I much prefer a bar without the bells

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 September, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 September, 1998, 12:00am

I HAVE joined a gym. There is nothing wrong with my body, just that my weight needs a bit of redistribution - from my midriff to my chest and shoulders.

All right, I will be honest. Another reason I joined is that it is in a hotel, and the membership fee covers three hours of free parking. Now I can lift weights for one hour, and then lift beer bottles for the next two in the bar downstairs.

The trainer there is a tough gal. Last time I forgot to put the magazine back into the rack she went berserk and gave me a look that could kill. Who am I to argue with someone whose biceps are thicker than my thighs? The way she pushes us to the limit, with no regard for our lives, reminds me of the movie Ben Hur.

Mr Liu is here today. He and I have become instant friends, after running side by side on the treadmills a few times. In his case, it is more like walking. He suffers from Parkinson's disease and is trying hard to rejuvenate his body after years of neglect.

Mr Universe is here as well. He has this Napoleon complex like you would not believe. It is like saying: 'OK, so I'm short, but I'm wide.' He virtually lives here, I swear. Mr Liu and I do not like him. Not that we are jealous of his muscles or anything like that. We would not want to be like him anyway - we prefer having a neck and a paunch.

He is so immature. You know there are no young women around when you do not see Mr Universe carrying a thick chain which he uses, believe it or not, to tie extra weights to those machines for him to push or lift. Nothing is too heavy for him.

If there are young women around, Mr Universe will make a spectacle of himself by adding more weights on to his chain and grunting louder and louder, taking a break only to offer unsolicited fitness tips to the ladies, or admire himself in the mirror.

I have been on the treadmill for half an hour when Mr Liu starts to wave his arms wildly in the air. That is a signal for me to push the stop button for him. We do not want him to fall again like he did last week.

Poor fellow, I need to have a talk with the doctor who prescribes this for him. To me, it seems more like torture than a cure, especially with that Amazonian slave-driver around.

After regaining his composure, Mr Liu says: 'I wish I was as fit as you are.' 'No, no, I am nothing, compared to him,' I say, nodding towards Mr Universe. There is nothing like giving your enemy a compliment if you want to fish for derogatory remarks about him.

Mr Liu obliges. 'But you are taller than he is,' he says as he rolls his eyes. Big deal; my grandma is taller than he is.

The Amazonian slave-driver is helping Shorty with his routine now. She barks out orders and he grunts in reply.

I head to the far side of the gym, as far away from them as possible. Shorty likes to check on everyone's lifting ability; I do not want him to know that a tall guy like myself is only lifting 40 kilograms. It is not getting easier, I cannot even do 10 repetitions. I move the pin to 30kg, but only do nine. I am so pooped after that I can taste beer in my mouth.

I must not forget to put the pin to 100kg before I leave in case Shorty comes snooping.

It has not even been an hour yet. Well, I am going to join Mr Liu in the sauna, then take a long shower. That will take my time in the gym up to about an hour - right on time for the start of happy hour.