The Day Spa

I have been to a day spa: Avia Day Spa. It was a confluence of gifts that brought me there. First, I had a gift certificate for the day spa lying around since before Fella was born; it was given to me for Mother’s Day by my mother in 2005. Second, I had a gift certificate from Husband as an anniversary gift last year. Third, Husband took most of the day off, and Mother patched the holes, so I could go to the day spa for my birthday! It was a very nice day. I didn’t have to get up too early, I didn’t have to shower in advance, and the day spa was pretty much right down the road. It’s in a mall, which was a little strange, especially with it sandwiched between Shakey’s Pizza and the Wal-Mart, but once you’re inside it’s pretty closed off. (Don’t let the picture on the website fool you, however. There are no beaches or trees at this location.) The front of the spa is the beauty salon part; you go through a special door to get to the good stuff.

And some good stuff it was.

I traded in my “Half Day of Beauty” package for the “Taste of Spa” package. I’m sure the nails and hair and makeup would have been fun, but I don’t have anywhere to go and my clothes certainly don’t warrant that kind of style. I don’t have nails worth manicuring, and I don’t know how to style a designer haircut, so pretty much anything that costs more than Supercuts is a waste of money. The sauna and the salt glow and the facial and the lunch and the massage were way more fun.

I get now why people go on about the spa services at hotels when they stay places. I’ve never wanted to do a spa treatment, or have a spa day with the girls, but now I want to plan something nice for some unspecified event at some nebulous point in the future. I’ve had better massages than the one I got today, but the facial was relaxing and the salt glow thing I can’t really get over. More on that next. The massage was my last treatment, and I’ll admit I nodded off during it, so I didn’t really get to appreciate the full experience, I suppose, but I thought it was pretty lightweight. Now, it was a Swedish massage. I’ve had massages before but I wouldn’t have any idea how from what line of massage schools they came from; they were never within a spa setting and they were all more potent. Maybe none of them were Swedish massages. Maybe the Swedish massage is known for being more gentle, and I actually received an excellent Swedish massage, but it’s not exactly what I wanted. I like the kind of massage where you almost hurt the next day because your muscles have really been manipulated. Nothing like Thai massage–I’m too lazy to enjoy Thai massage–but a deeper tissue thing or whatever you call it would have been more relaxing. That sounds funny because this was relaxing enough for me to fall asleep, but I could have fallen asleep on that table without being massaged at all. So, yeah, meh. I’m not knocking the service. But I’d ask for something else next time. That said, there was this amazing part right after she had massaged my back and draped this warm, wet towel on my back in slow motion. It felt like she was pouring a perfect stream of oil on me. It felt really good.

So the facial and the salt glow were the real spa experiences that I had always assumed would happen at a spa. There was goop and stuff and towels and handling and smells and highly specialized tools and basically nothing that you could duplicate at home. Seriously! It’s no wonder that Europe didn’t get around to inventing the nuclear bomb in time to use it before the United States did–they wasted all their brain and tech power on these spa gadgets: the facial steamer, the pimple remover, the fancy light, the paraffin hand tub, the electric brazier, the table fountain, the Vichy shower! You take a shower while lying on a table! It’s brilliant! It’s fantastic! It doesn’t win any wars! And the fancy little pimple removing tools were amazing. I secretly want a set, although I’m sure I’d need a six-week training course to use them properly. You know that scene in Wall*E where he’s showing Eve all that stuff in his house, including the bubble wrap?

That was Sylvia the facialist, all over my chin and nose with the pimple tool. Were I in control, I’d pop a pimple here and there as caught my fancy, but she went across my face in order like some kind of machine. My eyes were covered by I don’t know what to protect them from the light shining directly on my face, but I would have loved to have watched the procedure. I thought for sure it would take longer than it did; perhaps I experienced some kind of time distortion. I’m not entirely sure I didn’t space out during the facial.

Sylvia performed the salt glow thing, too. I will say for the last time how neato it was (the exception being the disposable spa underpants that were handed to me before I climbed on the table). You’re on this table beneath a bank of showerheads. It’s covered with towels and a blanket, and you get to lie beneath the blanket while you get this salt mixed with some fragrant oil rubbed into your skin, front and back. It takes a while. I had shaved my legs before going, and she warned me that it might tingle uncomfortably and to speak up, but nothing happened. After the salting, one layer of towels is removed and you are lying on plastic with the towels over you, and then the plastic is brought up to wrap you tighter. The water starts and the towels soak it up and lie heavy on your skin and the plastic traps the water and your little cocoon fills up, and this goes for a while, and then the towels are removed and the treatment person actively rinses everything off.

