Breaking the Fourth Wall

Practically an unretouched, life-like representation of the event.

We almost had an “incident” at the gym the other tonight, and it would have been my fault.  I pulled back in time, but it was a close call.  I almost broke the fourth wall.

In the theater the fourth wall is the imaginary wall at the front of the stage through which the audience sees the action.  Speaking directly to the audience through this imaginary wall (or through the camera in film and TV) is referred to as breaking the fourth wall

There’s a fourth wall at the gym, too.  It’s the one that separates you from your neighbor on the next machine.

The gym has the following posted rules:

  • Children must be supervised
  • Joggers use the last row
  • Wipe off your machine after using

The last is an unwritten rule, but it is the most unbreakable;

  • Do not look directly at anybody while they’re working out

Like other gyms, the Y sets up their treadmills, stair-climbers and other machines mere inches away from one another.  This maximizes prime workout real estate. With that little personal space between you, boundaries are crucial.  Looking directly at your neighbor is breaking the fourth wall and it is strictly forbidden.  They should just issue blinders like horses wear when they’re in harness.

When entering and exiting your machine, you are allowed a brief glance.  Even then, only the most cursory inspection is allowed.  This is just to establish if you’re next to your sister-in-law or someone else it would be rude to ignore.  After you’re launched into your workout, however, you cannot look directly at your neighbors.

While direct lookage is verboten, one can glean the basic facts about ones neighbor through the judicious use of the sideways glance.  In this way you can determine sex, relative age (old, young or like me) and relative workoutedness (skinny weakling, fat weakling, work-out Barbie, etc.)

The only time you are allowed to break the unwritten rule without consequence is if you suspect your neighbor may be in danger.

That actually happened to me last year.  I was working at a weight machine when I heard a dull thud behind me.  When I turned around I saw that a fellow sweat-maven had fallen to the floor in an apparent faint and was wedged between the machines.  Naturally I rushed to her aid.  I stayed with her until the lifeguards and eventually the ambulance EMTs took over. After that little heart-stopper I have been ever vigilant about the health and well being of my workout neighbors.

Fast forward to the other night.

I did my allowed swift appraisal when I mounted the treadmill and determined that the left-side neighbor was a young woman, apparently fit.  Where I walked briskly, she ran.

After a few minutes I could hear, even through my headphones, that she was making an odd noise.  Every couple of minutes she emitted a kind of a “huhhhhh-h-h-h” groan.

I surreptitiously let the ear bud fall from the ear farthest away from her so I could get a better listen without her knowledge.

“Huhhh-h—h-h-HH!” she groaned again.

I did a brief peripheral glance – she was still moving.  That was a good sign.

I swung my gaze back around front where it belonged, but kept an ear free just in case.

“Huh-h—h, huh-hhh, huhh-h-h-hHH!” She was practically honking now.  Fearing that this goose might be cooked, I decide that stronger measures were called for.  Maybe she was trapped, George Jetson style, and didn’t know how to stop the crazy thing.  Casually, oh so causally, I picked my towel off the right arm of the treadmill.  Burying my face in its stained, rough bleachiness, my eyes peaked above for a full, sideways perusal of Grunting Gretel.

Still running; check

Sweating, but not excessively; check

Still breathing; hard, but not too hard: check

Everything was OK next door.  All I could figure is she thought making noise added something to the workout, or psyched out the other exercisers.  I had an Anna Kournikova wannabe next to me.

I put my towel down, put the ear bud back in my ear and assumed the usual position – gaze fixed on the mini-TV in front of me.  I know I would have had the courage to break the fourth wall if it came right down to it, but now was not that day.

All was well in the workout world.

*****Alert!!!!****Alert!!!!  Now that I’ve got your attention, don’t panic, there is no international emergency.  I’d just like to point out the snazzy contest going on, right over there in the right-hand column.  See it?  That brightly colored whatsit right there?  Yeah, that one.  Click on that and enter my contest.

Just keep your eyes on this gold watch as it goes back and forth, back and forth …your eyes are getting heavy…you are sleepy…so sleepy…you will enter my contest…you will enter 4, no, 5 times…when I snap my fingers you will wake up refreshed, with no memory of this alert. Except you will honk like a goose whenever you see the contest picture.  Snap!

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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60 Responses to Breaking the Fourth Wall

  1. Running from Hell with El says:

    Oh my gosh, you had a grunter!! LOL!! Yes, there is an exception to the third wall for these types–it’s akin to rubbernecking at an accident scene!

