November 17, 2020 – Massage Encounters

There is nothing quite like a massage to reset your body as well as your mind. I didn’t have my first massage until well into adulthood when my husband purchased one for me as a birthday gift. After the session, I felt a state of relaxation I had never felt before. It was w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l (aside from the undressing part, which still makes me uneasy). Why hadn’t I done it sooner? I’ll tell you why, because massages aren’t cheap. They’re a luxury. If you want to experience luxury, you’re going to have to pay. Nowadays, you’re looking at $80 for a one-hour massage (on the low end) and the price just goes up from there. Fortunately, there are ways around that. And I can be pretty resourceful, so I’ve found a few. Some have been very successful, some have been anything but.

If you live anywhere near a massage school, consider yourself lucky. Most of the schools charge a fraction of what you’d pay for a certified massage therapist (CMT). Where we lived previously, there was a wonderful school that had an exceptional program and that’s where I usually went for my massages. And if you want to ensure that the experience will leave you feeling better rather than worse, doing a little research and asking the right questions beforehand can make all the difference. If you take the first person the receptionist suggests, you are probably getting the person nobody else wants. That’s why they’re available. That’s why their schedule is open all week. Not a good sign. You also don’t want someone that just started the program. That’s why it’s important to ask questions. You need to ask how long they’ve been in the program or how close they are to graduating. And if they’re booked out quite a ways, it’s probably because they do a good job so people request them. Don’t rush it and take Tina because her schedule’s open all day tomorrow and Thursday and Friday, wait two weeks for Tammy (when she has her next availability). Believe me, it’s worth the wait.

Another way to save some money is to find a massage therapist that works from home. They don’t have the overhead, so they can usually give you a much better rate. I’ve gone to two different ladies that worked from home. The first one left me a bit traumatized. She had been recommended by a coworker who told me she did a fantastic job so I really had my hopes up when I arrived. When I entered her home, she walked me down to the basement. Sandwiched in-between the computer desk and couch was the massage table. There wasn’t any sort of partition around it which made me a bit uncomfortable but I didn’t make a fuss. I was getting the massage for a really good rate so I wasn’t about to complain. I was asked to remove my clothing and then she’d return in a few minutes and get started. I tried to find somewhere discreet to do it and then I hopped onto the table and covered myself up very quickly. A few minutes later, she returned. Her dogs also happened to follow. I was made well aware of their presence when they started jumping at my face and trying to lick it when I had my head in the little ‘donut thingy’. After she got the dogs squared away, she finally was able to start. But it wasn’t 20 minutes later when I heard a commotion outside and then I noticed someone entering the basement through a window. I’ll just tell you this, I didn’t go back to her. The other gal I saw at her home was much better. What can I say? You take your chances.

Have you ever tried Groupon or LivingSocial or any of the other e-commerce marketplaces that give you a bargain rate on goods and services? I’ve tried those, too. They can actually be a great way to get a massage for a substantial savings. But there’s a catch. Isn’t there always a catch? What I’ve noticed after making enough ‘Groupon’ purchases, is that the people that generally offer their services through that website or app are ‘newbies’ or conversely, they’ve already been around the block but their business is now struggling. Either way, I want to support them. One of the biggest issues is that they have no clientele or very few so they don’t have many reviews if any. And it’s hard to trust that you’ll be happy if you don’t know anyone that’s ever used their services before and/or there are no reviews to give you an idea what you’re stepping into. I’ve come out 50/50 when I’ve used Groupon, too. I’ve had massages that were just ‘meh’ and I’ve had others that were sublime. I know the business owner is taking a cut when they use these e-commerce platforms to offer their services, so I do tip them generously. Even more so when they do a phenomenal job. But you just really have no way of knowing what the outcome will be, until your 60 minutes are up. I always expect the worst but hope for the best.

