The Comedy in Competition

Always expect the unexpected — if you can. (Though of course you can’t because the unexpected by definition can’t be expected.)

Anyhow, the gym is one place where hardly anything unexpected ever happens. You go there at the same time, you do the same thing, and you come back and look forward to (or dread) doing the same thing again. But the unexpected has habit of appearing unannounced, doesn’t it?

Recently I bumped into someone at the gym whom I hadn’t seen in years. It was a brief, and as you will see, an utterly strange encounter. As you’d expect, we expressed surprise and made good small talk — weather, sport and Brexit. He then moved on to body building and offered a few vacuous (and evidently false) praises about my fitness and strength before proceeding to challenge me to an arm wrestling match.

I was wary. He looked strong, and more importantly, the gym was busy. A random, unannounced struggle was bound to attract plenty of attention. But I couldn’t decline a casual challenge. So I took it up hesitantly and needless to say began to regret it in no time. He was strong. Much stronger than I expected. I watched in horror as my arm began to tilt towards defeat. A couple of young boys closed in to watch and I caught a slight hint of smirk appearing on his face. I was going red. Defeat and embarrassment encroaching upon me.

But praise be to the almighty for right at that moment I was able to eek out the last remnants of my strength just in time for him to give up.


I finished by offering him some vague advice on arm wrestling as the other two watched. I then left the spot promptly and spent the next half an hour reflecting on how to avoid getting drawn into such ego battles.

An out-and-out offbeat and comic episode of this kind only goes to show that you can’t — you really can’t — expect the unexpected.