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Learning cruise control at Hillcrest speed is an eye-opener

My friend Ricky recently got a membership at 24-Hour Fitness Hillcrest. Until he started working out here (and I visited this gym on a guest pass), I always wondered why some women choose to go to women-only gyms or workout classes. Now I know why. Men – gay or straight – love to “cruise” at the gym!

Ten minutes into my workout, a young guy approached me and asked if I would “spot him” while he lifted weights. Because I once almost dropped a 125-pound barbell on myself (if you have been reading this column, you have likely figured out that I am a bit of a klutz), I am very willing to help others with their lifting. He laid down on the bench, I stood behind it (which makes for very awkward positioning) and as he was about to lift, he stopped and complimented me on how good I smelled (remember, I was only 10-minutes into my workout). I thought this was odd, especially since his nose was uncomfortably close to the lower half of my body. I awkwardly thanked him, mentioned that it was a combination of AXE deodorant and cologne, and revved myself up for his lifting.

He proceeded to make small talk, sat up, and asked for my number. Not knowing what to say, I (stupidly) told him I couldn’t remember my “new” phone number and he gave me his. I don’t think he ever lifted those weights. Ricky tells me that men are constantly staring, chatting and gawking during his daily workouts. Certainly, the attention is beyond flattering, but sometimes we just want to workout, without the “cruise factor.”

Starbucks on University Avenue (in the Hillcrest Colonade Shopping Center) is another gay cruise fest. Beyond the regular selection of tall, grande and venti beverages and pastries, there are plenty of boys. On any given day or night, there is a wide variety of gentlemen, young and old, pretending to read newspapers, wait for a friend or work on homework. Every time the door opens, all eyes in the place immediately look up, and depending on who walks in, some eyes remain up and don’t go down until the person who walked in leaves. It’s quite fun to watch.

Ralph’s supermarket in the Uptown Shopping Center is also fun. Also known as “Sexual Energy Ralph’s,” this store is a great place to find broccoli, milk, bread and boys. The frozen food aisle always seems to be an especially happening place, as boys open and close the cooler bays (this must be how boys cool down since the heat is just so intense at Ralph’s). Sometimes I wonder if the sweet old women who also shop at this store have any idea what is going on around them.

Wells Fargo Bank in this same shopping center is another place where the unsuspecting gay boy might go to make a deposit and come out with a lot more. The handsome and friendly staff skew on the gay side and the customers are no different. Waiting in line to cash a check recently included large bills and a lot of eyes. I just opened an account with Wells Fargo not long ago and find myself coming back to the Hillcrest branch time and time again.

I have a lot of friends who live nowhere near Hillcrest, but seem to patronize the very businesses I have mentioned. I have always asked them why they work-out/shop at the 24-Hour Fitness, Starbucks, Ralph’s or Wells Fargo in Hillcrest. All of these are corporate businesses with multiple locations across the county, and I’m sure it would save my friends who live in, say, San Marcos, time if they didn’t make the 35-minute drive to Hillcrest just to make a deposit. But after visiting these places more often lately, I have come to understand how service with a smile makes a big difference.

Ben Cartwright is SDGLN's Higher Education & Nonprofit Liaison and has been a campus and community activist in San Diego for over 10 years. His community involvement began as a student at SDSU and from there he launched into a number of other community activities. He has written for a number of local publications including Update, Hillquest, and GLT.