Friday, July 20, 2012

Wiping gym equipment

At the gym, there's a social contract that once you're done with a machine, you're supposed to wipe it down with a towel and a disinfectant solution.

I'd love it if this social contract disappeared.

All else being equal, it would be exactly the same amount of work for a person to clean a machine just before using it, rather than just after. But there are additional benefits from cleaning the machine before using it.

For one, you would not be counting on the stranger who came before you to have fulfilled his part. Plenty of people forget or don't bother to clean their machines. Now to be sure, you have to clean your machine twice: once before, once after your workout.

Second, some people (including me) do not care whether a machine is cleaned ahead of time. I don't think U-Iowa students are all that disgusting; a little sweat (which has evaporated a long time ago anyway) has never hurt anyone. (Has it?) So, the stranger who came before me wasted his or her time.

Third, some people want to switch off with you between your sets. Then there's the scripted exchange where I get the spray bottle and make like I'm about to spray the machine, and the person generously stops me and saves me the effort, implying "Don't be silly, stranger! What's a little sweat between kindred spirits who've chosen the same machine at the same time?"

Fourth, there's just something a little too pious about thoroughly spraying down a machine after yourself. If you feel the machine needs ten sprays from the bottle after your set, please stay home until the contagion passes.

Maybe Niles Crane was onto something after all.