Thursday, May 20, 2010

Springtime Relaxer

Would someone please make it their business to remind me that I don't actually enjoy spa packages? Because no matter how many times I am schooled, I don't seem to retain the lesson.

You may recall my account of this year's preschool dinner auction, the one where I drunkenly MC-ed with laryngitis and got mistaken for a phone sex operator. One of the things I won (David says I'm not to use that word to describe things we've paid for, even if it's at a discount) was a spa package called "Springtime Relaxer." First of all, that name: sounds like a laxative, no?

With the play finished, it was time to redeem my prize, before it was no longer spring. I called and the nice phone lady said I'd be there about three hours, so I chose a window when Jarrah would be at school, leaving time for a post-spa lunch (something about being pampered makes me ravenous.)

Upon arrival, the Nice Phone Lady showed me to the "locker room," which seemed to be a closet with a couple of lockers, eerily kitted out with deadbolts, and a mildewy shower. She gave me a "wrap," (like a towel with velcro) and a robe, "and you can put your locker key in the pocket." That was my first trial: I couldn't find the pocket, and in my dazed state, lost my key several times during my stay. She then led me down the labyrinthine halls (that will be key later) spewing instructions, including the specific uses for a series of towels that I promptly forgot. The room we entered contained a huge shower gushing clouds of mist, and she proposed I enter this chamber and stay there for 30 minutes. I'm not quite so far gone yet to wonder "Without my laptop?" but I did become anxious for reading material almost instantly. But then she was gone, and I was alone. I immediately checked the door, to make sure I wasn't trapped.

What is it about an experience that so many people describe as soothing that puts me in mind of being tear-gassed? Steam rooms are a claustrophobic girl's nightmare: murky low visibility, strange noises, escalating heat, long periods of solitude. I sat there for a while with steam dripping off my nose, and then realized I had to flee to the outer chamber, where I sat disconsolately in an uncomfortable chair, freezing my tushy off, until the door was flung open an indeterminate period of time later.

The girl who opened the door shrieked when she saw me sitting there, though stopped short of howling "Rule breaker!" She did chide "You scared me!" as she led me to a room characterized by a spotlit table beneath a series of...showerheads? The table had a towel in the middle that was growing increasingly soaked, and the girl (Dawn) said:

"Give me your wrap. You won't be needing it anymore."

"I won't?" I didn't like where this was going.

"No. And I'll take your robe, too. And whatever's in your hand. What is that? A tissue?"

I felt like I was at the doctor. I blinked at her for a moment, then handed over the tissue.

"This treatment is done nude."

"Ohhhh." If I make a break for it, will she find me and tie me down? I flashed back to a procedure I'd had before my wedding that made me feel like I was in a women's prison movie. I had a feeling I was about to catch the sequel.

I handed her my things, eyes down-cast, and climbed on the table, expecting to be garnished with parsley. Instead, she turned up the showers so that they were blasting my bits with very hot water. I guess she was concerned about my hygiene.

"Put your head on the pillow." I did, but water promptly leaked into my ear. "Now I'm going to put this towel over your face." I wondered if the towel was supposed to shield my gaze from her despoiling my virtue. In any case, I was grateful to have it. She began scrubbing me top to toe with some sort of sponge-like unit covered in...sand? I could feel several layers of epidermis meeting their maker. When she was done, she threw something that felt like gravel onto the same areas, and removed more layers of tender flesh by raking the gravel across my entire body. Yes, I said entire. I did appreciate that the gravel smelled like honey.

"Now turn over." Oh dear lord, I suppose I must. I was glad that she instantly swathed my face in another shame-shielding towel before subjecting my front side to more of the same. When that was done, she handed me a towel and turned her back. She busied herself for exactly as long as it took me to dry off and clamber into my robe, which made me think she'd done this before. I wondered if I needed to leave some cash in an envelope now. But we were off down another hall.

"Shama's not ready for you, so I'm putting you in the sauna. In you go. It's not heated up yet." That last sentence is truly the only reason I allowed her to gently shove me into a miniscule redwood chamber with an alarmingly glowing stone box in one corner. Ahhhh, magazines! I swooned, spotting a pile on the bench. I can distract myself from being boiled alive with a little light reading. Once again, I was unable to follow instructions and fled after about five minutes, nostrils singed. I was observed wandering the halls in the altogether by the spa police, and I heard a few of them murmuring about what was to be done with me. They'd tried to put me in solitary, but I got myself an early parole without good behavior.

Truly, I was a little shaken up by now, and worried that I might have developed a heart murmur from being subjected to so much heat and flaying already. I was relieved when Shama appeared because she was calm and lovely, though she did threaten to take my blankets away because I didn't appreciate the sauna.

"No, please. No. I do get cold during a massage." She said she'd be back in a minute and that she'd knock. She didn't. Luckily, I wasn't misbehaving in any way when she flung open the door, though I was a little uncomfortable since someone seemed to have short-sheeted the table.

The next part is a little hazy, because it actually was a very good massage, and exhausted as I was from my earlier trauma, I nodded off for a while. I did notice her peculiar tendency to do something really specific to one side (bouncing on my calf, or flinging a hip side to side) and not the other, and as a real afficionado of symmetry, I found this disconcerting.

At the end, I stumbled into the hall to find Dawn--She Of The Salt--waiting for me once again. "Need to use the bathroom before your facial?" she asked. I said no, and followed her down yet another hall. I noticed two rhinestone studs embedded in her neck. Ouch. It's all starting to make sense now. In yet another room, she motioned to a table that looked like a sagging lima bean, and told me she'd knock when she came back. I wasn't going to hold my breath.

