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Tic-ing Along Nicely Until You Came Along, Part 2

, , , , , , | Friendly | September 25, 2020

This takes place right at the start of the current health crisis, after everyone is mostly aware of it, but right before the CDC officially declares it as such. My gym has a set of five arc trainers — think elliptical machines, but not — and I pop in for a quick workout on my lunch break. There are two women at each end of the row, so I settle on the machine between them, leaving an empty machine between us on either side. Even without social distancing, taking the machine right next to someone when others are free is just weird.

An important note: I suffer from Tourette’s Syndrome, and one of my — currently unfortunate — tics is a sharp exhalation which could be taken as a cough, if you squint, and pretty constant sniffling. These tics get a bit more aggressive when I’m under stress, such as during intense cardio.

So, there I am, about ten minutes into my sweat, just blissfully watching Netflix on my tablet and getting my workout in, when I notice from the corner of my eye that the woman on my right is looking at me, her lips are moving, and she’s giving me the evil eye. I take my right earpiece out.

Me: “Sorry, what? Were you talking to me? I had my headphones in.”

Woman #1: “You need to leave.”

Me: “Sorry?”

Woman #1: “You need to leave if you’re sick. You’re coughing and sniffling and I’m not comfortable with you being here.”

Me: “Oh! Sorry, no, I’m not sick. I have Tourette’s. That’s not a cough; it’s just a really sharp breathing out and sniffling. Those are my tics.”

Woman #1: “No, you’re sick, and you’re touching your face and the equipment, and you need to go.”

Me: “Um… No. I told you, it’s not symptoms; it’s just my Tourette’s. It’s fine. I’m going back to my show now.”

With that, I put my earpiece back in and resume my workout. I can tell the woman is still talking, but I ignore her and keep at it. A few minutes later, she gets off her machine and walks over to the woman on my left. They talk for a couple of minutes, and [Woman #1] walks off to the other side of the cardio area. I figure that is the end of it.

But then, I realize that [Woman #2] is doing the same thing: glaring at me and talking. Already knowing I am going to regret it, I take my left earpiece out.

Me: “Sorry? Couldn’t hear you. Headset.”

Woman #2: “I know you say you have Tourette’s, but how do I know that?”

Me: “Um… why would I lie about that?”

Woman #2: “You could be a vector for the disease! I’m not comfortable with you being here, and you need to leave.”

Me: “Okay, but again, I’m not. I have Tourette’s. I’m just trying to get a workout in. I’m sorry you’re not comfortable, but honestly, that sounds like a you problem.”

Woman #2: “Well, I just think you need to leave if you’re going to be sweating and touching your face and touching the equipment!”

Me: “Okay, noted, but I’m not leaving. I’m going to finish my workout now. Please leave me alone.”

Woman #2: “Well, then, I’m going to leave, and I’m going to talk to the manager so they know why I’m leaving!”

Me: “You do that.”

I proceeded to put my earpiece back in. [Woman #2] stopped her workout and went across the room to join [Woman #1] — it’s worth noting that neither woman bothered to wipe down the equipment they were using, either — where they continued to shoot me dirty looks and talk among themselves.

I finished my workout, showered, and went to leave. Both women were still there, and I could see [Woman #2] continuing to glare when she realized I was still there. Fed up, I stopped at the front desk and asked for the manager. Fortunately, the manager there knew me well enough by sight and presence to know about my Tourette’s. Unfortunately, they weren’t available at the moment to talk, but I explained the situation to the desk worker and mentioned that the women would probably complain about me later. He promised to pass it along to the manager and told me I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

I admit, in a moment of childish pique, I did look over at [Woman #2] and give a cheerful finger-wave before I left.

Seriously, I get that our current health situation is serious, but you don’t know someone’s health condition better than they do. At least these two didn’t claim to be nurses, unlike the first time it happened.

Tic-ing Along Nicely Until You Came Along

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