Donut Hole: The Clean Machine

What’s with the overkill on antiseptic wipedowns?
by Brian Wright

Clean_GreenA few years ago, as I tried to establish myself as a real living being in the Free State of New Hampshire, I made a habit of working out as I had back in Michigan at the Farmington YMCA. I was fortunate to find the Goffstown YMCA for a reasonable price, situated within a few miles of my New Boston digs. I noticed immediately a cultural difference between New Englanders and Midwesterners: At Goffstown virtually all the users, after an exercise, would walk over to a antibacterial cleanser spray bottle, spray a paper towel (or a cloth towel if they had brought one with them), and rub down the surfaces they had touched on the equipment.

I really hadn’t seen that before in Michigan Y, or anywhere else that I’d ever worked out—and I’ve been a moderate fitness center addict for decades. Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while some pounder who sweats like Niagara Falls would run 20 miles on a treadmill depositing a quarter-inch layer of body fluid within a five-foot radius; then you would hope and pray he’d have the courtesy to put the machine back in service like a bunch of Boy Scouts washing your car on Saturday morning. But generally most of us carried a workout towel, then after finishing our biceps curls or leg lifts, we’d simply give a few wipes to the plastic or leather padding and move on.

The idea was to use the towel to wipe one’s brow and leave the machinery free from perspiration… not to sanitize everything like a hospital operating table.

WordsDid these Cradle of Liberty minions bump their heads?

Did they watch that Dustin Hoffman, Renee Russo movie Outbreak one too many times?

What is the big whoop?

Oh well, when in Rome. So I at least went through the motions.

That was back in ’05, ’06. Then circumstances required me to return to my origin state in the Vast Authoritarian Wasteland, i.e. Michigan once again. For a while I worked out at the Farmington Y. Then one day my dear mother, of all people, gave me a tip on a new wellness business that had come to town, closer by in Northville, called Planet Fitness—home of the Judgment-Free Zone, this outfit had the ideal business model for me: some weight machines, ample cardio equipment (like treadmills, elliptcals), and a small locker room with showers. No racquetball courts, no running tracks, no swimming pool, no day care. Price: $10/month! Perfect.

I think there was a $20 joining fee, but you’re billed monthly and can cancel anytime. [Some of us remember the early attempts at the health and fitness racket, back in the 1970s, which typically required a substantial down payment and a multiyear commitment. I recall my smooth but high-pressured salesman Phil asking me, “What’s it worth to you, Brian, to have a body the chicks are gonna dig? A few hours a week and $17.oo per month ($78.00 in 2012 money) is all we’re talking about. Don’t you care what you look like? You like women don’t you?”]

Needless to say, the Planet Fitness mojo was and is my cup of tea. I really can’t say enough about that approach: giving you what most people need, in large numbers of smaller, easily maintained facilities, without the frills. It was toward the end of 2008 that I joined up, and dropped the Y membership that was costing me $45.00 a month.

It took me a few months for it to sink in, but here at the Planet Fitness in Northville, the patrons do their turns on the weight machines and cardios then, sure enough, they traipse over to the three or four cleaning islands (pictured above), grab some paper, spray it generously with the Windex surrogate, walk back to the device, and wipe it down. Mostly as if they really intend to kill germs. I’ll be darned. Same as in New Hampshire.

By this time, I’m with the program. Not really giving much thought to whether bacteria jumping off the people’s arms and legs onto the upholstery of the gymnasiums of the world represent a serious threat to the species. So rub a dub dub. The preventive practice must be catching on everywhere. I tell myself that if it makes no real SunFLOWerdifference to the well being of humankind, at least the manufacturers of ammonia cleansers will prosper.

A week ago I read a little about the history of Planet Fitness. Guess where it started: Dover, New Hampshire!


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