Saturday, May 19, 2012

This Day In History...

Last year, May 19th was a remarkably unremarkable least for the first two-thirds of the day.  Unfortunately, that date became painfully memorable at the end of my daily drive to The Gym after work.  I knew something was wrong before I even pulled into the parking lot--at 5PM, the lot should have been half-filled with cars, but it was emptier than the stands at a WNBA game.  I'd only seen this happen once before, and it was terrible sign.  The Gym must have flooded yet again, which meant another summer of pathetic corporate gym workouts.

But that infamous sign on the door informed me that things were even worse than I could have ever imagined:

On Wednesday the 18th, another gym member told me that he'd had a brief conversation with the owner, Jimmy, and things looked grim.  The Gym had been officially and unofficially for sale for the past few years, but apparently a sale was in the works and the buyer backed out of the deal at the last minute.  Jimmy was swearing about the deadbeat buyer and the tough spot in which he now found himself with the bank.  This type of grumbling was nothing new, so we didn't think anything of it when we walked out of The Gym for the last time ever.

The only bright side to this dark day was the two free weeks of gym membership that I ended up with as a result of this unexpected closure.  Upon reading that sign, my first two thoughts were: "Where am I going to work out?" and "How am I going to get my money back?"  The latter question was particularly concerning because I had extended my membership at a price of more than $400 just two weeks before The Gym went dark.

I called the credit card company and explained the situation, and I eventually got the charge reversed.  And the full charge--not a prorated portion of my membership--was reversed, meaning I'd worked out for free for the past two weeks. Those who had paid cash for their memberships had no such luck--and Jimmy had continued signing up new members and extending old memberships right up until the bitter end, leaving some very unsatisfied customers.  But my two free weeks were a very dim bright spot, however, and Lifetime's sign-up fee and significantly higher monthly dues wiped out my savings from day one.

I won't drag everyone through the details once again of the painful, aimless workout wondering that led to joining Lifetime a few weeks later.  When it comes to writing about The Gym, this ain't my first rodeo.  I've written about the Lifetime and The Gym on the other blog, on this blog, and on this blog again...and again.  Looking back over the past few months of blogging, I realize that I've gotten a lot of mileage out of my misfortune.

The Gym briefly reopened under new management last June--rumor has it, Jimmy's original deadbeat buyer got a bargain from the bank.  The monthly dues were much, much higher, so I never rejoined, but the resurrection was short-lived anyway, with The Gym closing its doors for good a month or two later.  One year has passed since the original closure, but time has failed to heal my wounds--I think I'm still stuck in the denial stage.

Earlier today at Lifetime, I overheard two old guys talking, and one mentioned that Lifetime is the type of gym where if you stopped showing up and came back two or three years later, you wouldn't recognize anyone.  That's the polar opposite of The Gym, which was a dingy time capsule.  If The Gym's spectacular run had continued, I have no doubt that twenty years from now, the equipment, the decor, the members, and the music would be exactly the same as they were in 1985, 2000, and on May 19th, 2011.

The place was dirty, damaged equipment took years to get repaired, and I often wondered if the "clean" towels were simply dirty sweat towels that had dried out and been refolded, but May 19th will always be a day of mourning in the Minneapolis area.

A contributing factor to the declining membership that eventually did in The Gym?

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