I used to believe that massages and fried food were similar: There was no such thing as a bad one. I now know differently, thanks to the “spa” at Berkeley Springs State Park.
If you’re not familiar with Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, here’s what you need to know: 1) It is to West Virginia what Austin is to Texas and Ann Arbor is to Michigan: a random little island of liberalness in an otherwise gun-loving region; 2) It’s named for its natural springs, which are believed to have healing properties and maintain a constant 74˚ temperature; 3) Alan and I follow in the steps of George Washington, coming here regularly (in our case – for New Year’s) to chill and recharge batteries.
This year, we decided to check out the spa at the state park. We booked ourselves a soak in a Jacuzzi tub filled with natural spring water, followed by an hour-long massage. Sounds good, right?
Until you realize: whoever designed this experience has likely never actually visited a real spa. Here’s how I know…
First, when I was ushered to the women’s area, there were a half dozen employees (all women) standing around. One led me into a space with lockers and handed me a sheet. “Everything off, then wrap yourself in this.” I did as I was told, then stepped out. Another woman led me to a Jacuzzi tub that was already filled with water. We stood side-by-side, looking at it. “Hand me your sheet,” she commanded.
I did. Then I proceeded to climb in the tub with her watching. Can’t remember the last time a woman has seen me in a bathtub, but I’m thinking it was probably when I was still of an age when I might poop in it. (When I told this to Alan, he raised his eyebrows, as if to say, “And that’s no longer a possibility?”)
So I floated in the tub for 15 minutes, wondering if Alan was having a parallel experience on the men’s side of the house… imagining I’d soon hear some explosive language if a man commanded him to strip then watched as he slipped into the tub.
When my bath was done, another woman came in, bringing a towel. I climbed out of the tub, thinking, “Hmm. Half of West Virginia will have seen my tits by the time this is done. Good thing I’m not modest.” She led me to a room for my massage, then pulled my towel off me and told me to lie down.
The table was covered with a sheet and blanket. As she turned to hang my towel, I peeled the sheet back and quickly got under it. Turning back around, she said, “What have you done? You’re supposed to be on TOP of the sheet. Here – let’s get that fixed.”
So I rolled to my side, thinking she could simply tug and straighten the sheet. Alas – she couldn’t. The next thing I knew, I was squatting on the end of the massage table, buck naked, while she straightened out the sheet. I’m pretty sure other women only ever assume that position when they’re trying to birth a baby.
When we finally got everything squared away and I was on the table, face up, covered by a loose sheet, the massage commenced. Or – rather – something akin to hyper, superficial rubbing began. I would be willing to bet my next paycheck that this woman was not a licensed masseuse.
In hindsight, I should’ve done more than scratch my head when I noticed that the website referred to them as “massagers” instead of masseurs.
Her idea of a massage was to take her hands and quickly cover as much territory as possible, not actually exerting any pressure. Initially I thought, “This is an interesting way to warm-up.” But then, as she moved from one arm to the other, and then my shoulders and neck, I realized: this was no warm-up – this was the massage.
I knew she was massaging in earnest based on the amount of oil she used. A regular masseuse will put a small amount on her palms and rub them together to pre-heat the oil. Not this lady. The oil was in a container similar to a ketchup bottle, and she drizzled it directly on my body as if she were preparing a hot dog. I felt a bit like a turkey getting basted.
I tried to think of ways to salvage the massage. My best idea was to ask what style massage she practiced (knowing damn well it wasn’t a recognized style) then saying, “Does anyone here know deep tissue? I have a sports injury I need worked?” Of course, by this time I was feeling sorry for her, so I couldn’t bring myself to actually execute this plan.
Also? I’m pretty sure she normally only gets booked for 30 minute treatments, because she did every part of my body TWICE. Alan aptly summarized it by saying, “So she did two laps?” Exactly.
When it came time to settle up, I faced the awkward decision of the tip. I considered taking a page from Bazooka Joe and leaving a written slip of paper that said, “Tip: Find a new vocation.” But I couldn’t bring myself to be that mean.
I can only hope that she’ll use the money I left her to go to a real spa and get a massage so she knows how it’s done.