Day Eight. Foot Rub, China Style.

March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

There is an unassuming storefront nestled between a family-run pizza place and a burger joint in a strip mall not too far from my work. The windows are tinted and in both English and Chinese the writing across the blacked out front tells me it’s a foot spa, and for twenty-five bucks I can get an hour-long foot massage.

I’ve always been vaguely tempted to see what exactly an hour-long foot rub entailed, but was also a little reluctant. I do, after all, have extremely ticklish feet. But on Day Eight, I had no excuses. I was sore from the previous few days’ bouts of exercise and thought an hour long chill session would be quite enjoyable.

Before I left work, I did a bit of searching on the interwebs. I was slightly worried that this place was a weird foot-fetish boutique with secret cameras documenting my rub down and then being sold black market style to the highest bidders across the world. Although I secretly hoped there would be some sort of sordid back story, this place was totally legit. Yelpers love the Foot Spa. So I was reasonably relaxed when I walked in to the tinted windowed foot parlor.

There is a smallish front room where employees were hanging out and chit chatting. All stood as I entered and then ushered me to the larger spa room. They asked if I wanted a foot massage; I answered in the affirmative. They led me to the plush recliner in the back of a big low-lighted room filled with recliners and brought me green tea. I passed by a snoring man covered by a towel in the first front recliner. I wondered if it cost extra to stay and nap after your rub down. Turns out, he was another employee. This job has perks.

A smiley young woman came over and asked me if this was my first time. She pointed me to sit on the low ottoman she brought to the recliner. They put my bare feet into a basket lined with a plastic bag and filled with warm water, tying the plastic around my ankles. Then she started to rub my shoulders. It was slightly painful, in a good, getting the knots out way. Mentally I christened her the girl with the sweet face and hands that could crush rocks. She was strong, and just thinking about the amount of pressure that could be exerted from those fingertips gave me a hand cramp.

For the first twenty minutes this rock-crushing masseuse worked my back, neck, shoulders, and head, contorting both her and my ill-postured body into various stretches and kneads. It was both uncomfortable and relaxing. I didn’t know if I was supposed to lean forward or resist as she pushed on my back. I think I did a little of both.

The head massage was actually the most bizarre. The girl with the sweet face and hands that could crush rocks lithely moved her fingertips across my hairline and then pushed on the pressure points at my temple and ears. It felt as though my head was going to explode, and then relaxed. The movement across my skull was a sort of scratch and then ping, like when someone “breaks an egg on your head.”

After being stretched and prodded and massaged for awhile, the rock crusher asked me to sit in the recliner and put my feet onto the ottoman. Foot by foot, she exerted pressure onto the various points of my soles. I looked at the little diagram on the back of the menu and tried to visualize the toxins being released from my gallbladder. Honestly, it just felt good, and ticklish feet be damned; I never felt the reaction to kick or pull away at a touch.

By the end of the massage, my body and mind felt relaxed and numb. I was already regretting wearing heels that day and the discomfort of having to put them back on at the end of my session. By the second foot, we started talking. She told me her name was Emma and that they often watch old Chinese soap operas on the big screen TV when it wasn’t busy. Naps and soap operas…where do I apply? Of course, my hands could barely crush a banana so I doubt it’s time for a career change. But for twenty-five bucks, I’ll definitely be back.

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