January 1, 2023 - Can one person make a difference?

January 1, 2023

Can one person make a difference?

If it’s the little things that really matter, today matters a great deal to me: The rowing machines at the gym were restored to their right and royal place this morning after three weeks of asking nicely!

I live in Jackson Heights. It’s a populous, diverse neighborhood. We have smart and generous people (and excellent food) from every corner of the earth, but we are still underserved in so many ways. Everywhere you look there is a line: every ATM, every grocery store, even the library.

The gym is no exception. It’s always packed. The line for the water fountain clocked in at 17 minutes last week (the duration of my stationary bike ride), as a steady stream of thirsty gym dwellers filled up their bottles.

The one piece of equipment that almost never has a line is the rowing machine. I joined the gym about six months ago for the Concept 2 rowers. A foot injury sidelined my decades-long running habit, and I finally got motivated to try other forms of cardiovascular exercise.

About three weeks ago, the two rowing machines were moved, without warning, from their quiet, spacious corner of the gym to the floor mat section where people practice yoga, glute bridges, dancing, jumping rope, free weights, etc. They not only took up precious mat real estate, but they also made a spectacle out of rowers, now front and center of the mirrored section. At one point, they were even placed side-by-side in a narrow space where two people could not safely row without literally bumping elbows. Members don’t often row simultaneously, but I see it once or twice a week and have to queue up or shift to the elliptical, depending on how quickly I have to get back to work.

Each time I visited the gym since that inexplicable move, I asked the front desk workers why the machines had moved and if they could be moved back. They all said, “Corporate moved them,” and said they would share my request with the local manager. I didn’t expect anything to change and that I’d be stuck rowing before the yogis, jump ropers, weight lifters, and dancers forever.

Imagine my surprise and delight today, New Year’s Day, when the rowing machines were restored to their humble, quiet corner! Can one person really make a difference? Maybe. I have no idea if my requests and gentle nudges toward safety helped, but I will claim it as a victory for the rowers of Jackson Heights. We can once again row in quiet obscurity, which is just the way we want it. Happy New Year and happy rowing!