When I left my telecom job earlier this year, I also left behind its on-site gym with the kindly trainer Curt and his challenging but fun lunchtime classes. Once I started my new job, I joined a gym close to my new office with the intention of working out consistently. I started off strong and was really getting a solid bang for my buck. But over the summer, I started slacking and not going, and when I would work out I would just do a quick video at home or go to my beloved Zumba class. As so many people do, I became less of a patron and more of a donor of membership fees as I went to the gym less and less. It did bother me that I was wasting fifty bucks a month, and I tried to rally and start going back, but I only really found one class that I liked and I lack all motivation to work out by myself. If a flash of motivation arises, I do have a small gym at my office and one at my apartment complex. And so today, I decided to throw in the towel, admit defeat, and cancel my membership.
I went over to the gym on my lunch hour, thinking that I would be in and out and back to work in no time. At the check-in desk, I let the receptionist know what I wanted to do. His face immediately sank. “You want to cancel? No!” he exclaimed, clearly heartbroken. I remained resolute. I had been warned of this when I watched the episode of Friends, The One with the Ballroom Dancing, in which Ross goes with Chandler to help him cancel his gym membership but instead finds himself talked into joining the gym as well. I knew that there would be resistance, pressure, bargaining. After explaining to the traumatized receptionist that I simply did not use my membership, he told me that a manager would have to assist me with my request and motioned me to sit and wait on a Bench of Shame in the lobby that was reserved for quitters.
I sat down, and within a minute a friendly guy named Kevin came over to ask how he could help me. Once he realized I was there to cancel a membership and not start one, he backed away as if I had the plague, muttering that Frank the Manager would have to help me as he scampered quickly away.
Undeterred, I sat on the Bench of Shame for a few more minutes before Frank the Manager appeared and asked how he could help. After I explained (again) that I wanted to cancel my membership, he led me to his office and shut the door. I had a feeling that this was very similar to what happens when they pull you aside to tell you that they have decided to take Great Aunt Irene off of life support. He sat somberly at his desk and said, “So, you just want to cancel today,” and I affirmed that, yes, I wished to cancel. Apparently fourth time’s a charm, because he seemed to comprehend my request. He pulled up my account and said wistfully, “Oh, but you have such a good rate too.”
Kill me now.
I am not falling for your crap, Frank, I thought, while smiling and remaining firm that yes, I wanted to cancel my membership with my great rate. I explained that I simply didn’t use the gym, that I did not anticipate it changing, and that I had thought this through and wasn’t going to change my mind. He asked me if I had any friends who came to the gym with me and I said no. He nodded, empathizing that it is a lot harder to come to the gym without friends. “Oh, poor you, you have no friends” was what I’m pretty sure he was thinking. Then he switched tactics, asking me what my fitness goals originally were.
I was not going to be lured into a conversation about my longtime struggle of desiring washboard abs versus desiring cheeseburgers. “Just to maintain my health,” I replied quickly. “And I still take Zumba twice a week in Marysville with friends.”
I think this hurt ol’ Frank the Manager just a bit. “Why not come to our Zumba classes?” he asked.
Now, if you’ve never actually taken Zumba with Nancy McFadden, the answer to this question is impossible to understand. Nancy’s class is just…different. Less twirly-dance-y, more fitness-oriented. Plus, friends that I’ve had for years go there, and it is literally the only time I see them. “I just prefer to take the class my friends go to, it’s the only time we spend together,” I answered simply, trying to shut the door on this line of questioning.
“Well, how about we get your friends some two week passes so they can try the gym here?” Frank the Manager rebutted.
“All my friends have other gym memberships” I retorted. No idea if that’s true. Seems implausible, actually. But still.
At this point, I think Frank knew he was losing me and that he was going to have to double down if he was going to get anywhere. “What about your boyfriend or husband, could he come with you and motivate you?” he asked.
That had actually been the plan in the beginning, and it was working just fine until I got bored with it. Outside of Zumba, I’m fickle with my fitness. “My fiancee has a membership here, but I still want to cancel,” I said.
I did not realize it, but I fell directly into Frank’s trap. “Fiancee? I just got engaged too! On Tuesday!” he said, lighting up. Momentarily, I was genuinely happy for the guy, but that initial good-for-you vibe was quickly replaced with the realization that he had tricked me. Now he’d found common ground, now we could “bond”. We were going to be besties now, Frank the Manager and I.
He proceeded to tell me his engagement story, complete with a scroll of his Instagram photos of the Big Event, and I nodded politely while silently cursing him for wasting my lunch break when I really wanted to run over to Starbucks and get a green tea on my way back to work. I now know that he asked his girlfriend to dress up nicely before she went to work because he wanted to take her out to dinner that night, only to have a limo fetch her and bring her to a private tour of a local winery before having her presented with a heart-shaped cake with “Will You Marry Me?” written on it. As he wrapped up the story, he let out a chuckle and said, “Listen to me, telling you all about my life,” as he shook his head conspiratorily. Then for good measure he flashed me a photo of his small son wearing a dinosaur Halloween costume.
I said all the right things, the “oh how sweet”s and the “oh how cute”s. I still wanted a green tea though, damn it, and I did not want to encourage the fostering of this new BFFhood. So I did not offer up any tidbits of my own life. Frank the Manager finally cleared his throat and got back to business. “Now, it just sounds like you’re struggling to find your motivation right now. What we can do, is just put your membership on hold for free for a few months,” he offered, looking at me confidently. It seemed to him that we were not the same people that we were when we entered the room. We had bonded. We had shared things. Clearly I would agree to his offer. It made so much sense! Just put the membership on hold to give myself time to find my motivation, to find myself.
“That’s okay, let’s just cancel it,” I persisted.
I had clearly crushed Frank the Manger. He had put his faith and trust in me and I had let him down. He dutifully clicked a single button and I heard my email ping before he could even explain that I would have an email confirmation of my cancellation waiting for me, and that I was paid up through December 10th so I could feel free to use the gym until then. “Would you like a printed copy of your cancellation?” he asked me, gaze down, not meeting my eyes. I declined, and he ushered me out of his office and his heart.