March 1, 1998
That darn Internet
So I'm at the gym last week, see? And, like, y'know, I'm, like, workin' out an' stuff? An' there was this, kinda, I dunno, person, like, talking like this? And he goes, "hey, dude". So I killed him.
No, wait, that was just a fantasy. In reality, my gym has two main sections, one for the movers and one for the lifters. You know, bikes and running pads and stairs all on one side, and all the weights and bodybuilding machines on the other: the panting and grunting sections. Everyone knows that if you want a good workout, you start on the panting side, then move to the grunting side (and finish in the "aaah" location, down in the locker room sauna).
My only complaint with this gym is that they provide separate "entertainment" in each section, too, and it's entirely backward. On the panting side, they have a TV, with very loud speakers, invariably tuned to whatever insipid daytime talk show may be on. This strikes me as disturbingly sexist on the gym's part, as they appear to assume that only airheaded females work out on the moving machines, and that they desire this type of drivel to accompany their exercise. On the other side, as background to the grunting, we have Adult Contemporary music on the radio, a usually satisfying selection of upbeat tunes. But you have to move all the way over to the free weights section to drown out the TV speaker from the other side.
To me, this is all backward. When I'm doing my running or climbing, a long, trance-like activity that requires endurance and steady, rhythmic pacing, I'd like something tranquil to accompany me. Good, flowing music is just the thing: your movement can become almost like dancing, and your mind can simply flow with the sound. When you impose blaring TV commercials for personal injury lawyers, and talk show guests slobbering about "When I came in, I found him pulling up his pants!" and the giggly audience erupting into titillated applause every 2 minutes . . . it messes with your karma, makes it much harder to relax and get into the Zone. I suspect your muscles wind up a lot more tight when you exercise to such mental feces.
Now, on the other hand, if you must have daytime TV on in the gym, I think it makes more sense to put it in the grunting room, with all the heavy lifting. If you're struggling to push that weight up one more time, or to find the extra burst of strength to complete 5 more reps, what better motivation than to imagine you're punching Jerry Springer or one of his existence-challenged guests right in the face?
--Oh, sorry, I was distracted for a moment by the glaring sunlight coming in my window. Here in Massachusetts, we had a week of torrential rain, now followed by warm, 50+ sunny days. In California, they had a week of torrential rain, followed by a week of torrential rain, and then the bad weather started. In Florida, they had tornados. It's all the fault of The Little Boy, you know. (Remember, we're trying to eradicate the inferior Spanish language from our culture.) Who is this Little Boy, anyway? Is he God's younger son, or something? The naughty one who likes to spill buckets of water on ant hills? Remember that stand-up comic a few years ago who did a bit about Jesus's older brother? Their mother complains: "How come we always have food when your brother visits?" "He's the freaking Messiah for crying out loud!"
Anyway, I'm getting to the point. On this particular day, while I was jogging to nowhere and compelled to watch the TV, Sally Jesse Raphael (no relation to the Renaissance painter), was doing a show with the inspired title, "We've only been married a year and now I want a divorce". And her first guest was a woman who's husband had been away in Bosnia with the troops, and then had to stay at his brother's house, bla bla bla, and somehow got hooked on an on-line chat service, 14 hours a day, where he met a girl, had cyber sex, and then actually drove to meet her and had real sex, and his wife found out about it when the guy's brother called to say he owed them $700 for telephone bills. (This took the woman far longer to tell, through the sobs.)
Only, the woman didn't call what he was using a "chat service," which was undoubtedly accessed via America On-Line. She said he was "talking to women on the Internet". Okay, fair enough. But then, Sally Jesse sympathetically chimed in, "That darned Internet! All I ever hear about is people lying about who they are, men who say they're not married, people having cybersex . . ." They then brought on the remorseful husband, who said it would never happen again, and his wife wanted him to swear that he would "never use that Internet again."
Now, my idea was to use this as a launching point for some insightful commentary on the role of the Internet in our changing society, and the frightful ignorance that some people, even prominent TV personalities, still have about it. But that would only bore you and take up a lot more of my time, and anyway, you get the point.
Which is: Bring earplugs to the gym.
(But take them out when you do heavy bench pressing, or else they might explode out of your ears in both directions, causing superficial wounds to both a grunter and a panter, who might simuiltaneously come over to chastise you, but in the process meet each others' eyes, fall in love, get married, but then soon discover that all they have in common is the little scar on their thigh from your earplug, and he hates talk TV and she doesn't like his talking on the darn Internet, and the next thing you know they're getting divorced on live television, and it's all your fault.)
P.S. If you've noticed a dramatic improvement in the readability of this column, it's because I've made an important discovery: how to insert a double-space after a period. In previous columns, you may have been disturbed by the single-spacing between sentences. (It's certainly one of my pet peeves.) But through extensive research, I have at last cracked the code in this Web authoring program (Microsoft Frontpage) for inserting a double space.
A single space is a fairly straightforward command: press the space bar. To add another space, I at first naively suspected a similar theory: press the space bar again. But alas, this is Microsoft we're talking about. Pressing the space bar a second time produces no effect. Probably some other company holds the patent on double-spaces, and Microsoft hasn't been able to buy them out yet, so they don't want to make it too easy for us.
Anyway, my investigation paid off, and a second space can indeed be inserted, using <CTRL><SHIFT><SPACE>. See? Like that. As always, I strive continually to improve the quality of this product for you, my legion of devoted reader.
© 1998 David N. Townsend
The Beanstalk grows out of my head, so to speak, but I welcome
any seeds that readers may wish to plant. Just as long as you don't use
too much fertilizer. Send me your comments, ideas, drool, at
and I'll occasionally respond to, publish, or otherwise dispose of them.
Need more? In addition to the rich and growing archives of this column,
you might want to visit The Site itself, and any of my other collections, on
Communication, Baseball, Rock 'n' Roll, or Travel.