    Grinning. At least she didn’t eat garlic at her last meal.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Ewww. Good point. Although I suspect the guy next to me the other night had made some truly unfortunate food choices based on the smells coming off him. Maybe the blinders should have attached nose plugs?

      Like

  2. What just happened there? Where am I? Who am I? Who is this genius I see blogging before me?

    Like

  3. Wha? huh? I am dazed and confused. I thought I entered it already?

    By the way, you have this magical storytelling power. I was right there beside you on that treadmill, huffing and puffing and having a slight stroke. No, really. That was me. So I like to grunt a lot when I work out, is that so wrong?! (Okay, I know…this old joke of mine is really wearing thin…I swear that’s the last time I’ll use it on you, Pegolegomyeggo)

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Enter more, more, MORE! I’m working on my entry to your contest, but my most embarrassing moment is shades of what has already been mentioned. Ah well, I gotta keep it real, Darleeta.

      Like

      • Enter more? Dear lord. As it is I have to cough up a lusty story for Katy later today. It might take some time to remember what the heck lust means. I think it left the building about the time I turned 32 and had my first kid.

        And I’ve barely received five entries in MY contest. Plenty of people have said they’d enter….but only a handful actually have entered. [glaring and giving you the evil eye]

        Like

  4. k8edid says:

    I am surprised you did not put the white nursing/jogging shoes and fluffy white mop of hair on your jogging partner…

    When I used to go the gym (I have a treadmill at home – sadly neglected) I had to avoid another kind of jogging neighbor – the FARTER.

    Like

  5. Tar-Buns says:

    I”m glad you were perusing the edge of the ‘fourth wall’, and oh, so surreptitiously I might add, to ensure the safety of all the workout-ers.
    You are a GREAT American to help your fellow brotha when in need! 🙂

    Like

  6. I once ran (ok, walked quickly) next to a girl who apparently was trying to get fit – immediately. She would ramp the treadmill to about 6.0, run for about 30 seconds, then begin gasping and making similar honking noises. Then she would slam the emergency stop, wait a minute, and do it again. Something told me it was her first time on a treadmill.

    Like

  7. The male grunters are the worst. And not for the grunting – it’s for the intentionally dropping the weights to the floor from shoulder height when they’re done to let the room know, “Yeah, baby, that horrible, room-shaking crash? I was lifting that.”

    Like

    • I am learning so much about you lately, B. First that you rocked a perm once upon a time and now that you grunt while being a manly-man at the gym. Is there anything you don’t do? Oh yeah, pump gas. But that’s for sissies. Pfffffft.

      Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Er, um, lately…when I’m doing that pull-the-weighted-bar-thingy-down-to-your-chest machine, and I just increased to 75 pounds on it…on the last rep I let it clang back down as it pulls me up, so everyone can see that I must weigh only 75 pounds since that is enough to practically yank me to my feet.

      So you’re saying that everyone else KNOWS that’s what I’m doing. Damn.

      Like

  8. bigsheepcommunications says:

    The last time I made any effort to go to the gym on a regular basis, I was driven away by a chatty cathy. She was an acquaintance, but not a friend, and would NOT SHUT UP the entire time I was on the treadmill and it didn’t matter if I was right next to her or one or two machines over. Yes, I blame my un-fitness on her.

    Like

    • k8edid says:

      For what it is worth, I blame my unfitness on your acquaintance, as well…

      Like

      • bigsheepcommunications says:

        That woman is pure evil and I have the thighs to prove it.

        Like

        • pegoleg says:

          She’s the Anti-Fit – stone her! No wait, stoning would require too much of a cardio workout.
          Think really, really bad thoughts about her while eating ice cream and watching TV in the air-conditioned comfort of our living rooms! Yeahhhh!

          Like

        • We have that woman. I wrote about her once, but the post is gone now. Ours is fit, though. She’s a 73-year old gym rat. How do I know that she’s 73? I’m terrible at avoiding her.

          Like

          • bigsheepcommunications says:

            Ugh. My condolences.

            Like

          • pegoleg says:

            OH no, I think she also hangs out at the local McDonalds! I went there a couple of weeks ago to surf the WiFi like a cheap hipster (since we don’t get it at home.) I desperately needed to look something up and the 73-year-old woman who plunked down in the next booth would NOT STOP talking at me. I tried to be polite, I listened, I remembered that someday, God willing, I will be old. I finally said bye-bye and went and sat in my car so I could complete my research.

