A couple of weeks ago, I injured myself and came down with a nasty case of tendonitis in my right arm. It’s like gingivitis, only much more painful and not caused by a lack of brushing or flossing your teeth. Actually, it could probably be caused by brushing your teeth, depending on how much you flail your arms when you’re brushing. (I know I get kinda wild with the toothbrush sometimes, so that just might be what did it.)
Anyway, so after two weeks of inhaling ibuprofen, icing my arm until I got frostbite, and wearing an elbow support that nearly cut off all the circulation in my arm, I became desperate for some kind of pain relief. So, acting on a tip from a naprapath at a recent family party (who told me that my neck was knotted up nice and tight, perhaps causing some referred pain in my arm), I called to schedule a massage.
On Google, I found a massage school in Chicago that advertised the following:
ALL PROFESSIONAL TREATMENTS ARE $5 OFF REGULAR PRICE ($55 for one hour, $85 for 90 minutes)!!!
I thought, five bucks off?—and the regular price is $55? So that means an hour-long professional massage would be only $50! That seemed like a pretty good deal.
I called and scheduled my appointment, and confirmed with the receptionist that the massage would only be $50. “Yes, that’s right—fifty,” she replied.
So I was all set for the massage last night, and was definitely looking forward to it.
My appointment was at 6:15, and I got to the building at around 6:10. I should have known when I saw the building that it wasn’t exactly going to be the most professional massage. It was an old, run-down looking red brick building, just a few blocks away from some North side housing projects. But the sign directing me to the third floor seemed professionally done. So I walked in and immediately saw a very old-looking elevator in front of me.
I hit the up button and heard the elevator groan like it hadn’t been used in decades. Finally, after what seemed like ten minutes, the elevator door opened, and I got in nervously. Very slowly, the door closed, and the rickety-ass elevator began shaking and groaning and transporting my very anxious self up to the third floor.
At the third floor, I said a silent prayer of thanks when the door actually opened, and to my left, I saw the glass doors to the massage school. I walked in and looked around, quickly surveying the room. Happily, I noticed that it looked like a professional massage space, very clean and with modern comfy furniture.
The very friendly receptionist greeted me warmly, and then asked how I would like to pay for my session.
“By credit card,” I said.
“Okay, that will be $55,” she said.
“I thought it was $5 off—so $50?” I said, “That’s what your website says—and that’s what someone here quoted me on the phone.”
“Oh, sorry,” she said. “Let me just check. I’m new here.”
A few minutes later, after consulting with management, she said. “I’m sorry, it is $55—the regular price is $60. I’ll mention to the management about the website.”
This was getting off to a really good start, I thought.
But hell, five dollars was not all that much money—did I really want to argue about it? I decide against arguing and paid her the $55.
Then she gave me some forms to fill out, and I sat down to answer the three pages of questions. What medication did I take? Lots of ibuprofen recently. What activities did I do on a regular basis? Um, does drinking wine and eating cheese count? What allergies did I have? I am pretty allergic to rickety-ass elevators.
Right around question #835, a couple of women walked in, talking and laughing loudly, and whom I deduced after a couple of minutes to be massage therapists. The chipper receptionist said to one of them, “This is Carla, your next client.”
The massage therapist turned to me ever-so-briefly and mumbled, “Hi,” then turned back to her conversation with her friend.
Well, that certainly didn’t give me the warm fuzzies. But I thought, let me give her a chance, so I turned back to my long and unending questionnaire. Question #836: Have you consumed any alcohol today? No, but now I kind-of wish I had.
Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly noticed that Miss Massage Therapist was kind-of watching me, presumably waiting for me to finish writing the story of my life. I rushed through the last few questions, and got up and handed her the forms.
She glanced at them and then directed me—guess where?—back to the rickety-ass elevator! I was in front of her as we approached the elevator, so I had no idea if we were going up or down. And instead of telling me, she was now just staring at the paperwork I had filled out.
“Um, are we going up or down?” I asked.
“We’re going up to four,” she said.
Well, at least we weren’t going up more than one floor. I figured even this old-ass elevator could make it up one floor.
During the ten-minute ride up to the fourth floor, Miss Massage Therapist said, “So do you want me to focus mostly on your upper body, and not on your lower body?”
“Um, well…I do like the overall relaxation massage…” I began.
“It’s just that we’re already cutting into your massage time,” she interrupted.
What?! We just got in the elevator!
“Your session ends at 7:15,” she continued, “so it’s probably better to focus on the area that’s bothering you the most, your upper body.”
Wow, I was getting warm fuzzies all over. “Yeah, I guess so,” I replied.
When we got to the fourth floor, there was a big sign that said:
QUIET PLEASE: SESSION IN PROGRESS
“We have to be quiet,” whispered Miss Massage Therapist. “There’s a session in progress.”
