My luck with massages has been inconsistent.
The first time was when my then-wife and I went on holiday to Montreal. She was going back to the hotel room for a nap and I was too wired to sleep. So, having seen a sign in the elevator advertising their massage service, I said “you know what? I’m going to have a massage.”
She shrugged her shoulders. ”OK”
And so off I went.
Not knowing a thing about massage, I expected it would be a relaxing experience. “I’ll probably end up falling asleep and missing the whole thing” I thought.
I truly didn’t think I had any expectations as to what the masseuse would look like, but I have to tell you: I was totally unprepared for what showed up.
An older gentleman of suspicious girth greeted me at the door.
Well, grunted, more like.
He had hair growing out of his nostrils and ears. All grey.
None on his head, of course. Hey, all of that orifice hair had to come from somewhere, right?
And I noticed that his freakishly muscular arms hung much lower than normal folks’ arms. Well past his humongous belly. A belly that jiggled this way and that as he moved around.
It was a fascinating belly, really. It moved about a half second after he did, every time. And it scared the hell out of me.
There was no doubt. This was the legendary Missing Link.
I briefly thought about fleeing. But I realized I was being ridiculous. And besides – I figured, “in for a penny, in for a pound.” I was here. Might as well make the best of it.
“Take clothes off” he growled.
“Um, ok” I muttered.
“Hmph” he replied.
So I did. And then I crawled up onto the table.
“Face down!” he ordered.
So I faced down.
“Leaving underpants on.”
(I didn’t know if that was an observation or a question. So I treated it like a rhetorical question and said nothing)
(Oh, and I left them on.)
He started in on me. Quick and painfully. He pushed and pulled and prodded and pressed in hard. He found muscles that weren’t there before. And they all cried “uncle”
Yeah, I suppose if you’re a masochist. In which case it was as relaxing as hell. I felt like that guy at the top of this post – a human pretzel.
I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Part of me – the part that had compartmentalized itself away from the pain and the welling tears – laughed. This was so far removed from what I thought massage would be about that it was just hilarious.
When he was done, and after I paid for the torture session, I slowly hobbled back to our room.
“What happened to you? asked my wife.
“Well you don’t look anymore relaxed.”
I stared at her. “No. No, I suppose not” I said.
There have been many massages since then. Most of them were good.
You learn a few things along the way. A “relaxing massage” isn’t worth much if the goal is to get rid of aching muscles. For that, you need a deep tissue massage, provided by a qualified therapist. Anything less than that and you’re going to get tickled – and that’s just irritating.
I don’t mean you need to go through torture either.
Some massages were provided by people who just didn’t know how to do it, and I found those were a waste of money.
I woke up this morning with my shoulder in spasm. Try as I might – there was no amount of stretching that would get the kink out. So, after attending a seminar in town, I walked past a hotel and noticed the word “Spa” in the window. Being an intuitive sort, I surmised this meant they provided services such as facials, manicures, pedicures, mud wraps and oh yes oh yes – MASSAGE. I went inside.
“How much for an hour” I asked the cheerful receptionist.
In her cheerful way, she replied “oh it’s only $140.00″ blinky-blink.
I looked at her.
She looked back at me, all smiles.
My muscles spasm nudged me in annoyance.
“I’ll take it” I said.
“Of course sir”
She gave me a medical form to fill out and then showed me the way to the locker room.
“Here’s your key. There’s a robe in the locker and some sandals. Put those on, and go down to the waiting area, and your massage therapist will greet you there”, she said, still smiling.
I did all of that.
A gay gentleman greeted me and took the medical form. (At least, I think he was gay. He smiled at me too. Much too much. Maybe he was just being friendly though. He might not have been gay, now that I think about it. He may have been high.)
“How are you today sir?”
“Fine thanks. My girlfriend insisted I get a massage today” (I don’t have a girlfriend. He might not have been gay. I wasn’t taking any chances)
“That’s great, sir. Can I get you a glass of water while you wait?”
“Sure.” I said.
“Would you like lemon or lime with that?”
“I’ll take lemon, please”
“It would be my pleasure”
(Sure it would)
He gave it to me. I relaxed as much as possible in my robe.
This was nice.
The treatment so far was so far above what I was used to, that I thought there was no way I was going to leave that place with aching muscles.
This tiny woman showed up, smiling.
“Pleased to meet you, Wolf. My name is Glenna” she said, putting her hand forward.
I shook it. ”Same here, Glenna.”
“Shall we go in?
“After you” I said.
After outlining the massage plan, she left me to disrobe and crawl beneath the blanket and sheet. The music was soft and relaxing. I could smell aromatherapy scents.
I heard a slight hesitant knock at the door. “Can I come in?”
“I’m all set” I replied.
She said “I know we agreed that you wanted a deep massage. Just let me know if I need to go deeper or lighter OK?”
“OK” I said.
She pressed all the way down my back through the sheet. Hard.
“I’m going to go deeper” she said. ”This is just to get the muscles loosened up”
Then she pulled the sheet back, oiled up my back and her hands and she started in on me.
Mean, old guy with too-long arms, grinding away at my back.
This tiny therapist was doing exactly the same. Only this time, I had experience as a reference.
Instead of tensing up this time, I relaxed as much as possible.
She found every single out-of-place muscle. And each time she did, she stayed on that spot, pushing her dagger-like elbow right into it. I knew this was necessary in order for the offending muscle to loosen.
Still, it hurt like hell.
I did not grimace.
I did not yell. And in fact I barely grunted. All there was, was a huff of breath when she hit those spots, elbows a-blazing.
Then she got to my shoulders. She kneaded and ground the muscles around my shoulders like so much hamburger. She grabbed my shoulders like they were trying to get away from her. She pinched them hard each time.
My face went all shades of red. I could feel it. I briefly clenched my fists, but then loosened them.
When she moved down my back I sighed in relief.
But then she came back up and hit those spots again.
This tiny woman was beating the holy living hell out of me. And I was saying nothing. I was paying for the privilege.
The music played on.
“Should I go deeper?” she asked, so sweetly.
“NO!!” I heard the panic in my voice. ”I mean, no. This is fine”
(It wasn’t. But there were appearances to maintain, so I wasn’t going to ask her to go lighter)
Finally, after an hour of this, she was done. As was I.
I paid, and thanked her and left.
And when I got home, I started noticing multiple bruises on my shoulders and neck.
I believe I counted about five bruises.
Which roughly works out to $28.00 per bruise.
In todays’ economy, that’s not too bad.