As I settled under the sheets, it occurred to me that I was distinctly DONE with being pampered, and was plenty ready to go home now. But it was not to be; I would have to submit to yet another hour of rubbing and basting before being set free. Something is wrong with this picture.

When Dawn returned, I affected a cheery, insouciant tone and said "Oh, by the way, no poking and pinching, please."

"No extractions?" she yelped, as if I'd just said "Oh, and by the way, I hate puppies and sunflowers." Apparently, I needed to be punished a bit for my recalcitrance, because she began slapping my face with something that smelled like what comes out of the soap dispenser at the YMCA and repeatedly pushing it into my eyes. This was followed by more slapping with a grainy substance which--although I can't confirm it--may have been left over from the batch used on my bits earlier in the day. Just when my skin was starting to smart from all this "massage," the steam machine switched off and I heard a sound I distinctly recognized from my research on slasher films: the unmistakable whir of a power saw. My eyes snapped open and rolled back in my head (quite a feat considering she'd bound my head so tightly I could barely remember my own name) and I guess she noticed because she said:

"It's just an electric face scrubber."

Oh, alrighty then, my brain began, but then it went electric face scrubber??? But it was too late; the unit was lowered and began to sand away my surprised expression and, eventually, all my facial features, leaving a surface as undifferentiated as a pink bar of Camay. I gritted my teeth as she blasted the scrubber over my lips, nose and eyeballs for the better part of 10 minutes. Have I mentioned that in between these delights I could hear her dipping a burlap washcloth in a (no doubt disgustingly dirty) bowl of lukewarm water, and then raking my face with it? Consider it mentioned.

Finally, she smoothed something cool and soothing over my face, and dropped what I later learned were teabags over my grit-filled eyes. I started to relax, anticipating the lovely neck and hand massage that has accompanied previous facials, but instead she leaned in and breathed:

"Okay, I'll leave you to mask for a few minutes." And then she was gone.

I thought about masking, I really did. I wish I could have followed instructions and--simply--masked. But instead, I was suddenly aware of an urge to pee so powerful it took over my entire consciousness. I tried shifting around on the lima bean but it didn't help. Before I knew it, I was rising from my recumbent posture, whipping the tea bags off my eyes, and tearing down the hallway. Oh, I did remember to put my robe on first.

Coast is clear, I noted as I skated around corners in search of the bathroom. Aha! Dead ahead! I ran inside, scrabbling at the light switch near the door. Which did not light anything. I whacked and scraped in the blackness, but nothing. Suddenly, I didn't care. I locked myself into the pitch-black room and felt my way toward the commode. As I sat down, I felt the toilet paper bounce off my knee and roll away. I groped for it on the floor, trying to reposition myself, and finally--oh blessed bladder!--I peed. For a long, long time. I guess it was all that water they kept making me drink. I clutched the t.p. roll in the dark and then--suddenly--I heard myself laugh one of those crazy, spluttering laughs. As soon as I heard it, the whole thing seemed even funnier, and I laughed louder and crazier. Then I laughed even more, imagining one of the spa girls coming 'round the bend and hearing the white-faced, head-wrapped facial escapee peeing and laughing in the pitch black. And then I laughed again because I just didn't care anymore.

After opening the door and washing my hands, I crept back to the facial room, but ah! too late! Dawn was standing rigid by the open door, gobsmacked. She looked up at me and went "What the @#$%&*???" I started to explain but I could see she really did not care. At this point she just wanted me done and gone. I was happy to oblige. She snapped my face with the washcloth a bit more, dug some moisturizer into my eyeballs for good measure, and sent me to the showers.

As I showered, gingerly avoiding the tub slime and drain hair booby-traps all around, I felt really peaceful. Because as soon as I dried off and put my clothes on, I was going on the lam from the Springtime Relaxer. I was going to ride far, far away, to a place with pizza and magazines where no one--for any reason--would touch me.


Stephanie said...

Sounds like you may need to "win" some therapy sessions for PTSD.

Myrnie said...

Wow. Who entered THAT gem of a spa in the auction??

You've confirmed my decision to never go to a spa.

nova said...

WOW that sounds like the worst day ever! But I loved reading about it. Too funny.

Imagine: people pay big money to go to places like that. What the hell?

Jen said...


Anonymous said...

I really did laugh out loud. (I always wonder about LOLs. Are people really laughing out loud? Usually, I think not.) But, in this case, I was afraid someone was going to come find out what was wrong with me since I was laughing so hard in my office.
- sweddy

Anonymous said...

Sam, this whole story reminds me of another story of yours that ended with the unforgettable, inimitable assertion, "I was instantly blinded," which Gina & I still repeat to each other quite regularly.



Jen said...

Um, excuse me, but how could someone write LOL on one of Sam's posts and not mean it? :-) We simply cannot help ourselves.

Mary said...

Were the bolts in her neck there to hold to hold her head on? A la Bride of Frankenstein?

Sounds scary!



Anonymous said...

I am so with you on the dirty clothes and the insistance of putting lotions INTO my eyes -- why does that need to happen? I was happy to find a gal here who only uses cotton swabs --- I guess she's killing more trees, but at least I can be guaranteed that I'm the only one whose eyes will be swabbed with them! :) Lix

LunaMoonbeam said...

Oh, man! That's NASTY. I've only ever been in for a massage...and THAT was heavenly.

Mrs. Chapman's 2nd Grade Class said...

Yikes!! As a person who loves the spa, if I had your spa experience I would never return.

Thanks for having me in stitches...just like always!