Dear Crabby,

What is it with people at the gym who yap on their cellphones and hog pieces of equipment? They aren’t even exercising! If you’re going to the gym, you should either work out or move out of the way.

These people seem to think that talking on their phone at the gym burns more calories than doing so while driving, shopping, going to the bathroom or whatever else they do.

Am I allowed to throw a kettle ball at these people so they’ll either shut up or get out of my way?


Wanting to Work Out More Than my Mouth

Dear More Than Mouth,

I usually drop extraneous exclamation points from Dear Crabby letters, but the way you wrote “They aren’t even exercising!” really gave me a chuckle. I picture a wiry guy with, like, a headband and wristbands and shorts that are maybe just a little too short, standing amid occupied but unused treadmills and squat-thrust-simulators, throwing his hands to the heavens, exasperated, incredulous, overwhelmed, saying in a voice that starts as a sigh and ends as a scream, “They aren’t even exercising!”

It’s a hilarious image and I thank you for it. But let’s get to the actual question: No, you’re not allowed to throw a kettlebell at them. (I assume that’s what you mean by “kettle ball.”) Those things are incredibly heavy and, in addition to being difficult to throw, would absolutely destroy anyone you managed to hit. You would be banned immediately from your gym, which would lead you into a downward spiral of bad fitness and depression that would end with you, flabby and bitter, eating ice cream right from the carton while you watch reruns of shows you’ve already seen because, “Sure I could reach over, grab the remote and change the channel, but why bother; nothing even matters.”

I can’t advise it.

That said, I know well the frustration of dealing with people at the gym. People at the gym are the worst. There’s nothing better than an empty or near-empty gym, so you can get in there, do your thing and get out. I don’t like to talk to anybody from the moment I hit the locker room pre-workout till the moment I leave. I keep my head down and try to avoid eye contact. I speak only when spoken to. If I see someone I know, I nod or give a brief wave. That’s it.

So, while I’d like to advise you to just confront the people with a measured, polite-but-frank request that they stop talking on their phones (gyms have policies against this) and stop sitting idly on the machines, I probably wouldn’t do that myself. I’d probably stew for a bit, maybe stare some daggers at them and then relent and find another machine to use.

But here’s the good news: You can take that hatred and bitterness that builds up inside of you and direct it back into your workout. Think of old Talky Talkerson and his dumb face while you’re heaving that barbell or straining to finish your fifth mile on the treadmill. It won’t be as cathartic as smashing him with a kettlebell, but it won’t end with you falling asleep with a carton of melting ice cream on your lap, either. So it’s probably the better option.

Hope that helps.