I never knew the hot water I’d get in at a local gym until I waded into a hot tub and saw one of the gym staffers assault a fellow bather when he paid more attention to the person he was speaking to via headphones than the operations manager, who yanked at his headset, telling him to get the hell out.
He yelled at the staffer, a woman, and warned her never to touch anyone the way she had grabbed the headphones. Turns out, she pulled a wire and broke the $300 device before calling the police on us and threatening to strip us of our gym memberships for not responding to her demands.
Philadelphia cops, however, appeared at the scene and advised the young man, a 6-foot 8-inch professional basketball player, how he could file a private criminal complaint against the manager. I gave a statement and called the corporate headquarters asking for immediate action against the woman.
Not once during the episode did she identify herself as a manager. She repeatedly refused to show me any identification when threatening to revoke my membership at the LA Fitness Center in the Andorra section of Philadelphia.
How did this all come about? The hot tub had been closed and barricaded for use the past four weeks as repairmen worked diligently to fix whatever problems they discovered. Today, the yellow tape surrounding the tub had been removed and persons entered the tub for a good soaking. There was nary a sign anywhere cautioning bathers to keep out.
I had worked out on the tread mill 25 minutes and swam a half-mile over another 25-minute spree when I slunk my body into the bubbling water with jet air shooting streams of pulsating pleasure onto my back, hip and other sore spots. I had been soaking, paying no mind to the African-American male at the other side of the pool who was in deep conversation on what I took to be a business call.
No more than five to seven minutes had passed when a person I had never seen before approached the side of the tub and told me I had to leave. I had just begun to meditate, and had yet to calm down from the nearly hour-long stress I had subjected my body to.
It was an Asian woman who spoke to me. I didn’t understand what she said. I thought she was one of the cleaning staff. This gym retains a lot of Hispanics for housekeeping, and I – stupidly – stereotyped her as a member of the gym’s house-keeping staff.
She said there was no chlorine in the hot tub. So what, I thought. She said we could introduce germs into the water. Again, I thought, so what. I even played lawyer with her, telling her that I’d waive the right to bring any charges against the gym should I get a contagious disease from my fellow bather, who had to lift up the side of his headphones to make out what she was saying.
The tub is situated in a closed section of the gym next to two shower stalls. An Olympic-size swimming pool occupies the great bulk of the room, and it is difficult to hear because of the constant running of water and the echo sound each word creates when someone speaks.
She threatened to call the police if I didn’t get out of the pool. I heard that loud and clear and told her I’d get out once she got my fellow bather out. Off she stormed, ordering him out, and grabbed the headphones when she claimed “he ignored me,” when in reality, he was still speaking to someone else.
She yanked at the headset.
Now, there are certain things you simply don’t do in the United States. Jim Croce, a Philadelphia-area singer who has since passed away, put it this way: “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit in the wind. You don’t pull . . . the mask . . . of the ‘ole Lone Ranger. And, you don’t mess around with Jim.”
Well, here you could put the name of most men wearing headphones and trying to relax after a hard workout at the gym. You don’t mess around by yanking at an object that is an extension of the “workouter.”
He yelled at her, but never cursed. She told him to “get the hell out” of the tub, and at least one of the swimmers in the pool overheard this and reported it to the police.
I’m sure she gave a different story to the authorities. I kind of felt sorry for her because she handled the incident so badly and probably saw nothing wrong with using force, no matter how slight, to demand someone else’s attention. You can’t do that and expect cooperation with your management style.
The young man, who plays for an international team out of Venezuela, exchanged e-mails with me and I agreed to assist in any action against the gym manager. He might file a private criminal complaint if he couldn’t get restitution for the expensive headphones. I’d settle for a corporate manager to investigate this and ensure that nothing like this ever happened again.
Hot tubs were made for relaxation, not consternation.