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Gymtards, a Sociological Essay April 11, 2009

Posted by rscottgriffin in Life In Detail.
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It’s almost instinctive, now.  You walk through the doors of the gym and immediately begin scanning for them.  You simultaneously begin praying to God, Allah, Jehovah, key fob, the high priests of the Druids, or whatever higher power you believe in that “they” aren’t there today.  You know they will be, though…they always are.  Although one, alone, can be disruptive, as a group they are maddening.  They are the “gymtards.”

You know them; we all do.  This species crosses all standard societal boundaries and lines – black, white, gay, straight, men, or women, or any combination thereof.  (As a side note, most groups I have observed are all men or may only have one or a sprinkling of women.  At Curves or other women-only facilities, however, I am certain that a similar grouping exists.)

In my experience, the typical gymtards travel in packs of at least 3 and up to 6 or 8, depending on the number of hangers-on present that day.  (***It may be possible for one person to exhibit this behavior.  If so, make sure you avoid him or her – he or she is likely a sociopath.)  There is ALWAYS a core group.  there is a critical mass that is required to ensure that they make the act of working out as difficult as possible for others.

It is quite clear that they believe that they OWN the gym, and all equipment is there for their use at their leisure, those others of us that pay membership fees be damned.  Like a pack of hyenas that can’t make do with only one wildabeast, they surround several pieces of equipment – benches, machines, mats; nothing is safe.  At some point, though, you WILL need to use one of them or something in the vicinity.

Instead of breaking into groups of two or three, “working in” and using the equipment concurrently, though, the group, as a whole, may only make use of one piece of equipment at a time.  When one person is working, the rest of the group, or at least a critical mass, must observe.  That leaves some equipment being unused, but once it has been “pissed on” – 5 sets of dumbbells next to a bench or a towel draped over a machine seat or a water bottle or keys thrown about – don’t even THINK about getting near it.  Although there is nothing unusual about indicating something is in use, even for you and I, we don’t manage to mark four  at once.

A standard circumstance can play out as such: you walk up to a free-standing bench (you may substitute any other equipment you may commonly use) and see that it appears to be in use (see,  examples above).  “Hhmmm, okay” you think, and look around.  It is not clear to you, at the time, who has it currently claimed.  You wait patiently.  No one returns after a reasonable amount of time, and you progressively become annoyed, then irritated.  Then, you realize – “shit.”  Sure enough, after you have altered your routine and moved on to something else, one of the gymtards returns, usually with several others in tow to observe.  They always require a “spotter” and at least one audience member to grunt approval and encouragement.  Of course, this “set” comprises of maybe one or two repetitions, then concludes.  They then all wander off, again, to watch one of their brethren on his or her next exercise.  Of course, that does not mean that someone else would be free to work in.  That would be considerate of the others present.

In those circumstances when they all gather to use neighboring equipment, good luck  getting around them to use equipment in the general vicinity.  They WILL NOT get out of the way if they see you coming.  You must be assertive and walk unwaveringly toward your destination.  If you need to return weights to their proper place, which is always directly on the rack behind them, you must not deviate.  It’s like animals in the wild – do not show fear or weakness.  Looking them in the eye is also discouraged.

There is an apparent hierarchy to the gymtards.  This hierarchy seems to be aligned along the same lines as a group of high school girls (see “Heathers” or “Mean Girls” or “Never Been Kissed”).  There is an alpha (e.g., Heather Chandler or Regina George).  There is one that is kept at just enough of a distance to make him or her insanely jealous and and always struggling to maintain his or her status in the group (e.g., Heather Duke or Gretchen Weiners).  There is, of course, also the dumb one (e.g., Heather McNamara or Karen Smith).  There is also that guy that has some hidden reserve of confidence that you “come to school for” (e.g., Guy).  I think that this hierarchy may be the most entertaining part of the whole fiasco – that even well into adulthood, those roles and social constructs NEVER go away.  Just watch sometime, if you can get them away from your bench, that is.

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My Big Redneck Wedding March 7, 2009

Posted by rscottgriffin in Life In Detail.
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Y’all, the Waffle House weding was just the beginning.  And, sadly, it does not hold a candle to this hot mess.  It’s a real show – on CMT.  I cannot possibly make this shit up, and it requires very little setup.  So, I’m just going to give a little summary.

