Saturday, January 2, 2016

Not so relaxing station

"Evan's relaxing station, or dinner out?" I asked my date.  "Let's go to Evan's!" Kerry said.  She had just been there as part of her work Christmas Party, and had raved about the foot massage.  Our friends Kevin and Amber similarly only had good things to say about it. "Alright," I said, and sipped the last of my hot chocolate as we overlooked the water at Longboards.  I didn't know it, but the evening had just taken a turn for the worse.

Evan's is one of those blink-and-you-missed-it places.  The ambience when you walk in doesn't really improve either.  When I say a massage place you probably picture a peaceful spa, with artificial waterfalls and rooms smelling like an Aveda store.  Evan's is one gigantic room with dozens of people getting massaged next to each other, with only a few bamboo slats creating separation.  There's a sign-in booklet at the front desk, but no instructions other than a poster saying to keep your voices low, so asking questions isn't exactly encouraged.  After casting around looking for someone to talk to, I approached the booklet.  There was a place for your name, a box to select the length and type (40 min, full-body), and a number scale from 1-7 for intensity.  I noticed that most people had circled 6, but I'm not as brave, so I circled 5 and sat down on one of the waiting chairs.

Kerry noticed a computer screen showing men and women, masseuses presumably, with a countdown timer under each.  My brain started doing some quick math, trying to figure out which masseuse would be the 4th one done, and get me in line.  More importantly, if it was going to be a lady masseuse, or a dude..  It was going to be a dude.  Kerry went first, and she got a lady.  I briefly considered switching places with her, but decided the spectacle was not going to be worth it.  Finally, Fan (can we call him Fan?) got me and motioned to one of the chairs.  "No, full-body" I said.  Fan shook his head and said "Tables full.  Chair first, table after 5 minutes."  I went to the chair.

I settled into the chair and placed my face into a napkin Fan helpfully placed over the headrest.  And that's when the pain came.  Fan attacked my traps at full speed.  Andre Agassi never warmed up before he practiced.  His hitting partners famously had to warm up with someone else before they faced the onslaught of Agassi's groundstrokes.  I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that Fan is the Agassi of Evan's Relaxing Station.  If I had done a couple of arm circles then maybe... but this was no time for maybes.  Fan moved up to work on my neck with similar savagery.  I started questioning my friendship with the Falconers.  Mercifully the 5 minutes ended and Fan motioned me toward one of the tables. 

Ah, I thought, as I relaxed on the table to begin the enjoyable 35 minute home stretch.  BAM! Fan went to work on my traps again and I shifted around, trying to be a big boy.  This was a "5"?  I swear Fan was acting like I had scribbled in an "8 9 10" and circled 10.  He moved up for another round on my neck and through the hole my face was jammed in my lips started going numb.  Finally I got a little respite as Fan did some chiropractic-type things where he pushed down on the base of my spine with one hand and then pushed down on the upper spine/shoulder blade area with the other hand.  At last my body started to relax.  I worked on ignoring him when he started coughing and breathing in an exhorted fashion.  I tried my best to pretend it didn't happen when I heard a coworker come over and hand-feed him a lozenge.  But that all flew out of my head when, I kid you not, he circled back to my traps for a 3rd time.

I started ujjayi breathing like a 10th year yogi, "breathing" into my back as he worked his elbow into it, trying to loosen a knot.  "It's ok" he murmured.  Empathy!  I dried a tear on my little face paper towel, smiling at his kind-heartedness.  He repeated it.  No, it was a question.  A question!  "Maybe a little less?  Medium?" I asked hopefully.  Fan scaled back a little and I stopped breathing like a 60 year old emphysema patient. 

The massage ended and Fan walked me back to the front, handing me a water bottle along the way, which I gulped down gratefully.  I felt bug-eyed and disoriented as I searched around for Kerry.  There was only one woman in the waiting room, and I couldn't imagine where Kerry could have gone.  But it was Kerry!  I'm going to blame that one on the fact that the massage had made her hair so crazy that I didn't recognize her at first.  I went to sign the check.  Still reeling from the meat wringer I had just been through, I made a miscalculation and ended up leaving a 40% tip.  Fan gave me a big smile, but I was just as happy to escape through the front door!

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