Menachem's Writings

A Noisy Gym

I work out in a gym under the swimming pool in which I swim between a mile and mile and a half a day. The installation is part of the local community centre owned and managed by the local municipality. The Center is overseen by a beaurocrat par excellence with the unlikely name of Mike (believe it or not, but it's true) Wankie. Wankie is great at managing (or rather cooking) the books so that he hides all the loss incurring activities he runs, by eating up the profit made by the pool and gym; therefore there is no new investment made into the complex from profits -- he makes sure there are no profits.

I'm not accusing him of pocketing anything for himself . . . he draws a nice salary. The municipality finds government money here and there and that's the only reason the place isn't falling apart more than it is. (I won't talk about the lack of hot water in the shower or the dirty pool water today.)

For years I have been suggesting that the municipality lease the complex to a private person/group, setting minimum service requirements, hours, etc, but then no book cooking -- but much better service. Of course what will happen in the long run is that a private complex will open in the area and the local Council will lose everything, overnight!

Of course this management style directly affects the attitude of everyone that works in the place. Anyone good moves on, quite quickly, because Wankie, in his true bureaucratic style, doesn't allow any of the employees to show initiative; this of course would only serve to show up his inadequacies. I've met the mayor on this issue. He agrees with my assessment and has said he would do something about it; but instead he renewed Mike W's contract for another three years!

Even in the face of, or rather despite this situation, we continue to have fun. Wankie finds a new reason every year to rip us off -- he's not that imaginative though -- like paying separately for the lockers we've used in the past as part of our annual membership fee, or adding an annual "enter your details into our computer" fee to the membership price.

By some budgetary miracle (meaning if they didn't quickly spend the remainder of last year's budget they would get that much less money in the next fiscal year) we suddenly received 3 brand new, super quiet Startac running machines and a Startac Elliptical Trainer -- really nice machines.

Well that brings me to our "friend" Hadley! When you speak to Hadley you think he is a Limey *, but he isn't -- his mother is. Hadley has been abusing his body for years and now, poor fellow, isn't able to keep up the old pace -- but he wants to. One problem is that Hadley's adrenalin comes from playing what he called music at over 100 decibels. I say what "he calls music" because it clearly isn't, not by modern, classical, jazz or Jamaican Reggae standards. It's more like machine generated boom-boom (not the The Outhere Brothers's variety either) with a large amount of white noise static, like when you're almost on a radio station. In fact the more static the better for Hadley.

Everyone hates it when Hadley does this. Before wearing out the padding in his joints and before we received the new quiet machines, Hadley's running would sound like a charging elephant on heat. The din was amazing. Intolerable! So two weeks ago I said, "Enough Hadley!". And turned off the offending noise device. (In the past I have turned down the volume to be met by Hadley's screams.) Well scream all you want -- I turned it off and said, "Hadley, you want to listen to noisy white noise, you get an MP3 player and headphones and blast your eardrums, not ours, all you want!" He counterclaims that he has problems with his ears and can't use headphones. Well I wonder why!

The amazing thing was that people came up to me and thanked me for finally turning Hadley off. Of course no-one said anything to Hadley. He went up to people after I left to ask them why they did not support him against me. I asked people to go up to him with music devices and say, "Hadley, this is what you should use". Hadley didn't know what hit him!

I even brought a small radio with headphones (and lots of white noise) for Hadley to use. I was surprised he actually tried it out -- will wonders ever cease -- but to no avail.

And on to today in our story . . . I was getting changed in the locker room when Hadley arrived. He looked at the (dirty) floor as he passed me. I said in a booming voice, "Good morning, Hadley". He said I already said good morning. I said that I was sorry to be a bit deaf. So he said, "Good morning -- I'm angry at you. You think you're the boss here." I said that there was only room for one boss, and people were sick of his behaviour, and if they wanted me, then it was indeed me, and there certainly was not enough room for two bosses.

Hadley ran down to the gym, only to find Bruce on the elliptical trainer. Last week, Hadley hogged it for himself for 2 hours straight! This week he had to contend with "walking" (remember, poor guy can't run -- elephant charge -- any more) on a treadmill for 40 minutes until Bruce was finished, and then went onto the spend the rest of the time on the trainer.

One more Hadley story . . . I produced a bookmark comprising my favorite photographs -- you know fine-art photographs that talented me made ;-) I was giving them out to everyone in the locker room -- people line up for them, and even ask for one for their mother/wife/girlfriend/neighbor/neighbour's dog. I later found Hadley and Job alone in the locker room and offered them each a bookmark. Perhaps, by their responses, they thought they were going to have to pay for them. Job said, bookmarks are for old people who can't remember any more, and Hadley said he doesn't read books, except for the Talmud. I said, "Hadley, I don't care if all you read is the Talmud Yerushalmi** or the Bavli***, you can always use a bookmark! But he refused to accept one. Oh well. So now I have a spare bookmark to give away; so the first five people that write to me today are entitled to a FREE bookmark.

And guess what? Even though Friday is Sef's day, today No Sef! I guess he's out hunting duck in the South Dakota lagoons.

* a Limey is someone from England. The name comes from the English sailors that sailed, plundered, pillaged and probably raped the world in the late 18th and the 19th century. In 1768 Captain James Cook sailed for Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun (to help measure the distance between the Earth and the Sun) the following year, returning to England in 1771 after discovering and mapping New Zealand (where he circumnavigated both islands, North and South) and the lush east coast of Australia. At that time the disease that plagued sailors, due to a deficiency of vitamin C, was called scurvey. Signs of scurvy include tiredness, muscle weakness, joint and muscle aches, a rash on the legs, and bleeding gums -- not too pleasant. So old Jimmy Cook gave his men some limes to suck on every now and again (I'm sure the officers had theirs with Tonic) -- anyway no scurvey but the name stuck: Limeys. As to whether or not it's an insult to be called a "limey", well, that all depends on whom you ask ;-)
** Talmud Yerushalmi. The Jerusalem Talmud, often referred to as the Yerushalmi for short, and also known as the Palestinian Talmud, is a collection of Rabbinic notes about the Mishna, the Jewish Oral tradition as detailed in the 2nd-century Mishnah.
The Jerusalem Talmud predates its counterpart, the Babylonian Talmud, by about 200 years and is written in a combination Hebrew and Israeli (not Babylonian) Aramaic. It's core component is the Mishna, finalized by Rabbi Judah the Prince (haNasi) accompanied by discussions by the Rabbis living in the Land of Israel (primarily in the academies of Tiberias and the north). It was compiled around 350-400 C.E. (common era of year counting) into a series of books that became the Gemara from gamar: Hebrew "[to] complete"; Aramaic "[to] study".
*** Talmud Bavli. Babylonian Talmud. Compiled in Babylon (Bavel/Babel) about 200 years after the Yerushalmi in Hebrew and Babylonian Aramaic.