The last time I got a massage, I got the shock of a lifetime! My husband and I went to Vegas for my birthday last year and we went all out (sort of). I found our hotel through Priceline that wasn’t on the strip but close enough and we actually booked a couple of shows (which we normally never do). I thought of the Vegas trip as my last ‘shebang’ because I really wasn’t sure whether I was going to stick around much longer. I still hadn’t had my transplant and was feeling pretty lousy. Needless to say, we bought tickets to see the Michael Jackson (sans Michael Jackson) show at Mandalay Bay as well as Earth, Wind & Fire at the Venetian. Our itinerary was pretty full but on our last full day there, we actually had no plans whatsoever. Since our schedule was wide open and we were both exhausted from all of the walking, I thought it might be nice to indulge a bit and get a massage. When I checked with what was available through the casinos, I nearly fell over. I thought $80 for a massage was a lot, they wanted nearly triple that!! I thought of other alternatives and ‘Groupon’ popped into my mind! And lo and behold, there was actually a business just down the street from our hotel that had two people available to give us a massage on the final day of our stay!

The first thing I noticed as we approached the business was several homeless people clustered near the front of the building. It’s a bit off-putting but not so unusual nowadays. It does make it hard to feel good about getting a massage when there are people right outside that have nowhere to live. Anyhow, when we went into the building, it was pretty nondescript. I was used to all the frou-frou or frills like the other places I’d been in the past, but this place was bare bones. As we approached the check-in counter, two ladies greeted us in broken English. They were Asian but I cannot say for sure which country they were from. One was probably around 30 and the other one was around 75 (best guesstimate). Right away, the older lady kept saying, “You pay! You pay!” I kept trying to tell her I already did, that’s the way Groupon works. She finally called someone and they explained it to her and then she led us to a back room. “Take clothes off!” she then said very forcefully. Geesh. This was very unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.

All of the massages I’ve had in the past involved a nice cushioned table with a heating option, dim lighting and gentle ocean sounds played on a cd player or piped into the room. The massage itself consisted of GENTLE pressure applied to key areas of the body, primarily the back, shoulders and neck, calves and thighs, biceps and forearms and depending on who you went to see, the scalp, feet and hands as well. The massage we had in Vegas was basically the opposite. The massage tables were essentially large wooden boxes with blankets laid over the top, there was no soothing music being played, and the massage itself was akin to what happens to a piece of chicken breast when it’s being flattened by a mallet. In preparation for the massages, a bucket of sudsy water was placed at the end of each of our ‘tables’ and we were told to, “Put feet in!” Alright, Grandma, I’m not going to argue with you. I just hope you didn’t use those buckets earlier to clean the floors. After our feet were washed and dried, we were asked to lay on the tables (face down). Laying on plywood with a thin blanket between it and your body isn’t exactly comfortable, but I toughed it out. And then Grandma got started. “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!” I said aloud. Rather than gentle pressure being applied, I felt like I was getting karate-chopped to death.

I thought I was being singled out but it wasn’t long before I heard my husband start to yelp in pain. “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, OW!” he cried out. After I realized that he was being subjected to the same amount of abuse, I couldn’t help but laugh. And it made it ten times worse when he looked over at me with a pleading look in his eyes and mouthed, “Help?!” I was so caught up in trying to stifle my laughter, that I was of no use to anyone at that point, let alone my poor hubby. I didn’t know what was coming next but the whole thing was a comedy of errors. Good grief! What could possibly follow this? Are they going to pull a cattle prod out of the closet?! How about a cat o’ nine tails?! I don’t think I relaxed for the entire session but at least if nothing else, it was entertaining. And thankfully, they didn’t use either sadistic implement on us.

Anyway, those are a few of my massage encounters. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve learned a way to get around the expense, but you have to recognize that if you follow my advice in order to avoid ‘sticker shock’, you may end up getting more (or less) than you bargained for. Whatever you choose to do, good luck! And if you’ve had a wild ‘massage encounter’, I’d love to hear from you!

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