By this time I had figured there was a session in progress, so I stayed quiet.
She led me into this dimly lit area, and pointed ahead, “Just go right down there,” she said. In front of me was a closed room, and to my right, a curtain hanging from the ceiling.
“Where?” I asked.
“There,” she pointed to the curtain.
Really? I stepped into the opening at the side of the curtain. Oh-kay…apparently I don’t get my own room; just a curtained-off area. This was definitely not what I had expected.
She left so that I could undress and lie on the table, and then she reappeared a few minutes later.
There was soft music playing, so I thought, what the heck, I might as well make the best of this. So I tried to relax.
Then, without saying a word, she began pressing on my back. No, “pressing” is not the right word. Perhaps “jabbing my back” or “digging into my back” are better words to describe the feeling. It hurt. Really bad.
“Ow,” I said. She didn’t say a word, and just kept on karate chopping her fingers into my back.
I remembered that the naprapath at the family party a few days earlier had said that I should tell the massage therapist to push really hard, to really work at me, to get the knots out. But was it really supposed to hurt this much? Maybe this is what a “deep tissue massage” was like. I decided to grin and bear it.
But a few minutes later, I felt compelled to say “Ow!” again. It just hurt so badly.
Once again, she ignored me and just kept digging away.
A little while later, when she was doing a particular painful stroke on my lower back, I started breathing heavily, trying to manage the pain.
“Are you okay?” she finally whispered.
“Yes,” I said aloud, “It’s just—“
“Shhhh,” she whispered. “You have to be quiet. There’s another session in progress.”
I couldn’t believe it! I had just been shushed! I was just NOT feeling this.
But I thought, it’s only an hour—and even though this hurts now, maybe it will feel good later. God, I hoped so. I just could not relax.
Then she got to my neck, and I thought, “Oh my God, what is she going to do to my neck?” I remembered reading an article in a magazine where people had had strokes after seemingly innocent visits to the chiropractor or even the hairdresser (while getting their hair washed), and I thought, “Oh my God, this lady’s gonna give me a stroke!”
So of course, when she lifted my neck to massage under it, I just got even more tense and nervous.
“You have to relax your neck,” she whispered.
I laughed. Sure, whatever, lady! But I did try to relax it, and she dug away at my neck for the next few minutes.
Oh, and in the middle of her massaging my neck, I suddenly heard loud sirens from outside, blaring away—it sounded like about ten police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. Yeah, that’s really conducive to relaxation! This was certainly not a sound-proof building.
So finally, after an hour of what felt like pure hell, she stopped jabbing me.
“How are you feeling, Carla?” she whispered.
“Well, now I feel a lot more relaxed,” I said.
“Good,” she said. Well, I was being truthful—but I didn’t mean what she thought I meant. I was just happy and relaxed now that it was finally over!
“I’ll meet you in the common area out there,” she said.
When she left the curtained area, I immediately got up and put my clothes on. I just wanted to get the hell of out there as quickly as possible.
Back in the common area, she motioned back to the elevator of doom, and as we got in the elevator, she said, “Your neck was really tight. Your upper back, too. You had lots of knots.”
“Do you do yoga?” she asked.
“Well, I was until 2 weeks ago, when I injured myself” I said.
“Do you lift weights?” she asked.
“I was until 2 weeks ago,” I replied.
She appeared perplexed.
“I’m sure I got a tense neck from sitting in front of the computer all day at work,” I said.
She ignored me. “You’re probably not drinking enough water,” she said. “Water flushes toxins from your body, like those that were built up in your neck.”
Oh yeah, I’m SURE not drinking enough water caused the knots in my neck! THAT makes a lot of sense.
We got down to the third floor, and she handed me an evaluation form and a dixie cup of water.
“Good night!” she said. “Be sure to drink lots of water!”
Yeah, like this dixie cup full?—I wanted to say. But I was more eager to get to the evaluation and tell them what I really thought.
Hmm, would I recommend this massage clinic to a friend? No!
Would I recommend this massage therapist to a friend? Hell no!
I finished the evaluation form and handed it to the receptionist, and practically ran out the door.
Once outside, I took a deep breath, and I had to laugh. Who knew a massage could be so bad, in so many ways? I’ll tell you something, I learned my lesson; I will always find and read reviews of a massage place before going there.
So anyway, this morning, I expected to wake up with very sore muscles.
Instead—miracle of miracles!—I felt great! My arm pain was much less, and my neck and shoulders felt totally relaxed and released.
I guess when it comes to massage, no pain no gain?
Well, even so, next time I would find a more responsive, sensitive massage therapist—one who at least talks to me and doesn’t shush me when I say “ow!”!
When it comes to massage therapists, I really do need the warm fuzzies.