I don’t want to be overly cynical or anything, but I’m truly amazed at how dumb people can be sometimes.  Yes, I know that sounds harsh and particularly “angry blogger”-ish, but it’s true.  I mean, we all do dumb things —  it’s normal — but the other day at the gym, I witnessed one of the most idiotic, or rather, baffling displays I’ve seen in quite some time.

So here’s the situation. My gym requires its members to carry around a towel at all times. I’m all for this policy. I don’t like touching other people’s sweat, especially after having spent a torturous year at the Bally’s of Hollywood, an establishment that seems to attract a particularly hairy, deodorant-free segment of the nearby Little Armenia population. Well, I’m very careful to tote around my nifty towel, which I fool-heartedly believe will shield me from all bacteria and disease. I even make sure that I wipe my brow with only one side of the towel, leaving the other side to only make contact with all that nasty workout equipment. It may sound excessive, but what good is a towel if you’re sopping up someone else’s sweat one moment and then wiping it all over your face another? NO GOOD AT ALL, I SAY!

As you can see, I’m all about proper towel practices. Others aren’t. Cut to last Thursday at the gym. I was working out, and the next bench over was this guy who seemed to take great pride in voicing banal, dated observations. For instance, while he was taking a break from swiveling his hips to his iPod (yes, he was a swiveler), the guy removed one of his headphones and announced to his friend that Madonna had CLEARLY sampled Michael Jackson on her song, “Sorry.” I don’t know the validity of this comment, but I can tell you one thing: that song came out two years ago. The window of time to wow people with your sampling knowledge has long since passed. It would be like me saying, “You know, MC Hammer totally samples Rick James. YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT.”

Nevertheless, this guy and his underwhelming commentary quickly earned my general disdain, and it didn’t help matters that once he resumed listening to his iPod, he then proceeded to boogie down as if he were the star of his own personal Studio 54. Dancing in gyms is another one of my pet peeves, but I’ll save that for another post (the synopsis: if you dance to your iPod in the gym, or anywhere, in general, you are awful).

Anyway, I carried on with my workout, and eventually, I found one of those little padded chairs that I knew would be oh so perfect for my next exercise. I casually yet carefully draped my towel on it, being sure to maintain my strict code of sanitary towel practices. The best part about a towel, aside from its omnipotent defense against all toxins, is that it doubles as a simple, convenient, territorial measure. When you place that bad boy down on some equipment, it effectively tells all others, “Get back, assholes. This shit is MINE.”

Well, feeling confident that this unspoken message was being relayed to all those present, I headed off in search of a proper dumbbell — always an adventure in and of itself. As usual, the weights were all scattered about in a sort of haphazard, random way, almost as if the gym had fallen prey to some cruel, Dadaist fitness buffs, and as such, it took me entirely way too long to find what I needed. But I eventually, persevered, and when I turned around to march back to my chair, I had one of those moments. You know, when everything goes into slow-motion, and if you were being filmed, the camera would zoom into you while the background expands? Well, that’s what was happening to me, and had I been holding a teacup, I might have just dropped the damn thing for added effect.

When I looked at my chair, my towel was gone. Had someone deigned to steal my $3 rag of impenetrable cloth? THE HORRORS! Quickly, I scanned the room, and a microsecond later, I saw Dancing Dumb Observationist (yes, I know, not a real word) hovering over my chair, still bopping around, and holding my towel. Even worse, he then WIPED HIS MOUTH WITH IT.

Okay, wiping one’s mouth with a gym towel is always grounds for general stupidity, but when you do it with someone else’s, that’s just fowl. I could not believe this idiot. Why was he wiping his mouth on MY towel? This was one of the most disgusting things I had ever seen at the gym. Somehow, I must have turned into a gazelle or a cheetah or a strange hybrid (gazeetah) because within seconds, I had bounded over all obstacles and returned to my chair, ready to confront this idiot. Of course, when it comes to confrontations, I tend to adopt the stammering, slightly high-pitched method of intimidation; so I knew this was about to turn into a fiasco.

“Did you… is that… I think that’s my towel,” I said, my wrath clearly not properly relayed.

The guy took off his headphones, looked at the towel, looked back at his bench, saw HIS towel, and then said, “Oh! Oops!” He then placed my towel back on the chair, as if that would somehow rid the fabric of all his mouth germs. Did he honestly think I was only upset by the unheralded movement of my towel? Like, as soon as it was returned to its rightful resting place, I would then excuse all? And furthermore, why the hell did he even take the towel in the first place? I mean, he wasn’t even using the chair. Who takes towels off of equipment they’re not using? It’s simple logic, really. If there’s a towel on a chair that you haven’t been using, chances are, it’s not your towel.

I then started up on a new string of stuttering syllables. “No, I think… I feel like you were… your mouth…”

The guy stared blankly at me for a moment and then realized what I was getting at. He then said, “Oh…” sympathetically and then gestured at his towel and said, “Well, do you want to switch?” WHAT THE? Why would that ever make things better? Don’t you see that I’m objecting to your bacteria, not asking for more?

At that point, I very authoritatively said “NO.” (As in “No, you IDIOT. WHY WOULD YOU EVER OFFER THAT?”) And in response, he attempted to placate me with random pleasantries. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Uh, Ben,” I responded.

“Hi. I’m Matthias,” he said. GREAT. Just what I want. A new, awful friend (with a dumb name). I refused to let this guy even try to banter with me; so I merely announced that I’d be washing my towel forthwith and walked away. Honestly, I just wanted to burn the damn thing, but I think a thorough ride in the washing machine (at HOT) will remove all traces of Matthias and his idiot sweat.

So next time you’re seeking out weights at the gym, keep an eye on your towel too because you never know which jerk might molest it with his (or her) awfulness.