Part of what makes the gym intimidating to you is what you alluded to in your question: "..knew exactly what to do, whereas I was the helpless...".In essence, it helps to have a plan before you go in. Sometimes the equipment doesn't look like you expect or are used to, so ask someone who works there where the "XXX station" is.
Exercises in the gym aren't rocket science and everybody can learn them, it's just that there's so much exercises that it might seem very complex.Last but not least: never care how much other people lift!!!!When you perform the exercise with weight, do it in front of a mirror and ask someone to watch your form.The mirror is there so you can see how you are responding to their feedback, allowing you to learn what the proper form should look like.I've been lifting for 15 years and I still observe these because they are very useful for proper technique and workout planning. Remember, their goal is to build a clientele so they don't mind spending a session or two with you if they think you may become a customer down the road. Just man up and realize that within 3-6 weeks you're be a regular also.
MANY of the people at the gym will be more than willing to help/show you how to work any of the equipment.
I went to the gym last week, and the experience was quite intimidating.
Everyone there was a regular, who knew exactly what to do, whereas I was a newcomer who tried to understand how the equipment worked.
Not to long ago I needed to find out where the dip station was.
The gym only has the assisted dip/pullup stations, but the guy there showed me how to use it unassisted.
This will give you more confidence on the machines. Most people will be happy to talk with you about different techniques and practices.