            Like

        • Tar-Buns says:

          Laughing out loud at this thread! Below, Peg, you refer to my favorite story of maybe all time, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”.
          Stone her!!! Love it! (Not the stoning, of course, just the story itself.
          Geez, come on folks!)
          Thanks for the idea for my “soon to be real” blog name. I’m mulling it over…
          Looking forward to seeing you this weekend if everything pulls together 🙂

          Like

          • pegoleg says:

            I didn’t know that was your favorite story. It’s clear (at least to me) that the author of The Hunger Games used The Lottery as her inspiration. Great story! Hope to see you and MK this weekend – can’t wait!

            Like

    • pegoleg says:

      That’s why I always have my earbuds in, even if the plug end is just dangling in my pocket, not hooked up to anything. When people talk to me I just nod and point to the ear-thingies.

      Like

  9. dorannrule says:

    This post is hilarious and you had me right down to the last lines although I don’t see any correlation with the red thing on the right and the body of the story. The “Y” protocol is absolutely accurate though. And you would be a great sidekick on the treadmill in case I faint!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You are very astute. There IS no correlation between the two. That was just a p.s. tacked on to today’s post, plugging my advertising slogan contest which needs some more entries. Hint, hint, hint!!!!!

      I have to admit I wasn’t the best Florence Nightingale when the lady fainted. I dragged her out from between the machines, put her head on my lap and tried to elevate her feet. I probably shouldn’t have moved her in case of some sort of back/neck trauma. She came around fairly quickly and was arguing with the paramedics that she didn’t need to go to the hospital and right in the middle, fainted dead away again.

      Like

  10. I took down my blog a year and a half or so ago and with it a bunch of posts that you seem to be bringing to the surface, like this one. Since Mercury is retrograde (that’s one of ’em), I am trying to go back to them. Right after I come up with some idea for your contest.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You keep teasing me with the “Mercury is retrograde” comment. What? WHAT??? Time to resurrect all those classic, golden-oldie posts of yours. After that contest idea, of course.

      Like

  11. Al says:

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…………..(”””this damn hearing problem, I wonder if she snapped yet””’……zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Like

  12. Barb says:

    It’s good that you’re so caring about your fellow health-nuts. I’m thrilled when they get out of my way because they can’t breathe. They shouldn’t have been hogging the machines in the first place. And that goes double for that guy who grunts like he’s having sex whenever he lifts anything over 40 pounds.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Holla, sista! There’s one of those guys at my gym…well, lots more than one, but he sticks out. He’s about my age and wears black socks with shorts and a stretchy terry cloth headband. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I think even Richard Simmons has given up on the stretchy terrycloth headband as not manly enough!

      Like

  13. The lady next to me at the gym totally broke the fourth wall the other day. I was cleaning off my machine, so I could leave and she started talking to me about Dr. Phil. Lady, I’m sweaty, I’m gross, I don’t want to stand here for an extra 10 minutes and talk to you about Dr. Phil.

    Like

  14. Go Jules Go says:

    “Blinders like horses wear,” HA! Oh, please, pretty please, do some sort of follow-up post to take this idea to the nth degree.

    This was hilarious, and I’m not just saying that because you hypnotized me.

    P.S. – That’s the first time I’ve ever written “nth degree” and it was a lot of fun. Thank you.

    Like

  15. Sandy Sue says:

    I think that was me honking beside you. I’ve been told I get carried away with the songs on my iPod and often mutter. Oh, wait… you said “young, apparently fit.” Never mind.

    Like

  16. Angie Z. says:

    I think your opening image was misleading. A gross misrepresentation. Because I was waiting for it to turn out that you had a goose loose in the gym. Am I an idiot or what? That fourth wall also relates to elevators, by the way.

    Loved the Jetsons reference.

    Like

  17. Dana says:

    Gym grunting is the worst! Thankfully, (and I am not making this up), the super cheesy 80s gym where I worked out at the lake actually had “No excessive grunting” as one of their posted rules. Yes! I’m not sure how it was (or who) determined what counted as “excessive”, but it made me feel better knowing that the gym higher-ups were looking out for my well-being.

    Like

  18. Pingback: What to do with Sonny Flowers? (Fourth-Wall Friday) | Cabin GoddessCabin Goddess

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