Trying Out: Massage Parlor (Or, Getting Rubbed the Wrong Way)

I have this weird opinion that I should be able to turn my head roughly one hundred and eighty degrees.  I think that when I try to lift my left arm, it should not go numb.  I am against gigantic knots in my neck and pinched nerves.  The gall.

Normally this is the sort of quirk that I would work out myself.  I take my thumb to one side of the incursion and my two fingers to the other and I make small circular movements, apply pressure, and wait for the pesky blob to break down.  My ground troupes are oppressive, unrelenting, and they get the job done.  Insurgent forces quickly break down under such well-executed brutality.  Knots break down and my body resets.

Not in October.

For over a month I have had this knot in my neck that will not go away.  I have exerted the same amount of massaging that I always have and it has gotten better, but still will not dissipate.  One would think that I would learn an important lesson from this.  Lessons like, “Hey, get a better pillow.”  Perhaps, “You know, maybe bending your neck at a ninety-degree angle so you can read your book while lying down is folly.”  Nope.  I chose a different lesson.  “Maybe ask for help on this one.”

Now, I have gotten acupuncture before.  I was convinced that pokey needles would be the best way to break up my granite mound.  But the place I went to last time had piles of paperwork and offers of stem cell infusions and wanted me to go in three times a week to reset my body…  It was a bit much. 

Call me crazy, but I still have reservations about walking into a storefront establishment and saying, “Hey, I don’t know you, but would you jam some metal shards into my veins?  Your needles are clean, right?  I’m sure you know what you’re doing.”

Yes, I should have looked online for reviews, medical certifications, testimonies.  But who wants to do all that when I could try something else entirely?

I found a massage place less than three miles from my house.  For some wacky reason, they were open until 10 p.m.  The prices did not sound too, well, pricey.  Not knowing what I was doing, I gave them a call.


“Hi, I have this large knot in my neck and I think I have turned it into a pinched nerve.  Is that something you could help me with?”

You come in.  No appointment.

Their response did not fill me with confidence.  However, once you make one uninformed choice, you might as well stay on the crazy train.

“And you folks are open until 10?”

Yes.  You come in.  No appointment.

You know how you call up a business and you get put on hold?  How they tell you, over and over, that your call is very important to them and that they will soon find somebody to take your call next?  Does that ever comfort anyone?  Ever put a smile on your face?  No?  Me either.  Repeating the same answer never raises my confidence in a business.

I walked in and was shown a clipboard.  I was to circle which of the four types of… methods?  Therapies?  Approaches?  I dunno.  I was determined to keep my pants on.  That was all I knew.  I circled chair massage because that sounded the most clothing-friendly. 

Here, lie down on this table.  Oh, and take your clothes off.” 

“Uh, no.” 

You lie down.” 

“A: I don’t know you that well.  B:  I certainly don’t know the last person that was on this bed nearly that well.  C:  It’s my neck that hurts.  Not my buttocks.  Negative.”

I do not need to have that conversation, thankyouverymuch.

The form asked how long I wanted.  I picked thirty minutes.  What did I know?  Then it asked how hard I wanted, on a scale from one to seven.  I did not circle anything.  Because, in case you have not been keeping up, what the sam hill did I know? 

What I now know is that, “no appointment needed” is a death sentence.  After you fill out the clipboard, you sit down and you wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Be wary of stacks of magazines. If they have a vast selection, then clearly they think that it is okay to give you plenty of time to read several periodicals.  Thus creating more stress for them to alleviate? 

However, I found a magazine telling me what my cat was really thinking.  (In theory.  Whenever we do figure out how a cat’s brain works, the felines will get together and change their thought processes solely for the purpose of keeping us on our toes.  I guarantee it.)  So, yes.  I spent half an hour reading about cats.  In the back of my mind, there was a little voice saying, “You know, if you allowed me to schedule appointments, I could be home learning from my actual cat and not your hypothetical ones.”

Three patients later, I was called up.  I was again asked what degree of pressure I wanted.  I stated that I did not know.  I tried to describe that I had a severe knot on my left shoulder and that was why I was there.  The massagist (masseur?  Mass assessor?) nodded and replied, “More time.  Yes.” 

Okay, let us go ahead and discuss the language barrier.  Would I prefer if folks working on me spoke English?  Sure.  Would I like to believe that my requests were being fully understood?  Yep.  However, I can only reliably speak one language myself, so who am I to talk?  Also, when they started the massage, they made no effort to talk.  Which, after being around people for eight hours, was just fine by me.  Let us call it a wash.  Not ideal, but they let their hands to the talking.  Fine.

I can only assume that when this mass-attack guy took my measure, he assumed that I was in pristine shape.  That I was a splendid specimen of beefcake.  That I could carry three people out of a burning building and have throngs of adorers clinging to my massive biceps.  Because the massager immediately leapt to seven on the pressure scale.  There was no possible way there was a higher level of aggression that he could work out on me.  Monster truck tires would have tread on me lighter than this guy.  There was no “one” level.  “Two,” “three,” these were notions spoken of in mocking tones.  Seven.  All over. 

The masseur did listen to my comment about the knot.  He spent more time there than anywhere else.  He stepped back and put his full weight into it.  He pulled.  He elbowed.  He grunted.  I can say without a doubt that he produced a result. 

Pain.  Pain was the result.  I stared at the floor through a horseshoe-shaped pillow. I was crouched on the chair like a kid hunched over his exam in one of those elementary school combination desks.  He leaned and pressed on me with all his might as I wondered how much force would be required to tip over the “chair” of his. 

I was elated that I had chosen thirty minutes.  The painful part, the segment where he tried to fix my knot, that lasted for roughly (ha!) five minutes.  The rest was him trying to massage my shoulder, neck, and stretching out my fingers. Fingers? Huh?  When I was not in pain, I was bored.

Half an hour later, I arose from my fetal-position-esque “chair.”  I stretched.  I twisted.  I generally felt the same as when I walked in.  But the mass effect-er was perfectly nice.  He offered me a bottle of water and coupon.  When all was said and done, including tip, I was out thirty-six dollars.  Not terrible.

I have heard others talk about clusters being broken up and tears pouring down.  How they had a trouble spot that caused them woe and all of a sudden it was released.  How life was so much better after a massage. 

I did not have that experience.  I felt fine.  Nothing felt miraculously better.  The knot was smaller, but it still hurt.  Two weeks later, it is still there.  I wanted a fix.  Part of me went back to that phone call.  The one where I specifically asked if they could help me with this. 

To be fair, they did help.  My condition is lessened.  I lessened it, they lessened it, it was a tag team effort.  Maybe the little stabbing pieces of metal will finally kill it off.  However, I can now say that I had a massage.  I never have to have one again.  There will be one less person to clog up the waiting room.  (Or course, now I have to find that magazine about cat brains so I can finish it.)

One thing is for sure.  That massage therapy guy?  He gets full points for his attempt.  There is no way he could have possibly tried any harder.  Ow.      

About Cosand

He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.
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