Monday, August 6, 2007

Touching Strangers

CAUTION: This post is not for people under 18 or the faint of heart....

I don't like when strangers touch me.

"But Ruth," you say, "You were a massage therapist for 8 years? Weren't there a lot of strangers there?"

Yes. But that was me touching them. Lots of them. At the spa, I averaged 700 people a year. I loved that job. There were good clients and bad clients. There were lots of 50 minute life stories and lots of silence. There was more then I care to remember of oversharing clients.

Like the guy who's telling me about the new nanny they have and how hot and young she is. Telling me this while his wife is getting her massage in the next room. Ew. I had to remind him (and others) that there's no client confidentiality when it comes to massage therapists.

I've had creepy clients and clients that needed a lesson or two in proper massage etiquette. And the difference between massage therapy and prostitution. Now, if you've visited here before, you know I'm not the most diplomatic of people when I'm mad. I got propositioned 3 times in the first 3 years I worked at the spa.

The first guy was the worst. I had him as a client just one week after I got licensed and moved from the desk at the spa to downstairs as a therapist. Usually when you get a creep, they give you creep signals. They are strangely squirmy or say things that hint at what they're after and you can cut that off at the knees. This guy gave no such warnings. He wasn't a talker. He wasn't squirmy or weird. I always start people face down and then after the first half of the 50 min., I have them turn over so I can work the anterior aspect of their arms and legs as well as their neck and head. So I have this guy turn over and when I've got my back turned to put the face cradle on the counter....
Well, when I turned back to the client, he had the sheets pushed down to his knees and was, hmm... erect. I was incredulous and disgusted, "Oh, seriously... what is this?"
Pig: What does it look like?
Me: I don't know. A penis... only... smaller? [I yank the sheets up and say] So ends the massage. And for insulting a highly trained professional by implying I'm a prostitute, you're going to tip really well.
Pig: Oh, am I? (in a pissed off attitude)
Me: Well, I can go tell the desk we had to finish early because you had a meeting to go to or I can tell them the real reason in which case they'll call security to have a little talk with you about proper massage etiquette. You decide. Cash is best.

And I stormed out of the room. When he came up later (after having dressed in the locker room) and he was paying his bill, I was sitting at the desk. He glared over at me and I picked up the phone. He left a $30 tip (that was back when we charged just $70 for the massage).

Looking back, I basically blackmailed the guy. And when the desk girl tried to hand me the money after he left, I told her I wanted the money but not that money and she gave me a different $30. I was new at the job and, again, looking back I should've just reported him because you know that he's going to that again (or worse) to the next poor unsuspecting therapist. Pig.

The second time was a guy that was a talker. He was chatting and nice and I asked if he'd had massage before and then he got stupid...
Pig 2: Yes. I get massage every week. I have a girl who comes to my house.
Me: Oh? I have some private clients where I go to their house every week, too.
Pig 2: Yeah.... Well. She always does extra.
Me: [thinking, "Aw shit. Here we go."] What do you mean, like she cleans your house?
Pig 2: [lifting his face from the face cradle to look at me] Something like that.
Me: What are you telling me. Is she your girlfriend or something? [trying to give him the benefit of the doubt]
Pig 2: No. I just tip really good.
Me: [looking him dead in the eye] Well, I don't do housework. I could clean your clock [big smile] or we could just continue on with the therapeutic massage [smile dropped].
Pig 2: [laughs] The massage sounds good.
This guy was just "testing the waters" as we say and after this exchange was a good client. But I still washed my hands twice after working on him. Ew.

The last guy was the strangest. He was a Calvin Klein model from Australia. I was 8 months pregnant with T and so was rather taken aback when he asked me a question. The massage was almost over when he asked me
Pig 3: Would you finish me off? [He asked this as though asking me if I did that sort of thing, not actually asking me to do that sort of thing. Understand?]
Me: [pause. sigh. Big smile.] I don't know what that means in Australia, but in America to "finish someone off" means you are mortally wounded and want me to shoot you in the head. Is that what you are asking me??
Pig 3: [laughs] No, I guess not.
Me: [looking him in the eye, smile dropped] No. I guess not.
I was thinking, "Hey. Dumbass. I'm 8 months pregnant. I ain't "finishing" shit off at home, why would I do that here??"

I find that you can say just about anything you want to people if you do it with a big smile on your face like you might be just kidding. Even though everyone involved knows you Are. Not. Kidding.

Don't piss off your massage therapist people. It's like pissing off your dentist or your hairdresser. They can do damage. They won't, because they are ethical professionals. But they can. (That's your tip for Massage Monday, by the way.)

Anyway, back to strangers touching me. Sometimes, clients would be all blissed out and they would give me a big hug after the massage. This was always really awkward for me. 9 times out of ten, it'd be a woman but still. I stand there stiffly and maybe bring my hand up to pat them on the back and they were always blissfully unaware of my horror.

