I got a spa gift card for my birthday, which is a great gift for me. I love getting massages, but I rarely make myself an appointment without some kind of prompting, like a gift card. Realizing that the card expired a week sooner than I thought, I called the Monday afternoon that it expired to get an appointment and was told I could just show up whenever I wanted. That’s a little unusual but maybe not completely weird if it’s a new place or if they’re just not that busy on Mondays.
I arrived at the spa in the mall to find two very sweet girls tending the store front, and I reported the gist of my earlier phone call to Moon (yes, Moon – she is the proprietor and sole scheduler). The girl who appeared to be in charge took my gift card, looked it over, and said, “Okay, I give you neck and back massage, okay?” Okay by me, so I nodded vigorously. The girl directed me to a room in the back corner of the spa and told me to wait and she will bring me a towel. Since I never learned the girl’s name, I have decided to call her “Bob,” as it fits with the absurdity of the proceedings to follow. The massage room I found myself in was sparsely equipped and contained an undraped massage table. Bob returned with the promised towel and instructed me to take off my top and lie down with the towel covering me. I began pondering the logistics of a single towel versus the amount of naked table and naked skin that must be covered, but I nodded my understanding to Bob anyway. I determined that wrapping my top in the towel in the same way I would when stepping out of the shower was the best course of coverage, leaving the opening to the side so that Bob could fairly easily move it to the side for the massage, and leaving only my face and arms unprotected against the bare vinyl.
Bob seemed somewhat disgruntled to discover my towel wrapping work, but she recovered quickly and signaled the second girl to come in behind her. “Excuse me, would you mind if my friend watches me give massage to you; she is learning how to give massage and help on Saturdays.” If I wasn’t already sure that this was going to be a hilarious experience, Bob’s question made me sure this would be a singular moment in my life. I managed to reply that it would be fine with me, and Bob got underway, first dousing me with baby oil and then rubbing my back in such a manner that a muppet might have been more effective. If you have ever been to a nice spa, you are enveloped in quiet, soothing music and aromatic scents of essential oils; here there was only the sound of pinball and video games across the way and the smell of baby oil and possibly cold cream that got rubbed onto my back – I couldn’t decide if I smelled more like my nine-month-old niece or my grandmother. Bob grunted and sighed with her efforts, alternately standing on tiptoe to push limply on my back in random spots and doing deep knee bends as she released the “pressure” and let her arms slide back to a ready position.
And then it happened – karate chops! I had to start taking deep breaths and holding them so I wouldn’t actually laugh out loud; Bob was too serious and trying too hard for me to laugh at her attempts. After a few awkward moments of karate chopping, Bob broke out the Mr. Happy massager and began running it lightly up and down my back, which had the effect of tickling more than massaging my already tight shoulder and neck muscles. At some point, Bob leaned over to put her face directly in front of my face and whispered, “Is my pressure okay?” I nodded, and she peered into my face again and whispered, “Which is better, my hands or this [indicating Mr. Happy]?” I told her it really didn’t matter, so she should do whichever was better for her. Bob replied, “Okay. I do both, and we will do hot towel massage, too.” I heard some whispering in a foreign langauge before Bob told me that her friend was going to prepare the hot towels. A few seconds later, I heard running water and the distinct sound of a microwave starting up, and I began to think, “Great, they are going to steam all of the skin off my back.” Not even karate chops could alleviate my gnawing fear of being burned by sweet but clueless massueses.
Bob’s friend returned with the towels and there is more furious whispering before Bob pressed a tiny corner of the towel against my back and asked, “Is too hot? I think maybe is too hot. Maybe we wait a minute.” I agreed with Bob, given that I couldn’t have handled the towels without pot holders based on the tiny bit that touched me. At last, the towels were just the right temperature, and Bob laid them over my back and repeated the random grunting and pushing process. The towels quickly cooled, so the friend was sent to reheat them while I wondered how badly I might be burned on the second attempt. Fortunately the towels were just right, and Bob proceeded to use the towel itself to push on my back, which was surprisingly the most massage-like thing she had done. I realized after a few short moments, however, that Bob was only using one towel, and she had left the other one lying on my rear end, which was still wearing pants that were quickly developing an awkwardly placed wet spot. She did eventually move the towel, but I was already planning mall exit strategies that could hide my backside or snappy one-liners to explain that I had not peed myself.
Bob finally finished off with more baby oil and a final round of karate chops, and she leaned over one last time towards my face to whisper, “You all done now. You have good time?” Bob smiled expectantly and flashed me two thumbs up, so of course I told her I had a good time. I did have a good time, a nice back rub, and a story I cannot repeat without laughing until I cry.