Sunday, May 20, 2007

Spa Day

Last night Idge decided to sneak up from her usual sleeping place near my feet and curl up next to my side, squishing me into a tiny space between her and Jess. I spent most of the night dreaming about cats---Jelly Bean was dying of loneliness because Traci was traveling so much so we were trying to get him to be friends with Willow by luring them together with string. Jess offered to move Idge back to her place but I turned her down, cause I'm that much of a sucker.

As soon as I was awake for real, Jess reached down to the floor by her side of the bed and pulled out a card and two more presents. Now that's what I call a good way to start a birthday.

I let my inner child handing the wrapping paper with a lot less care than the night before and soon revealed a new teapot with a loose leaf filter from my favorite tea house on Alberta. There was also a second filter with smaller holes that would work with the vanilla rooibos tea I usually drink. And it'll fit into a cup as well. The teapot was the cutest shade of baby blue and round like a pig's belly. I loved it.

After a proper sleep-in, we got up and I took a quick trip across town to drop my road bike at Cory's shop so he could tinker on her while I'm at the coast. When I got home, we made breakfast together—potatoes, fried eggs and fresh mango. Yum.

By the time we got cleaned up, it was time to head out to Bonneville Hot Springs for our spa day. We took the bridge to Vancouver and out highway 14. It was raining and the Columbia Gorge looked splendid from the Washington side with the mist hanging low into the trees. I enjoyed the view and read my book until we arrived, only a little bit late.

The people at the spa desk were as nice and welcoming as you'd expect. We got signed in and an attendant led us back to the locker rooms, gave us lockers, robes and towels and said someone else would be back to get is in a few minutes.

We were scheduled for a mineral bath & wrap which were a gift from my friend Jacqueline and then I'd added on Rock n Rain treatments-- aromatherapy followed by hot stone massage and then a full body Swedish massage. I'd been looking forward to it all week.

Our attendant came to get us and gave us a choice of 6 foot or 4 ft long tubs. I wasn't sure which one to take. I was leaning towards a long one, but it was in a separate room from Jess, not that we'd really be chatting. The attendant said that she was 5'5” and enjoyed them both so I took the shorter one.

As soon as I got in, I knew I'd made a mistake. I spent a few minutes stressing out about it--it would take a while to fill a whole new tub—but I felt so cramped that in the end, I got out and switched to a longer tub. It was totally the right decision. For some reason I still had trouble quieting my brain during my soak, but my body relaxed anyway.

After 25 minutes, our attendant came to get us and lead us to the wrap room. After putting a hot towel down on the table, I lay down and was covered with heavy blankets which were tucked in on each side. Not so tight I felt claustrophobic, but just enough to feel sort of like a swaddled up baby. A cool towel over my face scented with eucalyptus completed the wrap. The scent was completely soothing as was the feeling of pressure from the blankets every time I took a breath. Now I was able to really relax and enjoy the moment.

After a while, I felt hands on my legs, which was my massage therapist's way of announcing her presence. She introduced herself as Diana and said she'd be doing my massage. She helped me into my robe and I followed her to a massage room with a little warmer for the stones and a lot of oils on a shelf.

She wished me a happy birthday, which meant she'd been paying attention to the form I'd filled out—and then asked if I'd ever had aromatherapy before?

“Nope...oh wait, yeah actually just this week. My half hour massage at Loyly had included some nice lavender scents in a bowl beneath my head. But I could see from her expression that what she had in mind was a little more intense. She went on to explain everything that was about to happen.

First they put drops of some very powerful scented oils along the spine. She explained that viruses lay along the spine and this was a cleansing procedure. She said that if I was getting over something, this would kick it to the curb—likewise, if I was about to get sick, this would bring it on quicker but I would also get over it quicker. I was glad to hear it, since my cold is still lingering after two weeks. She also warned me that my skin might get hot and start to tingle and if it got uncomfortable, to let her know because she had something called Ortho-Ease to take the edge off.

After that she'd use some unscented oil for my massage, using the rocks on my back and legs finishing up with regular massage on the rest of me.

It all sounded great to me. She left the room and I got on the table.

At about the third oil she dropped on my spine, I figured out what she meant when she said I might “get a little hot,” In fact, my neck and shoulders lit up like a hot chili pepper. It went from a tingle to a burn in about 20 seconds. She smoothed some of the ortho ease on it as soon as I said something. It didn't work right away but after a few minutes it was more tolerable. After a couple more aromas, I asked for another dose of the ortho. After that I felt OK. I figured that must be where my cold was residing and maybe the fact that it was so intense was a good sign. Still I was happy when she got some hot towels and rubbed everything off. She made sure to wave the towels to cool them and told me to tell her immediately if it was too hot, but it felt great.

