David is visiting me in Denver right now. Bored, we decided to go workout at 24-Hour Fitness, using two free passes that David had.
We walk 2 blocks to the gym and go inside the nearly-empty building. Something is wrong. We aren't greeted with the relentlessly personable, over-flaired smiles so common at chain businesses. We are greeted with a scowl.
The scowl squints out from beneath a perfectly-positioned and hair-spray-saturated mop of shaggy blond locks. Hairspray demands our ID, and we show him drivers licenses from WA and MO.
"Umm... yeah, you guys aren't local, you can't use these. You MUST be local."
"We just moved here, (1/2 true!) and we walked from 2 block away (All True!). We don't have Colorado IDs yet."
"Well, you need a driver's license, you can't just show up and use these free passes without proof that you live here."
"What about some mail, sent to us at an address two blocks away? Will that work? It works to buy hunting licenses and other things mildly more official than 24-Hour-Fitness Guest Passes."
Anyone can go online and print off these free passes at any time. Like Lindsay Lohan DUIs, or GOP sex scandals these passes have become ubiquitous features of modern Americana. So why wouldn't he let us in? This aggression would not stand.
Returning to my house, we rifle through the recycle box. Bingo! A hand-written letter, stamped and postmarked to this local address. A few pen edits transform "Allison & Blake Herrington" into "D. Atashroo and Blake Herrington".
We crumple the envelope for good measure, spill a little ketchup on it for authenticity, and triumphantly return to the gym. Maybe hairspray will think we're room-mates, maybe live-in life-partners, We just hope he doesn't think we're a couple of dirtbags trying to use our free passes via any means possible.
Behind the front desk, Hairspray is now joined by another staff member. But before David can pull the letter from his pocket, hairspray plays a surprise card.
"Ummm, yeah, so, you can't actually use these passes after 9pm. I, like, tried to chase you down last time, but I couldn't catch you."
Ignoring the fact that we'd slowly walked away from our initial encounter and seen him maintaining his front-desk post, we address the first issue.
"So without looking at our IDs to learn our names, or seeing the name and address on the letter, you are telling us that we can't go inside? Read the passes, it says NOTHING about available hours. Would your manager really want you turning us away again? Is that how they want you to treat new neighbors? Your business is called 24-Hour-Fitness! Your MAIN selling point is constant availability. You want us to leave and come back at a time when EVERY gym is open, and when we'll be competing with paying customers for limited equipment?
At this point, Hairspray had finally hit a stumbling block and appeared unable to conjure a semi-coherent response. His co-worker looks up, smiles, and says "Have a good workout gentlemen." Unaccustomed to the title, I check over my shoulder to make sure she isn't referring to someone else before striding on in.
This reminded me of being in Safeway and buying 6 or 8 grocery items. The checker started to bag the items, and I told her she didn't need to do that. We'd just carry them all out in our hands and pockets. "But we will take the ten-cent re-usable bag discount". She told me that she could only give us the bag discount if we put them in our own bag. Rain coats, even with their abundance of pockets, were clearly no substitute for a cloth sack. By carrying out all our items we were preventing her from using a plastic Safeway bag, but she couldn't see the point. "What if I go out to my car and grab a backpack, come back, and put our items in there, would that work..." attempting to illustrate my point. "Yes, as long as you bring your own bag, I can give you the discount."
It was as though she wanted to reward me for taking my backpack on a Safeway tour, not for preventing the use and waste of a Safeway-produced plastic bag. I wanted to explain that the net effect would be the same, and that her company's policy was designed to save them bags, waste, and some enviro-credibility. But I knew the point was lost. Frustrated on principal and a dime poorer, I headed out the door.
Neither of these vignettes have anything to do with climbing. But to me, they are demonstrative of much about life. Use common sense, interact with a smile, and by all means, don't be a tool. If all of us avoid becoming "that guy", we'll all be happier, fitter, and ten-cents richer.