You know this being an immigrant in a foreign country is enough to drive you to drink. The hits just keep on coming. After months and months of paperwork, we finally wrangled French health coverage. Then we got mired in the driver’s licence debacle. Then, because apparently I didn’t have enough bullmerde in my life, I decided to enroll at a new gym. Sounds easy, right? Sorry, I couldn’t hear your reply over god’s wild guffaws.

Several months back I joined a gym in another town, a no frills place that seemed to be my only option. But lately I’m disenchanted with it. Mostly because it’s a haven for every bodybuilder in the region. Oh they’re polite, sometimes too polite, as in asking me for a date. Plus, and no disrespect to anyone with testosterone levels higher than mine, the place stinks. Don’t get me started on the unisex change area.

Anyway, I discovered another swankier gym and I decided to make a move. As is required in France, I got another medical certificate and I made an appointment for orientation to la salle de musculation (sounds so much better than “weight room”). I arrived to meet a woman who seemed pleasant enough, but I quickly discovered that this was going to be a session for me and 4 other women.

Now before I go on, in my defence, at the other gym I got a quick rundown of the machines and then I came back on my own for my first workout, so I expected the same thing. I hadn’t brought the obligatory towel and I wasn’t dressed appropriately for a full workout. Also I had no intention of spending 3 hours in a group training session with a bunch of people who’d never seen the inside of a gym.

I politely asked for what I wanted. With that, the trainer (term is used loosely because, not to be unkind, this woman was by far the most out of shape individual I’ve met in France) began to give me a right talking to in front of the 7 or 8 Ryan Gosling look-alikes on the cardio machines. Her face was red, her voice was raised. She was mad that I wasn’t prepared, that I was wasting her time. She told me that I couldn’t come back for a whole week because she wasn’t available until then and a bunch of other crap that I tuned out. My nerves.

I let her rant and then I started trying to calm her down (once a shrink, always a shrink). All I wanted to say was, “Is there another time that I could come back to get a quick overview of the machines and get started?” But for the life of me I couldn’t manage the French for that or for “Missus, you’re gone right off the rails. Shut your yap and show me the bloody leg press before I beat you to death with my sneaker. And here’s some advice, ease off on the bread, the cheese and the attitude.”

It’s all a bit delicate. I need the gym but I also need to adhere to my “I don’t let people treat me badly” policy. Tricky, very tricky. When you can’t communicate properly, all bets are off. I decided to take the high road. I told her I was sorry, that I was a foreigner, perhaps I’d misunderstood something and I thanked her for her patience, right smiley-like, and told her I’d be happy to come back another time. It was sickening.

By the time it was over, all eyes were on me so I ramped up the elegance of my gait toward the exit. Oh the moral superiority. Oh the graceful exit. Oh the friggin’ door was locked. Nothing like slamming yourself into a solid steel door to confirm who’s riding the high horse.