I'm a pretty mild-mannered guy. Yes, I get irritated at people. But almost always I either keep my irritation to myself, or express it in as respectful a manner as possible.
That's why what happened at my athletic club today surprised me.
I was almost finished using the weight machines in what used to be called the Circuit Training room. It was termed that because the basic idea of it is that you go from machine to machine, getting a full body workout.
But some club members who focus on the free weights and different machines in an adjoining room will use a "circuit" machine for a long time, doing a series of varying weights and rest periods in between.
That will irk me if I'm feeling rushed. Which I usually am, because I try to leave just enough time to do my workout before my afternoon Tai Chi class downtown.
Today I was down to my last couple of weight machines when I saw two young guys begin to use one of the machines that I hadn't gotten to yet. OK, no big deal, I thought. One of them would use the machine, then go into the free weight room to do something else while the other guy would use the machine.
This repeated several times. Again, no big deal. I figured that I could come back and finish the circuit after doing some Tai Chi on my own in an upstairs workout room.
But then, yay!, it looked like both of the guys had finished using the machine that was my last stop in the circuit room.
One of them was standing next to the machine with his back to me, using his phone. I waited for a bit to see if he was going to get back to using the weight machine. Didn't look like it, so I walked up and said, "You done?"
He said, "Yes." I reached around him and adjusted the weight to what I was going to use. Then he said, "Let me wipe it off first." Meaning, use disinfectant on a cloth to clean any sweaty parts.
Sometimes people go overboard on the wiping, and I was anxious to finish my workout so I wouldn't be late for my Tai Chi class. So I told the guy, "No big deal. I'm not fussy." I've said this before to club members who want to clean a machine before I use it.
My unspoken message is that I'm fine with a bit of sweat, and besides, I'm going to wipe off the machine after I use it. But the guy took what I said in a different way.
After some wiping, he walked away into the free weight room, saying over his shoulder, "Hey, you got a bit in my face there, man." That surprised me. Even shocked me a bit.
I was just trying to save him some cleaning time. I had zero ill will toward him, since while he and his friend were taking turns using the machine, I recalled the time that I showed a friend of mine how the circuit machines functioned, which entailed me using a machine then him using the same machine.
So I wasn't even irritated, as sometimes I am, that he and his friend had spent so much time on the machine.
What struck me about this encounter, as minor as it was, is how so many people these days, me certainly included, are quick to take offense at small things. Like someone driving too slow, or too fast. Or having a lengthy discussion with a checkout clerk about the price of an item they think is on sale while fellow shoppers wait in line in back of them.
(I didn't pick these examples out of thin air; they're some of my habitual gripes.)
I wasn't blameless, of course. I could have simply said, "Thanks," when the guy said he was going to clean the machine. However, he could have done the old-fashioned respect your elders thing, since I clearly was old enough to be his father, and maybe even his grandfather.
I admit, though, that I sort of liked that he treated me like another young guy that he was irked with. That "man" on the end of his "Hey, you got a bit in my face there, man" comment made me feel kind of good.