The endurance trial

    Before I went to 24-Hour Fitness, I’d been on a bit of a have-it-for-free hot streak. Free schoolbooks from the library, free movie passes from the Hollywood Theatre (The Science of Sleep), free concert tickets (Elton John), free samples at the Safeway. Could I go five for five? The wiles, manipulations, and aggressive machinations of fitness counselor Grandt Mansfield said no.

    My roommate said 24-Hour Fitness had a steam room, sauna, whirlpool, pool, basketball court, yoga and other classes, weight room, treadmills, etc., and a printable 10-day free-trial pass on their website. She printed one out and spent the weekend going from the steam room to the pool to the sauna to the pool to the steam room, and so on. And it was wonderful. The Hollywood 24-Hour Fitness is only a seven-minute bike ride away. I’d never been in a steam room, sauna, or a 24-Hour Fitness, so I decided to try it.

    Or try to try it. She also said they’d have a sales pitch to get me to sign up when I got there, so I should stress that I was there for the trial and nothing more. I said that, and said it again, and then again, but Mr. Mansfield had so many reasons why I should sign up. Each reason, oddly, was directly related to the information I had just given him.

    For instance, I’m in college, so I must be poor. Ah, but if I give up my pass and sign up immediately, without having ever worked out at any 24-Hour Fitness or any gym anywhere, Grandt could cut the initiation and monthly fees by about $120. I’m taking the Asian studies cluster at PSU? Well, 24-Hour Fitness has 16 clubs in Asia! I just started playing flag football? Well, Terrell Owens broke his wrist last year and recovered quickly. Therefore, I should give 24-Hour Fitness $180 now, and about $30 per month, indefinitely. How else will I meet my fitness goals?

    But I’m not saving any money at all if I wasn’t already going to spend it. And I don’t have any fitness goals. I wanted to go to the steam room and the sauna, to see what it’s like, because I had a free-trial pass. “Not ready to buy, try us out now!” is how 24-Hour Fitness promoted the 10-day pass on its website.

    Not tall and athletic like the other fitness counselors, Grandt was of average height, expressionless, pale, a little husky, and wore glasses too big for his face. After a quarter hour of unsuccessful friendly chat, Grandt turned unpleasant. Since neither Terrell Owens nor Asia have any relevance to my relations with 24-Hour Fitness, Grandt focused on the savings I’d miss out on if I used the heavily promoted trial pass.

    And it went on like this for about 30 minutes, like being fired for half an hour. Then there was a pause. “I feel like you came in just to waste my time today.”

    ”I didn’t even know you would be here today. I just came in to try it. It says free 10-day trial. I came to try it.”

    There must be a time limit to the 24-Hour Fitness interrogation, because after a few more minutes of awkward pauses, and even though he was disgusted and seemed personally offended, Grandt printed out a more official trial pass, and I was free to roam the club, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., for the next 10 days.

    Upstairs are rows and rows of shapely sweating asses, and everyone’s either climbing or riding in place, watching cable sports or news programs. If you forget your swimsuit and don’t care for weightlifting, there isn’t much else to do.

    I climbed some stairs for the next 20 minutes and burned 438 calories, and from the liberal media, either MSNBC or CNN, I learned that the United States is in a “Battle for Iraq.” Is the U.S. fighting the people of Iraq to control the country, all for the benefit of U.S. companies and investors and overall U.S. geostrategic positioning? Or is the U.S. fighting the people of Iraq to control the country, for the benefit of the people of Iraq? Without headphones it was impossible to discern the meaning of this segment, and no one else seemed to care.

    I felt the same about this particular fitness center, so when I got home I climbed my own stairs, and built my own sauna in the bathtub.