Next we went onto the stones. Again she warned me about the temperature and at first I jumped a little, but she promised that they cool down fast and she kept them moving. Once I relaxed, it was absolutely heavenly—the best thing since sliced bread as far as I'm concerned. She went over my whole back and moved onto my legs as well. As she moved around, she started with a hand on the area so I'd know where she was on my body. She said lots of people fall asleep during this treatment because it's so relaxing and she didn't want me to be startled.

Once the rocks were done, she finished up with an old fashioned Swedish massage. Usually when I get a massage, the therapist can sometimes get caught up working out the massive knots that usually invade my shoulders, but by this time the bath, wrap and rocks had done their job. So the massage was geared to be more relaxing over all and because of that it was a rare treat. I slid into a pleasant fog somewhere between sleeping and waking.

When she was done, I lay on the table for as long as I thought I could get away with and enjoyed the feeling of being a complete noodle.

I tottered out of the room with my cup of water and another bottle for the road. I sat on the bench in the locker room and drank all the water while I waited for Jess. I knew she'd gone in after me and figured she might be a few minutes.

When I was done with the water, nature called so I headed into the bathroom and was surprised to find Jess already there and showered. So I hopped in the shower and met her back in the locker room.

“How was your massage? I wanted to know.

She said it was OK, and something about her tone got my spider sense tingling. As much money as I (well, my friends anyway) were paying for these, she should be as blissed out as I was right then.

Further interrogation revealed that her massage therapist had been terrible. Oh sure, she gave a decent massage but her bedside manner was reminiscent of mom's first oncologist. She'd barely said two words to Jess, not even to introduce herself. She asked if Jess had gotten this treatment before and even when she said no, the woman offered NO explanation of what would go on other than, 'first you'll get the rain, then the hot stones then a massage. No explanation about the possible hotness, no checking in about the heat of the stones, NOTHING. And in fact the aromatherapy did get hot, but Jess has a high tolerance for pain and since the woman hadn't warned her or told her it could be relieved, she didn't say anything.

I was totally upset to hear that she'd been shafted out of a good experience. First the ice cream and now this. What was going on?

When we got up to the desk, she explained what had happened.

“Do you want to speak to a manager?'

“Yes, and I wouldn't mind a discount since her experience was so lacking.” They didn't respond to that, simply called the manager. A woman who's name tag said Joyce came out and talked to us. She listened attentively while Jess told her story. When Jess mentioned that her skin had gotten hot with the aromas, Joyce asked if she said anything about it to the therapist and I wanted to smack her. Victim blaming much? One is not exactly at one's most assertive when lying naked on a table in front of a complete stranger. And we were there to relax. The LAST thing she should have to think about in a setting like that is having to advocate for herself! This Joyce person was pissing me off already.

When Jess finished her story (followed by a few comments from me about the huge contrast between our experiences), Joyce said, “Well obviously Stephanie needs to work on her communication skills. She's been with us for a while so maybe she's getting lackadaisical about explaining things. I really appreciate you telling me. We can't fix these things if we don't know.”

And that was it. She didn't offer us a discount, didn't offer a coupon for a bath and wrap, nothing. As she walked away, it was on the tip of my tongue to ask her about a discount but I didn't do it. Partially because I was so stunned she hadn't offered us anything to take the bad taste of horrible service out of our mouths and partly because I didn't want to get into a confrontation when I'd gone through so much trouble to relax. I paid for the both of us and we left.

Instead of blissing out in the car on the way home, we spent the whole time complaining about the crappy service we'd gotten. I've been in customer service since I was 17 years old and it is a basic principle to offer a customer something to try to turn around a bad experience. When I was at Kinkos we always offered a discount or to redo the job, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness, but it's just good corporate policy.

I spent the rest of the night getting more and more pissed off. I spent almost a month's rent on those treatments! I wondered if one of us a were a man or both of us were white, would Joyce's attitude have been different?

I had already decided to write a letter to the manager of the whole resort so I called and got his name which made me feel slightly better. But I have a lot to do to get ready for my trip so it's going to have to wait till I get back. They need to give us free massages or give my money back so I can spend it somewhere where they know how to treat their customers.

I tried not to let my anger totally ruin my after massage buzz, but it was hard. But I'm going to go get packed up for my beach trip. Traci is coming with us on the spur of the moment, on pain of not being annoying and not chattering at me while I'm trying to write, which is the primary purpose for this trip. We're going to have the dorms all to ourselves, which will be very cool (and cheap!). I'm going to attempt to be mostly off the grid except for calls to Jess and spend a lot of time in the library with my laptop, enjoying the ocean view and spilling out words.

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