym goer chose the locker immediately next to his. This is not necessary!

And that, as they say, should be quite enough.

Random Questions, Vol. 5, Issue 6

Dear Etiquetteer:I may be one of the few people in the country under 40 who has never belonged to a gym, so the whole gym culture is a bit of a mystery to me. However, I recently moved into a condo building with a nicely equipped fitness room in the basement and am trying to turn over a new leaf with morning visits to use the equipment. The room includes a television, and I've noticed that it's usually tuned to news programs. Is this required viewing while working out? On a couple of occasions when I've been in the room alone, I've taken charge of the remote and turned on some lighter fare, like reruns of "The Nanny." But I always feel awkward when someone comes in and I offer to turn the TV back to the news. The response is always very nice and people don't usually seem to mind, but am I breaking some unwritten code of the gym? Is there an acceptable range of appropriate gym viewing, somewhere between Teletubbies and soft porn? And are there any other rules I should know about?Dear Viewed and Viewing:You don’t need to feel guilty about watching "The Nanny" during your workout (though of course Etiquetteer would prefer reruns of "Upstairs Downstairs"). You don’t even need to offer to change channels when others show up in the workout room, though that is courteous. While Etiquetteer suspects that audiovisual programming is handled by the staff at large gyms, in your condo complex folks should be free to ask to change the channel . . . and not be offended if they’re turned down.

Dear Etiquetteer:I just got an invitation to a rehearsal dinner with "evening casual" on it. What on earth does that mean? Can I wear black?Dear Invited:Once upon a time this used to be so easy. Etiquetteer still remembers when everyone understood that "Informal" meant suits and ties for the gentlemen and appropriate dresses for the ladies. Alas the day, everybody’s aggressive embrace of the casual has made getting dressed much more complicated.Etiquetteer imagines that "evening casual" means a blazer but no denim or khaki and no neckties for the men. Ladies could wear something shiny or sequinned that didn’t look too dressy. For instance, a silk mandarin jacket or a shiny silk blouse over slacks might do.As for black, Etiquetteer doesn’t understand why everyone’s so fond of it when there are more beautiful colors in the world. For a rehearsal dinner black should be fine, just don’t wear it to the wedding!

Dear Etiquetteer:I need some etiquette advice, the subject: responding to condolence cards. My father passed away two weeks ago. What’s proper as far as how soon I must respond to cards and notices of donations in Dad’s name? Surely they can't expect someone in the midst of all there is to handle with someone's passing to write back quickly . . . but then again, it IS the Deep South. Is something short like "Thank you so much for your kind donation in Dad's name. I know he would have appreciated it" enough? That seems kind of abrupt.Dear Bereaved:Permit Etiquetteer to offer condolences at this difficult time.So, what's Perfectly Proper under the circumstances? Respond to those cards and letters now; don’t put it off, or it will become an impossible burden to you later, and Etiquetteer knows from experience, too. Even if you only decide to do a limited number a day — say five or six — you'll eventually get to the last one. Are you the only person able to write them? Draft other family members to assist who can respond for all of you. And don’t forget that your response may bevery short, even only one sentence, e.g. "Thank you for thinking of us," "God bless you for your beautiful note about Dad," or some such. But don't delay. It may seem insurmountable now, but Etiquetteer promises you the notes won’t be answered later.

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