The current episode is based in Arkansas (thank God it’s not Alabama, is all I’m thinking), and 6’1″, 300-lb. Tamsen is marrying 5’5″, 105-lb. Kevin.  Tamsen’s dream was to be married in her daddy’s chicken house.  Classy from the start, and I’m sure there was a wonderful smell for the guests.  There were, of course, the traditional pre-wedding projects and preparations, such as painting their names on the roof of the barn.  To gather the food for the wedding, which is SQUIRREL!, Kevin and a friend went hunting the week before.  Tamsen’s dress was as pretty as it could be, I suppose, but her headpiece was a straw cowboy hat with a veil pinned on the back of it.  No, I’m not kidding about that, either.  As they said their ‘I dos,’ one of the guests hand-cuffed them together.

They built a BOXING ring for the reception so that Tamsen and Kevin could box each other – who needs a first dance, right? When the time came for said boxing, there seemed to be a car nowhere in the way.  But, it had to be moved.  An announcement was made, to which no one responded.  So, they brought a bulldozer over (Why in the hell would they have a bulldozer in the backyard?!?!) and flipped the car over several times to remove it as an impediment.  The boxing, though, was truly comepetitive.  Kevin basically began running just fast enough to keep ahead of Tamsen, but she managed to outsmart him by cutting through the middle of the ring.  Knowing that, in boxing, the winner has to ‘pin’ his or her opponent, it is probably quite easily imagined what happened next.  Yes, she sat on him.

OMG, y’all, they look so cute leaving the wedding in a wrecker!

Finally, they also exchanged wedding gifts – he gave her a “diamond,” some sort of crystal from the Missouri River, and she replaced his recliner that she broke previously in the episode.

I really have to let you all draw your own conclusions on this one.  I just…I just can’t think about it any more.

Next up are Gary and Leann from Wisconsin, who are getting married …at a racetrack…because Gary drives race cars.  Do I even have to clarify that we’re not talking NASCAR, here?

Voyeurism Can Go Too Far. January 17, 2009

Posted by rscottgriffin in Life In Detail.
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The modern age has taken voyeurism and exhibitionism to new extremes.  We have the celebrity Web sites like Perez and Pink is the New Blog, TMZ…hell, the list could be an entire post in and of itself.  But, we now have Facebook (and its progenitors Friendster and MySpace [dubbed the “digital Detroit” by StuffWhitePeopleLike.com) and Twitter and personal blogs (natch!) and all sorts of ways to express God knows what about ourselves.  There are photo Web sites, video Web sites …  anything that you can come up to take a picture of, video, do to yourself, or write, you can find an outlet.  You can also find out about almost any damn thing you please.  *Yes, I understand the above statements may seem a bit hypocritical, especially if you’re reading this blog through the RSS feed from my Facebook page, but I do have a point.*

But, today I read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/16/business/16nocera.html.  In short, Brian Stone, a Business writer for the NYT, has taken issue with Steve Jobs’ lack of detail regarding his health issues, which has forced him to take a hiatus from Apple until at least June.  His main argument is that since his company that relies so much on its CEO, a “celebrity CEO” at that, Mr. Jobs owes the public and stockholders much more of an explanation regarding his health.  I wholly disagree.  Mr. Stone does admit that Mr. Jobs confided to him over the summer, off the record, about his health condition, but feels somewhat slighted by Mr. Jobs’ short and terse email and press release regarding his leave of absense.

Mr. Stone is, frankly, wrong.  Yes, there are those that thrust themselves into the spotlight seeking nothing but fame and notariety, but there is a line that needs to be drawn at someone’s health.  Even the not famous among us would prefer to not have our health histories splashed across the front pages.  Yes, there are legal implications for public figures getting a turned down expectation of privacy (hence, the tabloids), but we should all take a step back and put ourselves in the shoes of some of these people and think about whether our obsessiveness with the details of their private lives becomes nothing less than unseemly.  Health is a matter and a privacy space all its own.  It could very well be the next battle, one that we all have a stake in.

