TGS 2009: Jones Gets a Massage
While waiting for Teti to arrive, I had a day to occupy by myself here in Shinjuku. I decided to sleep, eat, drink lots of water, read, monkey with my computer, play some GeoDefense Swarm on my iPhone, and generally attempt to recover from the 10 cruel and unusual hours I spent yesterday crunched and cramped into that coach seat on my JAL flight from Vancouver to Narita.
I'm single, as the entire world knows by now. Without a wife, S.O., or girlfriend, I have no one to answer to these days (except my two cats: The Chief and Bee). I can do what I want and not have to fuss about any messy guilt or hurt feelings on the far side of it. I believe it's a universal law that if you're single, and your hotel room telephone has a MASSAGE button on it, one must press said button and see what happens.
So I pressed it. Ring. Riiiiinnnng.
A nice-sounding Japanese girl answered on the other end. Her English was terrible, but she understood what I was asking for: I wanted a one hour massage.
I've had my share of massages in my day, so I know how they usually work. I wrapped one of my hotel room's postage-stamp sized towels around my waist, then put on the hotel's complimentary paper-thin robe that made my skin immediately start to itch. This felt like an appropriate outfit for an in-room massage. I also cued up Leonard Cohen at a very low volume on my MacBook, as I imagine the silence during a massage would be oppressive.
I really don't like massages all that much. What I do like--TMI ahead, RED ALERT--is having my back scratched for a little while. That's it. I'm telling you, scratch my back just once, ladies, and do a decent enough job of it, and I'll follow you around and do your bidding for the rest of my days. It's that simple.
While waiting for massage person to arrive, I naturally tried to calculate the sleaze factor involved here. According to the little card in my room, massages begin daily at noon; and the last massage is at 3:00 a.m. Who offers massages until 3 a.m.? That did seem a bit sleazy to me. I sat in my room, nervously looking at the clock (my massage therapist was due at 1 p.m.) and pacing in my robe. I thought, Maybe she will be a cute Japanese girl. She would scratch my back with her long finger nails and say things to me that I couldn't understand--I love the sound of Japanese being spoken, even though I don't understand a word of it--and maybe she would like me a little, and I would like her, and she wouldn't steal any of my valuables (I had put my PSP and my new camera in the in-room safe, just in case) and she would give me a chaste kiss at the end of my back-scratch/massage, and later on I would meet her out for some udon and sake.
I have a very active imagination.
One o'clock, the doorbell rings (all hotel rooms in Tokyo have doorbells, FYI). I open the door to find a 4-foot-tall 50-year-old homunculous of a woman wearing a double-breasted white lab coat thing that makes her appear as if she'd only seconds earlier powered down a bunsen burner.
The woman speaks no English. None. I start to remove my robe. She panics. She blushes and turns away. She clearly wants me to keep my robe on. OK, OK, I get it. Suddenly my Leonard Cohen tracks playing in the background sound sleazy and suggestive.
Understatement of the day: This is not going well.
I'm nervous. The woman is nervous. She motions for me to lie down on the bed on my side. I try to relax, try to breath. She is poking at me, hurrying from limb to limb, working quickly. It feels like squirrells are crawling over me. In seven minutes, she is basically done with the entire massage.
I imagine this is what it would probably be like to get a massage from my Accountant: rushed and mechanical and cold and somewhat resentful.
With 53 minutes remaining of our time together, she proceeds to repeat what she has already done a second time. And when she is done with that, she repeats it again a third time. I try to breath through it all--inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale--wondering if I should go ahead and make her leave. But then parts of the seven-minute routine are actually kind of therapeutic, so I let her continue.
She then decides that she wants me to do something different, but because of the language barrier, she has no choice but to act out what she wants. She lies down next to me in my tiny hotel room bed, stomach down, head on pillow. I notice that she has her shoes off at this point. She is wearing black socks. This is awkward. I make an "Ah-ha!" sound, which I'm certain must transcend all languages, and I get into the position she has asked. She works her hands into a hard little hammer shapes and begins pounding me on top of the head. She wails away. It hurts a little, but it also feels good. Then she uses her hammer hands to pound away at my back. Again, it hurts, but some of it feels good, so I endure. I notice at this point that she has a smell about her; she smells like dried wax and hot dogs. Then, with her shoes off, she begins to walk on my legs. She's surprisingly light. Her weight barely registers.
Once the time is mercifully up, she climbs down and puts on her shoes. It's hard to tell who is more relieved, her or me. I sign a slip of paper confirming that I just received a one hour massage for 6,300 yen (about $60). After she's gone, I look into the bathroom mirror and start laughing. Man, sometimes, what the goddamn shit hell.
Moral of the story: Just because your hotel room phone has a MASSAGE button does not mean that one should always press it.
Ah, just look at me; one day here and already I'm learning things.