This alone was satisfying, but then you get lotion rubbed into your skin and between your toes and all that. You do feel quite nice. I can’t tell if I still feel the effects of the salting and the lotion, because I had the massage (with its own oiling) and a shower afterward, but my skin is at this moment soft to the touch. Softer than it was at the same time last night? Who can say.

I would go back for another salting. I’d dig some seaweed or mud wrap, too, I think, if it came with the Vichy shower. At this spa they all do, and now that I know about the Vichy shower I will always remember to ask for it.

The odd part about this spa was the claustrophobia. You’re in a windowless part of a building all day, and although it was peaceful, it was purposefully dim and you waited an awful lot in this reception area that was just a wide part of a long, narrow corridor. It was nicely decorated, with candles and music, but I was a little disappointed when my lunch was served in the same dim room that I’d been waiting in between treatments. I think the next time I go to a spa I want it to be one with grounds, where you can pay a spa day fee and just use the showers and steam and lie on chairs by a pool and wear the robe and schedule treatments, but where you can lounge in the sun between events. The fresh air would have been better. This spa made a great use of its space, I guess, crammed in as it was between the Shakey’s Pizza and the Wal-Mart, but I don’t think I would want to spend an entire day there. The only actual criticism I’ll make is the changing room. They give you a key to a locker, but the locker is just some shelf with doors on it. There’s no back. I could totally have moved this IKEA-esque shelf away from the wall and gone through people’s stuff. Even a cardboard back would have been better than this. I’m thinking I should call and say something. Maybe not. Maybe you aren’t supposed to have the expectation of lockers at a spa. I really did debate even bringing my wallet with me before I left the house. In the end, no one touched my stuff.

I’d brought a book with me and my iPod, but I left them both behind with my clothes to have a content-free day. I inputted no new information the whole time I was there. That alone was relaxing. It put me onto some mighty strange trains of thought, but I think I did identify a good place to hide should shooters barge into the spa on a spree, and I had enough warning to put a chair on top of the table and climb up the wall to hide on this ledge that was all the way around the ceiling. The problem would be getting the chair off the table and still being able to pull myself all the way up to get over that ledge. There wouldn’t be that many people in the front of the spa in the beauty salon part to get past, so I probably wouldn’t make it up in time unless someone out front tried to be a hero. Alternately, I could have maybe hidden behind one of the chairs in this alcove and then made a dash for the exit after the shooter ran past. That runs the risk of exposing myself to a second gunman, though. But if I could get out the door, I could hide in the Wal-Mart. I wouldn’t care about getting a good look at faces to describe to the police later. I’m no hero.

Do you understand, now, why I try to bring books and iPods wherever I go?

The nice part about day spas at malls is that you can stop in at the Barnes & Noble and pick up a book of New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzles. I got number 34 in whatever series. Having a fear of crossword puzzle repeats, I checked the dates to make sure they didn’t overlap with anything I might have bought and completed before, but I basically can’t tell from the dates. All I know is that I wasn’t getting that paper in 2003 and if I was doing crosswords that year, it was from a previously published edition. I think I’ll be OK. They’re all edited by Will Shortz. I think that instead of doing any real work tonight I’m going to sharpen my pencil and see if I am still smart enough to get all the themes. I haven’t done a puzzle in months.

Happy birthday to me!

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Comments

  • ExyPhylo  On March 4, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Happy Birthday Karen!
    this part-
    “but I think I did identify a good place to hide should shooters barge into the spa on a spree, and I had enough warning to put a chair on top of the table and climb up the wall to hide on this ledge that was all the way around the ceiling. The problem would be getting the chair off the table and still being able to pull myself all the way up to get over that ledge. There wouldn’t be that many people in the front of the spa in the beauty salon part to get past, so I probably wouldn’t make it up in time unless someone out front tried to be a hero. Alternately, I could have maybe hidden behind one of the chairs in this alcove and then made a dash for the exit after the shooter ran past. That runs the risk of exposing myself to a second gunman, though. But if I could get out the door, I could hide in the Wal-Mart. I wouldn’t care about getting a good look at faces to describe to the police later. I’m no hero.”
    Very funny!… I so get this!

  • Sonia  On March 9, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Happy Birthday Karen.

  • Cole Parman  On April 17, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Ha I found one of the massage tables you were talking about. I didn’t even know that they existed. My wife is a massage therapist and she said she could use one at her spa. She said that this Vichy Shower is what you’re talking about.

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