Rarely, there was the client that we had really connected and talked during the massage so that a hug after didn't bother me and was actually welcomed. Rarely. But it did happen that way now and then. Mostly, it came as a complete surprise to me, like they were jumping out of a bush and hugging me. It was especially unnerving when the client had been completely silent during the whole massage.

So you can imagine how I felt when a Target guest hugged me yesterday! OK. She was about ten years old but it was still really weird for me! If she had been 4 or younger, it would've been cute. She wasn't. It wasn't. I rang up all the purchases for her and her mom and then she came around the counter to me. She stood too close to me and tilted her head to the side, closed her eyes and dramatically spread her arms out wide and up. She stood like that for a full 5 seconds before her mom said matter-of-factly, "She wants to hug you." I honestly had no idea what she was doing! "Oh." I said, brilliantly. I didn't step closer to her (she was close enough believe me), just woodenly bent nearer and she wrapped her arms around me and gave this weird sigh. Then she kissed me on the cheek! I didn't mean to but I jerked back like she touched me with a lit cigarette. "OK. Um. Have a nice day." She still stood there with that weird bliss look on her face. Eyes closed, head tilted, strange smile. But at least her arms were down, now. Finally her mom said, "Let's go honey." in that same flat matter-of-fact voice. As though she's seen her daughter do this about 30 times a day and is over it.

After they left the next guest asked, "Did you know her?" I just numbly shook my head no. "Well that was odd, then," she noted. Thank you! I thought. So it wasn't just me that thought so. Because seriously, it wasn't just that she hugged me. It was that she was so dramatic about it!

Sorry I dropped off the radar a little last week. I had a wicked cold and I appreciate all the well wishes! You guys are so sweet! But also, I was gone because I have something major in the works. It's not knitting related (unfortunately) but it's pretty huge. It's huge enough and stressful enough that I haven't been knitting anything! That never happens. Usually when I'm stressed, I not only knit, I get startitis. Send some good vibes my way and I'll let y'all in on it by August 18th.

Special thanks to Carol G. for sending a helmet liner! And to My Blogless Rachel H. for making two more. 6 down, 194 to go!

Off to stress some more, Ruth!


uberstrickenfrau said...

can't wait til the big unveiling!
BIIIIIGGGGG HUG! And smooch on the cheek! ;o)

Susan said...

I can't wait to find out what you're up too. Let me finish you off with a big hug, no kiss.

Yarnhog said...

I would so not want to piss you off. I loved your stories, even though I am still cringing with vicarious horror. I get hugged all the time by kids at my kids' school, which doesn't bother me at all, but I'm not a touchy kind of person, and it kind of freaks me out when adults want to hug me or kiss my cheek.

I can't wait to hear your news!

Tammy said...

Okay, first off, out of all the horror stories you shared, the one that I find weirdest is the mom who lets her daughter go around hugging strangers. Whatever happended to don't talk to strangers... let alone hug them.?

I'm kinda big on personal space myself... as the Police would say "Don't stand so close to me..."

kmkat said...

Weird little kid. Weird mom.

I'm a huggy sort of person myself. Must remember to restrain if we ever meet.

knitnzu said...

Don't stress! I'm all atwitter about the unveiling too! Clearly people are at best clueless. Sounds like the girl at the target has some issues with social cues...maybe she's an Asperger's kid or something. But mom should've either let you know or better set some firm boundaries with dd. [I just read Tammy's comment-I second it!] We had an Asperger's kid at tae kwon do who liked (likes) to hug his instructors, esp the 2 females (though now one, I left). I had to give him a little talk about how he was growing up (15, now 16) and about personal space (which he is quite aware of) and about appropriate contact with adult females. I am a fairly physical person, but I was a little surprised a week or so ago when the boss (another woman) gave me a hug as we were leaving the party at her house. I'm sure it was because she was feeling nostalgic and dh and I are now the oldest timers besides her. And I may not hug a friend, but I'm pretty likely to tap your hand/shoulder/knee or even smack ya (ok, I don't do that so much since I left tae kwon do!).

Nell said...

Ewww! Inappropriate touching! Creepy.

Romi said...

Loved the stories. And that was *really* weird that the parent lets her kid do that. :P

Meg said...

I love your stories of life at the massage table!

Gingersnaps with Tea... said...

Yeah, I'm not big on the whole hugging (or any other kind of touching) thing. Ew. I have one client at work who hugs me (and brings me coffee which is OK). He's a nice guy and there's nothing creepy but I always want to say,"I'm selling you furniture, it's my job." I also have a longtime friend who has to touch you when she talks to you. 30+ years we've been friends and it still throws me off.

Diane said...

10 yr olds have no business hugging strangers. What's up with that mom? I'm with you on the whole don't touch me thing. Seriously. I don't know you and I don't know where you've been. You can smile and wave but keep your hands to yourself.

moxieknits said...

good for you! no "happy endings"! I've worked in spas before, I feel your pain;)

Chris said...

Goodness. The massage stories - damn, I didn't really think about jerks like that. Way to kickass there, Ruth!

But that kid?! WTF??? And the parent?!! Damn.