No, this isn’t another naked story – though I have plenty of those if you want one.
And I’m not going to document Chinese women’s choice of work out attire. (This month’s highlight – a purple lace miniskirt, with knee high socks and matching heels, perfect for riding the stationary bike.)
Today, in the morning hours of the gym when there are only a few members around, I huff and puff on the stationary bike, hoping to bring my stamina up for the May Triathlon. The volume of my I-pod is pumped high; the music in the gym is a little annoying and redundant. In the background, I hear an alarm. At first, I don’t think much of it – China is a noisy place to live, and through the music it sound like the alarm could be outside. No one on the elliptical machines seems to be bothered. I look to my left – large metal doors are sealing off the corridor, Indiana Jones-style. I rip off my headphones – they’re locking us in?
I dismount the bike, though I’m only at 11 km, 1 km away from my goal. The hallway behind me is already sealed shut with a metal door. I start walking quickly toward the door that is slowly, mechanically sliding down. The Chinese man on the other side of the door waves at me to stop. Stop! If there’s a fire, I’m to stay in here? I have a meeting at 12:30! What’s my excuse – I was locked in the gym?
I wait by the imposing metal door. One Chinese staff, probably a trainer, comes by and says, “Don’t worry.” I sit on the rowing machine. There’s no way I’m going to take a shower here. What set off the alarm? Is this just a regular drill? Why isn’t anyone concerned? When is the door going to open back up?
What is the alarm for? To protect all the heavy exercise equipment from looters? To keep people in, or to keep people out? What if this security system is inadvertently activated during a fire?
As soon as the door started to lift, I bee line for the locker room and grab my bag. I notice I left my cup at the bike. Dare I go back? And be trapped for how much longer? It’s a really nice cup. As I turn the corner to exit to the reception area, I see another metal door has the back area cordoned off. I’m still trapped. I power-walk back to the bike machine to rescue my cup. Eventually, the door to the reception area opens up. But the door from the reception area to the exit is still sealed.
Thankfully, one of the reception ladies points me toward a secret exit. I hit the elevator button, then think, have I forgotten my elementary school safety rules? Taking an elevator in China while there’s a fire alarm? I take the stairs, hoping that the bottom door will be unlocked – they like to lock doors. I hope also that the exit will be to the pavilion outside, and not to the parking garage below.
Luckily, it’s unlocked, and I exit safely in my stinky gym clothes. To add insult to injury, as I take a shower back in the relative safety of my home, the water slows to a trickle, leaving me with only one leg shaved.
Oh, China. What a crazy country we live in.