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?

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