Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rubbed The Wrong Way

It started with a twinge in my shoulder.

Within a few weeks, I was getting regular sensations of tingling and numbness down my right arm and first two fingers. A couple of years ago, I had a bad fall and landed squarely with all my weight on my right shoulder. For several months, I was in a lot of pain, but for the last few months it seemed like it was mostly back to normal. Then this started, and frankly, it was a little worrisome. Laurel, also known as "The Goddess of Google", quickly determined that I was suffering from an impinged radial nerve. Recommendations for treatment on the site were vague, however. It was time to be proactive. I am in India. The home of Ayurveda. Ayurvedic massage might help! There is an Ayurvedic hospital just down the road. I decided to walk the 10 minutes to the hospital and take the plunge.

Having no clue as to how to proceed, I just barged in the front door. About thirty empty chairs were set up in a large room serviced by a one squeaky ceiling fan. All the lights were off, leaving the empty room in semi-darkness. It almost had the vibe of a 1930's film noir set. The reception desk was empty, but someone soon came up to ask what it was that I needed, as I must have looked a bit confused. I briefly described my symptoms, and she summoned the doctor, who soon ushered me into a smaller office. He moved my arm around a bit, and I could hear the "" as the damaged joint moved up and down. He prescribed a certain oil to be applied daily, and a cream to be applied at night. "Also", he said, "You will come back tomorrow for massage". Soft lights. Soothing music. The healing touch of an attractive attendant. Woo hoo...

3 PM rolled around the next day, and I headed for the hospital, a little uncertain as to what was about to unfold. On arrival, I sat alone for about 10 minutes in the strangely unoccupied entranceway before a woman came up and asked me what I was doing there. "I have a 3 PM massage appointment", I replied. A knowing head wiggle, and she departed to locate the doctor. The doctor showed me to a side door off of the entranceway, and indicated that I should go in. The room was about 10x15, and all the walls and floor were covered in tile. A faucet stuck out of one wall. The center of the room was dominated by an ancient looking slab of wood that had a small canal chiseled into its perimeter. The weathered board, which looked like it had been stolen from an ancient temple door in a drunken prank, was tilted on a slight angle. On the low end, a hole in the chiseled canal allowed fluids to drop out into a receptacle. It looked for all the world like an autopsy was about to be performed. On me.

I was instructed to remove my shirt. Then my shorts. One of the two mustachioed attendants produced an item that I was then supposed to put on. It consisted of a narrow strip of papery cloth, about 4 inches wide, and about two feet long. Two strands came out from each side of the strip, and one of the gents tied it around my waist. This left the long strip hanging in front of my nether regions and grazing the floor. Before I could protest that my nether regions did not actually touch the floor, and did not require a strip of cloth quite that long, buddy reaches down and pulls it up past the crack of my bum, and affixes it to the drawstrings around my waist. Looking for all the world like a low budget sumo wrestler that had been recently released from Guantanamo Bay, I had little choice but to stand there stunned, awaiting further instructions. They came via gesture. I was instructed to climb up onto the vintage autopsy table, and lay down on my back. This I did. I thought of England.

One of the gentlemen produced a large pot of warm oil, and both of them grabbed a handful and began to lubricate my legs and feet liberally. Then, with a degree of synchronization that can only come from years of practice, they did long sweeping rubbing motions from the bottom of my legs to my waist. It was pretty vigorous, and it actually felt pretty good, despite the fact that I was keenly aware of the fact that I was on a vintage autopsy table with my paper clad junk getting a little more ventilation than I was used to. Onto my side. More lubrication. Onto the other side. More lubrication. Then came the order to lie on my front. They did the lower body first. By this time, almost a liter of oil had been used on me, and their rubbing motions caused me to slide around on the wooden table like a side of bloody pork on a butcher's block. I found it difficult to relax, as the constant threat of genital splinters aside, it was hard to shake the sudden realization that I had just paid two strange men to cover me with oil and rub my ass.

The work was done. I got up off the table, and as I was standing there being toweled down, the doctor casually strolled in to check on my progress. A bit too casually, actually. When he opened the door, both me and my wedding tackle were exposed to the whole waiting room, which was thankfully reasonably empty. "How do you feel?", he asked. "Violated", I was tempted to reply, but only managed to croak out a weak "good". One of the masseurs smiled at me and asked "Coming back tomorrow?". "No", I replied, uncertain as to the subtext. I put my clothes back on, went out and paid the 450 Rs for a 50 minute vigorous oil massage. Walking home, I felt a little looser, but a bit dazed. My shoulder was still hurting a bit, and my fingertips were still numb.

Why did I leave a 50 rupee tip?


Eric said...

because deep down inside, some part of you may have enjoyed it......

Rob Bailey said...

'Nuff said.