Feb 06 2008

When the workout gods know you’re slacking…

What follows is a rather lengthy story about how Dr. Darling and I got locked in to our local fitness club last Saturday morning, and how the reaction of everyone one involved was so typically, well…Swedish.  Enjoy.

Between the medical drama of the last few months and the winter holidays, my Swede and I have been really bad about going to the gym. Granted, for part of that time I was on restricted activity while I recovered from surgery, but we could have gotten our lazy butts back there much earlier than this past Saturday.

I suppose I should have realized we were mocking the workout gods when we spent half of the walk over there trying to whack the dust off of our shared gym bag.  (It had been sitting on top of a free-standing wardrobe in the bedroom that I freely confess to never dusting because I can’t see the top of it.)

We were also unsure about whether or not we’d even be able to get in, because the facility is not staffed on weekends and requires a combination of an active membership card plus a left index fingerprint to get the doors to open. (“Active” being the operative word, here.)  There are two glass swing doors to navigate, one right after the other, and the outer door has to be securely closed before the inner door will open and vice-versa. I often have trouble activating the inner door (it doesn’t seem to like my fingerprint) and in this instance, I was REALLY out of practice.

Happily, we both managed to get in and challenge some muscles. (It didn’t take much.) And we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves until it came time to leave and neither one of our membership cards would open the inner door…the same one we had come through without incident an hour before.

After several more swipes each, Dr. Darling approached a fellow member on one of the eliptical machines and asked if there had been any change in the exit procedure in the last few months. She said no and kindly interrupted her cardio session to swipe her card for us.  It didn’t work either. By this time there were two or three other people ready to leave and they were stuck, too.

So I dialed the “In Case of Emergency” number posted near the door and handed my mobile to Dr. Darling as I knew it would be pointless for me to try to explain the situation in Swedish. The guy who answered said the last person to leave had probably opened the outer door by flipping the lock manually rather than swiping his card. This was causing the inner door to “think” that the outer door was still open, so it remained locked. He claimed the outer door would reset on its own in a couple of minutes, or when the next person came in through it from the outside, whichever came first. The only problem with this theory was that someone had already tried to come in and the outer door wouldn’t open either.

By now there were a half-dozen people wanting to leave the building, not one of whom offered any assistance to Dr. Darling, who was still on the phone with In Case of Emergency Guy, who was still insisting that the outer door would reset itself.  I was serenading the gathering crowd with a very serviceable rendition of the Eagles’ “Hotel California” when two more members arrived at the outside door. We collectively held our breath as the first one successfully opened first the outer and then the inner door.

Dr. Darling grabbed the inner door before it closed and held on to it while reporting this development to In Case of Emergency Guy. The second person, assuming that the outer door would not open as long as the inner door was not closed, stood by patiently while my Swede got more instructions. That’s when one of the strandees, a young guy who up to this point had done nothing to help us solve the problem, decided to step through the inner door and…well, just stand there in the phone booth-size space between the two doors. 

In Case of Emergency Guy wanted us to try opening the inner door as usual now that outer door appeared to be functioning properly, so Dr. Darling grabbed the kid by the arm and pulled him back into the building before allowing the inner door to close. Initially I thought the ever-considerate Swede did this to make sure he didn’t end up stuck between the two doors should the problem persist.  When I remarked on this act of kindness later, Dr. Darling’s response was, “I pulled him back in because he pissed me off. We were the only ones doing anything and he thought he got to leave first? I don’t think so.”

Unfortunately, the woman who had been waiting outside came through the outer door before Dr. Darling could try opening the inner one, but given that she had no trouble getting in, we were hopeful that the problem was now solved. NO SUCH LUCK. There were now at least 10 people waiting to leave, but the newly dubbed In Case of “Selective” Emergency Guy said that he couldn’t send anyone over to help because they weren’t staffed for it. WTF?!  He then told Dr. Darling we’d just have to wait until somebody else came in, hold the inner door open and see if one of us could then unlock the outer door manually. 

The other possibility would be to get a person entering the building to hold the outer door ajar while trying the membership card/fingerprint combo on the inner door, but convincing someone to commit what would normally be a MAJOR NO-NO was going to be quite challenging if we couldn’t explain the problem to them before the outer door closed. 

In any case, why the hell didn’t We Really Don’t Care About Your Emergency Guy suggest these options moments before when there was actually someone outside waiting to get in?!?!?!  Gaaaaah!

Dr. Darling finally hung up the phone, and to my amazement didn’t seem all that surprised that we’ve essentially been given SQUAT in terms of concrete assistance from In Case of Emergency NOT Guy.  At this point a couple of the other strandees (there were a dozen of us by now) decided it was time for them to get in on the conversation (finally!), several of them agreeing with me that busting through one of the emergency exits would probably result in someone (fire department, police?) arriving pretty damn quick. It’s now lunchtime on a Saturday, not exactly a big traffic hour for the gym, so we had no idea how long it would be before someone else turned up to work out.

One of the girls then volunteered to call her boyfriend, who was also a member and happened to live nearby. She, however, turned out to be the only person in Sweden who doesn’t own a cellphone (or at least doesn’t carry one with her to the gym), so she had to borrow one in order to make the call.  Remarkably, someone else in the group besides me offered her one. She rang and asked him to come down to the gym to open the door, but offered no explanation for why she needed him to do this, and evidently, he didn’t ask.

But before the boyfriend could get there, a guy whom Dr. Darling and I both assumed was gym staff turned up, swiped his card to enter the outer door and then punched a code into the keypad on the inner door…allowing both of them to be open at the same time. We captives filed out, and then, in a move that should not have surprised either one of us given how the incident had played out so far…the staff member headed directly back to his car!  No explanation, no hanging around to make sure the doors were operating correctly, NOTHING!

We’ve been afraid to go back since then for fear of getting locked in again.  Like we NEED any more excuses not to go!

Feed my ego!

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