Mucinex and Other Torture Methods November 19, 2008

Posted by rscottgriffin in Life In Detail.
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It is November, and the temperature has taken its first dives into the lower regions of the thermometer.  That means it’s time for cold and flu season.  I am the recent, lucky recipient of some sort of nasty head cold that has been going around our office for the past month.  Everyone knows it’s just “the stuff,” and it’s miserable.  However, since I had recently cleaned out my medicine cabinet of mostly-expired OTC medication, I decided to procure a sampling for my own experimental purposes.

Let me start by saying that anything with any kind of decongestant in it – usually any named medication with the subsequent letter “D” – cranks up my anxiety level more than three venti Starbucks coffees and generally makes me equally as jittery.  These are the wonders of psuedoephedrine and its replacements.  So, I tend to try and avoid those.  I did pick up some Publix brand Tylenol Cold daytime (just to get through the day in emergency situations), some Alka Seltzer Plus (which also has a little decongestant), and, because I’ve heard so much about it, some Mucinex.

For several days, out of both desperation and necessity, I used both the Publix brand daytime cold medication and Alka Seltzer Plus.  The Publix brand made me feel not only like I had drank these three venti Starbucks coffees, but when drinking them I was chasing Tylenol with Codeine.  Such a situation does not lend itself to clear thought.  The Alka Seltzer plus, although inducing some jumpiness, lead to much more clear-headedness.  So, for those of you that are sensitive to decongestants, I can recommend the Alka  Seltzer Plus as a viable, acceptable, and effective alternative.

That brings us to the Mucinex.  After my bleary-headed purchase, I realized that plain Mucinex is meant for chest congestion, and a separate Mucinex D is actually recommended for sinus and nasal congestion.  Knowing what that “D” means, and based on my testing described above, I decided that I did not need any extra decongestant.  However, as my cold progressed, things did make their way into my chest.  Therefore, I took my first shot at Mucinex yesterday afternoon.  Well, there did not seem to be too much of an effect at first.  You must give it a few hours, I guess, because late last night I began coughing so much that I thought my esophogas would rupture.  This morning I thought I would cough up a lung.  My eyes teared up, my chest heaved, my abdominals cramped up.  When they say expectorant, they mean it.  Seriously, if there is some counter-agent to the shit, I would consider giving it to prisoners and letting them dry cough themselves to near death until they beg for the antidote and/or confess.

I think it is truly an axiom that for the common cold that the medications we use to make ourselves better are worse than the actual cold.  Nothing will ever beat some warm chicken soup, comfort foods, the sofa, a warm blanket, some hot tea, and plenty of time for trashy tv.

I Do Not Like Lacking Information September 17, 2008

Posted by rscottgriffin in Life In Detail.
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I have learned something very important about myself.  I do not like it when I do not have sufficient information, and I do not like it when people will not give it to me.  When one avenue fails, I generally pursue another.  However, when all avenues fail, I tend to want to rant, and I start to turn into a “holy terror,” words the women in my family usually reserve for toddlers.  Well, I think it’s apt.

This all started today when I thought, “wow, it’s the middle of September, and I have yet to receive my property tax bill.”  Now, I have thought about this particular delinquency on the part of Fulton county from time to time, but today I had a moment, so I sent a quick email to a group list of fellow residents to determine whether or not any of them had received theirs.  I had two responses, both had received their bills last week.  (As a side note, another resident who I am friends with and ran into in the elevator told me that he had already received his as well.)  So, I decided to call the Fulton County Tax Commissioner.  Of course, I started at their Web site.  I was thrilled to learn that, yes, you could check a tax bill on-line!  Woo hoo!  (Given the above description of my attitude when I encounter “customer service” individuals that do not provide me the information I want, you can understand why I am such a fan of the on-line service – I can do it myself and get precisely the information that I want.)  So, I click on the link.  The system is down.  I call the office.  The response I receive?  “They’re still being mailed out.  You could receive it next week, too.”  Hhmmm….  Well, all in all, this would not have bothered me if I had not heard the following while on hold for ten minutes, “Fulton County taxes are due on August 15th, and City of Atlanta taxes are due on September 15th.  Failure to receive a bill does not [absolve (I’m picking a word I know for a fact they did not use, and may not even know the meaning of, but it seems like an appropriately strong word under the circumstances, and I can’t remember the one they used, so there you go)] you from paying your bill on time.]”  Really?  Well, that’s interesting.  You don’t mail the bills out until AFTER their due dates, and your computer system is down?  So, let me get this straight.  You are going to withhold information from me, yet charge me late fees for your not sending it in time?  Great.  Swell.  I hate you, I think.  So, I accept the nice lady’s statement as true, thinking I can check my mail when I get home, could be there, or I can check my online mortgage information to see if the bank has already paid it, which would make my life so much more worry-free.  And THIS is where it gets interesting.

