I was planning to take a similar approach to Tabitha, and go through all my membership cards and say something of interest about them. It turns out, I’m no longer a member of anything much, as far as my wallet can tell.
I was a Borders member, but that card expired one year ago, and the chain has just shut down its Singapore operation. I was outside Borders Parkway Parade just this week, which was an eerie sight. All the books had been stripped from the shelves, leaving a sort of graveyard of milky beige laminate and powdered steel. There was a vigorous woman pacing around with a clipboard who seemed to have purchased this fortune of shelving, and was excitedly gesturing and fussing at workers who were involved in its acquisition. It was a vulturely scene.
I am not a member of a gym, although I paid extravagantly for a two year membership a couple of years ago, which I used for approximately three months. I am always disgusted by the marketing strategies of gyms, with their poorly trained cold-callers and their capitalisation on the weakness, misery, poor health and delusion of the populace. I played right into their hands, and have done so several times. Signing up 99 people who will attend consistently for a few brief weeks and sporadically thereafter more than compensates for the cost of servicing the one per cent who stick it out. I even wonder if the horrible decor and atmosphere of gyms is intentional – you won’t pick up on the deadening ambiance on your sign-up visit, but once your credit card is captured you’ll never really want to be there again.
Why else would you design a space so poorly? Think of other places people want to recreationally spend time, say your favourite cafe or I don’t know, a cool fashion boutique (trying to imagine the hangouts of a typical gym user). Would a shop, aiming at female clientele, have a floor made of grey, wiry polyester with unembellished industrial fittings and walls utterly devoid of colour? Without windows or soft furnishings of any kind? I know there are practical considerations (sweat etc), but I’m convinced they could be primarily overcome.
Like Tabitha, I have recently discovered a love of fitness training, so it’s not just an inability to exercise that made me such a gym quitter. I do my regimen partly at home, partly in parks, once a week at a small independent gym (no marketing zombies) and at least once a week I go to my yoga studio.
This is almost the polar opposite of the gym atmospheres described above, to a hilarious extreme. My yoga studio, let’s call it Novo Holistic Wellness (because I’m sure they’ve set Google Alerts on their actual name which is exactly as ridiculous), pipes music throughout. I am embedding some here to serve as your soundtrack for the remainder of my post:
At the entry is a reception desk behind which is inevitably seated a beautifully groomed woman from the Philippines, who smiles and greets you warmly. There is also a gorgeous, deep pile rug in soft cream, which you will walk around every time because it looks extremely expensive and you are wearing shoes. You will hear no sounds of incidental talking, laughter, phone calls, or any other indication that anyone in the building is alive. Perhaps this is why yoga teachers like to say things like, “And now let’s all remind ourselves that we are alive.” My yoga studio is a pristine and sterile vessel for the spirit, and I must admit I love it. Do join me some day at Novo’s in-house cafe for a salmon filet on quinoa pilaf. Receive your breath.