Dad acts like douchebag. What do you do?

This afternoon I went for my bi-monthly (lately) trip to the gym to lift weights and torture myself in a variety of other ways. I am usually the only woman in the weight area, so I’m always feeling a bit like an interloper as it is, and as a result I’m hesitant to stand out in any way (probably dumb, because the fact that I have breasts makes me stand out plenty already).

Today I witnessed something that caused more than a little internal conflict. As I made my rounds through the leg torture device area, I saw what I think was a father/son duo using two machines: the leg extension and the hamstring curl. Dad was stocky and strapping. Son was about 15 and not strapping. Dad commandeered both machines (unfortunate, since not only did I need to use them both, but it meant I got to see what I’m about to report as I stood there waiting) and put the weight settings at levels that were fine for him and his stumpy legs, but way too much for skinny son: 100 lbs for the leg extension and 80 for the hamstring curl.

To put things into perspective, I usually set those two at 50. I have muscular, peasant stock legs, probably about equal in strength to those of your average slight, unfit, semi-developed 15 year old boy. Dad did his sets of 10, then instructed Son to climb on and do the same. Son was arching his back, red-faced, groaning just to get to a count of three. I was thinking, “This is a lower back injury waiting to happen.”

At one point Dad walked away and I was so tempted to go up to Son and say, as nonthreateningly as possible, “Those might be a little heavy for you. Try taking them down a few so you can do more reps.” But Dad looked like an asshole, so I stopped myself from getting involved. Then I thought, well, this is a potentially unsafe situation. Maybe I go alert a staffer. But they’re all 19-year-old guys and I’d risk humiliating the 15-year-old guy in addition to drawing Dad’s ire. So I didn’t do anything.

Even if Dad wasn’t being a macho idiot, at best he was totally clueless and unobservant. I felt really bad for that kid.

Amateur ethicists: What would you have done? What should I have done?

11 Responses

  1. Channeling my inner Randy Cohen (don’t love the new chick)…

    If there’s one thing that sets parents’ heads on fire, it’s people telling them how to parent their children. And as strapping as your peasant legs may be, they are unlikely to withstand the fury of a meathead dad. Also, you don’t know the back story: perhaps said weenie child begged his father to bring him to the gym and kick his ass so he could go forth and kick the asses of the bullies who make fun of his chicken legs in school.

    That, as you point out, is unlikely to happen with a crippling back injury. So I would encourage you to enlist a third party – those trainers who troll the gym floor and flex in the mirror are allegedly certified in something. Perhaps a discrete conversation with a professional might bring in some help for the kid.

  2. Peasant stock. Fantastic! You could make a living as a writer.

    The kid will be fine. Chances are good he will not emulate his father’s douchiness, but is learning from it daily as an example of how not to behave.

    • I can make a living as a writer?! Wow!

      Eric, I hope for the kid’s sake that you’re right, and that it doesn’t take several decades of therapy to play out that way.

      • I hate writing on the internet…no tone control. My comment was intended to be serious, and the part about making a living as a writer was supposed to be an ironic joke, because you already (appear to, anyway) make a substantial part of your living from writing.

        Maybe you caught that, and you’re not seething with rage, but I can’t quite tell. No tone control. haha <– (should have added this the first time)

  3. I would have said nothing (although I might have tried to catch the kid’s eye so I could offer him a sympathetic glance), gone home, muttered “people are fucking idiots” to the 14-year-old dog I’m taking care of, and solicited people’s opinions about the matter on my blog. In other words, just what you’ve done. Fortunately I never go to gyms, and the closest thing I normally see that’s akin to adolescent abuse is some Boulder soccer mom scolding her kid for selecting something at Whole Foods not marked “gluten-free.”

    I bet that kid has a much larger pecker than his dad, and the dad knows it, a la Peter and Chris Griffin. One of these days the kid is going to bring that phallomonstrosity crashing down on dear dad’s head while he sleeps, silencing the officious dumbfuck forever. Well, probably not, but the possibility interests me.

  4. Wouldn’t have touched it. Stupid, but no so dangerous as to present an immediate hazard to the kid.

  5. Eric, I’m usually seething with rage. But never about anything you’ve commented. I got it. :) I hope my response didn’t come out as overly sarcastic. We need more complex emoticons.

  6. I would be snide and call them a bunch of girly-men.

  7. If you had said anything to Mr. Athleticus Pretendus, one or more of the following would likely have happened:
    1. Mr. A.P. would have told you to go to hell;
    2. Mr. A.P.’s unfortunate son would have been offended that you thought he needed protection;
    3. If the trainers overheard your intervention (unlikely, since preening takes a lot of time!), they would have busted you for encroaching on their territory.

    Conclusion: You did the right thing by not doing anything.

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