Sunday, June 5, 2016

Work(out) from home: Going to the gym is the worst part of going to the gym

In the immortal words of Saturday Night Live's Roseanna Roseanadana (RIP Gilda Radner), it's always something. If it isn't one thing, it's another. That's been the case pretty much every place I've lived over the course of the last decade.

In Argentina, it was the obsession with bureaucracy, which made pretty much everything, from ordering a drink in a nightclub to selling your apartment, an unnecessarily drawn-out process. Oh, and it was also the crime, often within the very halls of the bureaucracy.

In Thailand, it was the enforced patriotism, which made it compulsory to stand in cinemas while the national anthem played before movies. It also made publicly uttering a negative word about the king a punishable offense.

In South Africa, it was the segregation. A city as colorful as Cape Town was still so black and white.

In Australia, it's the rules and regulations that govern practically everything you do. Big Brother is always watching and waving his finger. You can be fined up to $200 for jaywalking and up to $500 for cursing in public or "offensive behavior."

In inner Sydney, you can't legally purchase alcohol from a bottle shop after 10pm, buy a shot after midnight (in those bars that are still open!), or enter a nightclub after 1.30am. No wonder they call it a nanny state… though the nanny is more like stern, humorless George Banks than Marry Poppins.

Here in Sydney, even an everyday workout can be ruined by rules, regulations, and a rigid, by-the-book attitude (the three R's) that contradicts the carefully manufactured carefree Aussie image.

That's precisely what led me to write the complaint below to my gym, Anytime Fitness.

Hello. I have been a member of Anytime Fitness for almost exactly one year, and up to now, I have been relatively happy with your services. But this morning, around 4am, I went to the Hyde Park Sydney branch for a workout, and it was an absolute disaster.

First of all, the music was blaring so loudly that I couldn't hear myself counting my reps in my head, and there was no way to turn it down... or off. Second, unlike the other Anytime gyms I've been to, there was no sign informing members of the WiFi code. No Spotify playlist for me!

But the part that really infuriated me is that when it was time for me to leave, my locker code would not work. I have been using the same code for an entire year, and it always worked before. I don't know why it didn't this morning, but I'm certain it was not because I'd forgotten or incorrectly inputted a combination of numbers that I've been using since the dawn of time.

I had to call the after-hours service and pay $70 for someone to retrieve a key from the office a few metres away from the locker. This is unacceptable. There are signs all over the gym governing the conduct of members. But where is your accountability for your own equipment?


Normally I probably wouldn't even have used a locker at 4 in the morning. But a sign on one of the boards warning members of an intruder who has been stealing from Anytime branches put the fear of robbery in me, so I secured my belongings.

I know you pretty much wash your hands of responsibility for anything that happens outside of regular business hours, but that doesn't seem appropriate for a gym whose prime selling point is its 24-hour access. As for the lockers themselves, if a branch is going to hold members responsible for any difficulties in unlocking them outside of normal business hours, the least that branch can do is provide lockers that allow members to use their own locks rather than a built-in coding system that is not infallible.

I am seriously considering cancelling my membership after my experience today. But first, I'd like to discuss how we might be able to rectify this situation.

Jeremy Helligar

I spent most of the day after sending my complaint mentally debating whether I wanted to go back to that particular branch while waiting for a response. I'm glad I decided to return the following morning around 4am. When I walked in I saw the night patrol guy who had opened my locker the previous day. He was doing the same for another member. A rush of vindication swept over me.

"Did you have trouble opening your locker?" I asked the annoyed member, who was Asian and spoke very broken English.

"Yes, I did," he replied, nodding, as the patrol guy shot me a look of recognition.

"The same thing happened to me yesterday. Did you have locker 69? That's the one I couldn't open."

"No, I had locker number 71."

"I guess they're all undependable. I've already filed a complaint with management."

"So will I. I can't believe they charge $70. That's enough to buy a t-shirt in Australia!"

After he walked away, I decided to check my Facebook page to see if anyone else had had after-hours locker issues. Surprise!...


Clearly someone's been sleeping on the job. Here comes the wake-up bomb.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

My Australian TV debut

On Monday, May 30, 2016, I made a comeback of sorts while breaking new ground. For the first time since leaving New York City nearly 10 years ago, I filmed a TV spot. It was also my first appearance on Australian TV (discounting the Janet Jackson E! True Hollywood Story from ages ago that apparently still occasionally runs down under).

I was invited to discuss the breaking celebrity news of the day on Nine Network's afternoon news show, Nine News Now. It wasn't just a random appearance. The entertainment website I edit, TheFIX, and Nine Network, are both owned by the same company, Nine, so it all came together in a perfect storm of synergy.

Although my performance received excellent reviews (I've been invited to return two times next week), I know there is plenty of room for improvement. It was only the second time, I've ever taped a TV spot alone in a room (the other time was when I did a point-counterpoint segment for Fox in New York City after the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake Super Bowl XXXVIII Nipplegate scandal in 2004).

So if you notice I keep looking off to the side, it's because I was focusing on the camera where the anchor was visible rather than the one straight ahead (a common rookie mistake, I'm told), and of course, there's the issue of my voice. Does anyone ever love the sound of their own voice once they've heard how other people hear it?

Oh, well. We live and learn and improve...hopefully by next week.