Weird massages

Tonight I was exchanging stories about massage incidents, and I was reminded of the strangest one of all, which happened about two years ago in Buenos Aires.

Mind you, I’ve had quite a few massages in my lifetime, and until the trip to Argentina, I thought my experience at one of the Turkish baths in Budapest took the cake. (There I was basically ushered into a room that reminded me of a veterinary clinic exam room, except there were three tables, each with roly poly old naked ladies getting massages. When it was my turn, a “Helga-like” character in a wet white tank top and shorts hoisted me up on the metal table, soaped up her hands with Dial, pummeled me, then washed me off with a garden hose. Meanwhile I was completely exposed.)

But I’d never faced the fire hose until Buenos Aires. Here’s an excerpt from my trip diary:

Hilarious experience at the spa yesterday. I´m not sure I can do it justice without accompanying non-verbal gestures, but I´ll give it a shot. For background, we caught a glimpse of the place a few days ago when we made our appointments, and it was clear that the place was more of a gym than a spa, and it wasn´t going to be like spending an afternoon at the Ritz. So yesterday we headed out around 11:45 at speed-walk pace so we could cover the 10 blocks between our hotel and the spa in time for our noon appointments. The spa was on the second floor, so we walked into the rather spartan lobby of the 1920´s building and paid upfront (a little weird, but not alarming), and then headed into a tiny elevator where you have to close the outside and inside doors yourself.

We met Marcella at the desk right outside the elevator, and we had been warned that she didn’t speak any English. Nice enough girl, for sure. She escorted us into what I suppose could be called a locker room, but in essence it was a series of about 10 closets on each side of a hall (reminiscent of a very small high school gym, as the ceilings were tall and there were two floors of these changing rooms, with the upper floor kind-of like a loft). We each got our own closet, where she instructed us to get down to our swimsuit bottoms, wrap a towel around us, and put on the rubber slippers that were sitting there. OK, so still what you would generally expect. At this point I did make the comment to Kristin that the place kind of reminded me of Auschwitz — you weren’t quite sure if you were there for good or for evil.

The first thing she did was take us to what I’ll call the “hair” area. (Keep in mind this building is quite old, and for example, the woodwork had like six coats of paint, and the cement-block walls were a little water-damaged and were peeling some.) A middle-aged lady (imagine an average-built Russian 45-year-old woman with chin-length brown hair and 70s eyeglasses) washed our hair and put this mega conditioner in it, and then put gauze showercaps on us. Then Marcella took us to the Turkish bath area, where in the “relaxation room” she instructed us to sit in the steam room, take a shower, sit in what I’ll call the “warm” room for 5 minutes, take a shower, and then sit in the dry sauna for five minutes, take a shower, lay down on Japanese-height beds with white leather cushions with pillows under our knees for a few minutes, and then repeat.

First, the showers were a bit like you’d expect to see in a gas chamber. And the water was cold, but I suppose that’s par for cooling off between heat treatments. Second, in the “warm” room, the only person in there was a big fat woman with enormous boobs that were exposed to the world. Third, we had to get over being modest, as we were pretty much running around naked (we had swimsuit bottoms on, and I’m not super modest anyway, but I think the other two were a bit taken aback).

I do have to say, though, that after going through that routine a couple times, I was truly completely relaxed.

After that, they called me for my massage, which was overall really good. The weird part is that they don’t have separate massage rooms — they have like four cubes in a big room, each with swinging doors (like you’d see in a Western on a saloon). Also, my masseuse (reminded me of a German beer woman), massaged my stomach, and there I was, lying on the table with my upper body completely exposed and for the most part, completely massaged. So fine. Fell asleep.

The “hair lady” came and woke me up (presumably 5 minutes later) and took me back downstairs to a room that was probably 10×20, with a tile floor, drain and marble pulpit with a firehose attached to the top of it. She proceeded to tell me to take off my robe, go to the other end of the room, hold my boobs and turn my foot outwards. She proceeded to spray me (or rather pelt me) from toes to fingertips, front and back. I could hardly keep from cracking up, thinking the whole thing was completely surreal, and she was taking such pleasure in it! As I left the room, Kristin was just coming in, and in a post-massage chipper tone, she said, “What’s next?” I could hardly contain a laugh as I said, “It’s a surprise.”

At any rate, I headed back to the steam room, and then met Kristin back in the relaxation room, where I started laughing so hard I was crying. Jen came in, and we learned that she’d just come directly from her massage. We filled her in, and then they called her in for the fun.

After that, we each had about a 20-minute facial with the same German-looking lady, and then the hair lady dried our hair. Jennifer was about 30 minutes behind Kristin and I, so we had tea and coffee in the lobby while we waited for her to finish.

And here Kristin and I are, relaxed, with our skin all polished.  Hoses now scare us.

At the spa


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