Off to the Massage Parlor January 2004

Off to the Massage Parlor…! After a hard day at the factory in Jiaozhou and a 15 course Chinese meal, our host informed us that the next event would be a massage…more specifically a FOOT massage! I was relieved to hear the word foot as a modifier to massage but the relief was short-lived. We wound through the narrow street of the old-town and finally stopped in a semi-quiet residential neighborhood. I was with Saga’s Product Manager, Adrian Bagale, and together we followed John Kim up a well-warn flight of stairs. The room at the top was comfortable with a ubiquitous karaoke machine waiting should the impulse arise. It never did. We sat in three identical naugahide lounge chairs, removed our shoes and socks and nervously waited. Three ladies arrived giggling at the site of two enormous foreign devils.

They carried buckets of water, one for each of us. Mr. Kim’s feet went in first and I heard a low moan that I mistakenly took for ecstasy. As my feet were pushed into the water, I let out a howl…the water was just below boiling point and I thought, “Lobster!” Adrian started laughing at my predicament, but the laugh ended with a glottal stop and his baritone howl harmonized with my high tenor. After some minutes the sensation of pain started to withdraw and out came the feet onto a low bench. A brisk rub with a coarse towel assured me, somehow, that my feet were still there.

Suddenly all doubt was removed when a sharp knuckle was driven into the bottom of my foot just below the ball of the big toe. I screamed and tried to pull back my foot, but was locked in a Kung-fu grip that did not yield. Again, I heard Adrian laugh, but this time more apprehensively…he knew that something was coming and in an instant it did…straightening his entire body in pain! I foolishly started to chuckle as my big toe was being twirled in a broad circular movement. There was a jolting push to the side, a flash of pain, and a vision of the toe hanging limp at one side of my foot. For the next 45 minutes every pressure point in the foot was carefully located, teased, and then mercilessly brutalized. Then it was over…well almost! We were given a soft pair of socks, gingerly helped to a standing position and then gently pounded on the shoulders as we were tricked into a Full Nelson…again American body structures were being put to a torture test. Arms behind the back were thrust violently upward as long unused muscles were stretched like atrophied bungee cord. Now Mr. Kim was screaming.

Then…it was over. We marched down the stairs like veterans of the Bataan Death March into the lobby. Ten or fifteen locals were idling there for a glimpse at the lily-livered lambs who had destroyed their slumber. Back at the hotel I sunk into a chair and mindlessly punched the remote. Fifty-five minutes later it occurred to me that I had been watching a Korean language program without realizing it. I padded off to bed and woke up some hours later with my cloths still on!

Richard Keldsen
San Francisco
January 2004