I would hardly call myself a gym rat, though I try and work out most days. Usually I’m there, like most of my cellulite-phobic fellows, on auto-pilot, awash in the zen-like mood that falls over you when you’re staring, blurry-eyed in the wee hours of the morning at CNN, wishing for death to take you on the treadmill. But lately, I’ve started to become more aware of the gym folk around me, mostly due to the fact that I’m too lazy to charge my ipod and thus forced to actually make eye contact with other humans. I’ve decided that the gym, like indigineous cultures, Apalachian towns, and airports, is really an anthropologist’s wet dream. The gym is a primordial steam bath of race, class, age, and of course exterterrestial life. How else would you explain what goes on while we’re working out: the facial contortions, the seemingly uncoordinated flailing of legs and arms (sometimes at the same time!), the twisting and gyrating often resembling a grand mal seizure, and the obscene way people jostle around on this gigantic romper-room esque exercise balls. In between my own gangly physical machinations passing for a fitness regime, I began to notice the other people around me in their various stages of sweat and exertion, and it occurred to me that if aliens landed and found themselves at some health club, they would probably think our species to either be in the throes of death or else performing some bizarre mating ritual (and if you’re on that bouncy-pod-ball, not with each other either). Watching people exercise is kind of like watching ordinary people have sex: in our heads we look like porn stars, in reality, we’re just two, disgustingly fleshy masses of muscle and skin flogging each other mercilessly. Some things are just not meant to be looked at too closely. I can only hope that when the aliens do come, they judge us on our loose morals, corupt political system, and caffeine-stimulated children, not on our squat-thrusts or power lunges.
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