So, I go to the handy dandy Bank of America home page.  There was a great on-line interface the last time I logged in, but no more.  Nope, no sir.  After I realized I had no idea if I had an online ID (no idea if my old one still worked) and after the SiteKey check started asking me information like the name of my first child (I’m pretty sure I didn’t give them Ella’s name), I opted for the on-line chat option.  Well, of course she asked me my account number – I don’t have it.  Okay, we can do this another way.  What’s your name?  Check, I know that one.  What is your address…yep, know that one, too.  Okay, how much was the loan originated for?  Well, this is where I think, “oh, BoA has both my mortgage and my car loan, so, she could have either one.”  I attempt to explain this.  It is for the account ending in ### ..whatever number it was.  Um, what part of “I have two accounts and do not have the account numbers in front of me” do you not understand?!?!  Seriously.  Pay attention.  So, I rattled off the figures I could come up with in my head for my mortgage.  Nothin’.  Then she started asking me about a deposit.  I do not have a checking account with you, I just want to know how to look up my damn information to see if my taxes have been paid!  I gave up.  The toddler was about type something excessively mean about her (it broadcasted her name, which I no longer remember, but I know it was a woman, so don’t think I’m being sexist) not having two brain cells to rub together and NOT PAYING ATTENTION.  Phew.  I’m okay, I really am.

So, once home, I went to set up a new on-line account, which was going swimmingly.  Then, it told me it would MAIL me my passcode…in 3-5 days.  Huh?  On what planet does it make sense that I register to access an account online but you send me my password in DAYS and through the mail?!  I’m incredulous, and getting more annoyed by the minute, which I think, at my current stress level could very well send me into one of those patented trantrums where I lay on the floor and scream and cry and pound my fists, feet, head, elbows, legs, knees …you get the picture – like I’m trying to pull a Michael Phelps across the hard-woods.  So, I call loan customer service.  Closed.  I find another number for on-line access.  After navigating through two 800 numbers and a hang up from the IVR, I finally spoke to a nice lady with Bank of America who manged to give me a temporary password so I could check my mortgage.  They haven’t yet paid my taxes.

So, here I sit, getting this out before I actually throw that tantrum and freak out the dog, and it occurs to me what is really bothering me.  I am asked to work miracles almost daily. “Do this.  Fix this.  Handle that.”  All of this with the expectation that I will go and seek out the information I need, parse what is important and what is not, then put it back together into something resembling an answer and a “problem solved.”  I have developed the expectation that others will also provide service and the information that I ask for and to simply, basically, THINK.  Or, at the very least put forth the effort to fake it.  But, I can see these people on the other end of the chat or phone, just sitting there, blankly staring, only able to process “see spot sit” sentences.  That is when I start to fume, and that’s when I have to start letting it go and realizing, like anything else dealing with people, there’s a process.  We take them as we get them I suppose, and we all constantly complain about it.  So, at what point do our expectations actually drive things to get better?  Then, I realize I missed my chance to give feedback – that stupid survey that no one ever takes because that extra two minutes is just too much to bare after dealing with all of the misery.  But, until we all start complaining, nothing will ever change.  We should also let them know on those rare occasions when something actually goes right.  Just breathe, I suppose….

Oh, and the other thing, I still have no idea what’s going on with my taxes.  I think the bank just paid them last year, and I’m cool with that.  I just want to make sure I have a bill for my write-off.  If anyone has any insight, I welcome your comments.

UPDATE:

I spoke with someone in the Tax Commissioner’s Office, who was very nice and very helpful.  She looked up my bill, which had been mailed out, and said that she would send me a new one today.  Lovely.  Oh, also, apparently they’ve pushed back the due dates until October 15th and 31st.  It’s on the Web site today.  I did not notice it there yesterday.  So, if you live in Fulton and were wondering about it,  I hope this helps.