March 28, 2011

More Spa Memories

Taking a job as a massage therapist at a big spa is a great learning tool for the new therapist. I was a newbie, a rookie, when I worked at a large spa and I did find my way and went on to become a spa owner, employer, and an independent therapist.

So I have been sad that the spa I worked at closed earlier this year. It seemed to be losing market share to less expensive massage chains with better marketing and lower operating costs.

I will share some interesting bits from my time there. It was fun and a learning laboratory. And it was a great place to self-audit my skills and learn from the skills and miss-steps of myself and others.

"Music of the Mind"

We had a nine-disc CD player that piped music throughout the spa. Unfortunately, it seemed after a while that most of the therapists would go absolutely mental if we heard the same songs again, again, and again.

Our fearless lead therapist stepped into the breach and popped some new CDs in the machine. The CDs were very nice, tinkly classical stuff. Not my favorites, really, because of the crescendos and emotions classical music evokes. I was not too thrilled by the association with many movies. Nonetheless, it was a change from the same sorry CDs that had worn ruts through my auditory system.

One afternoon, a client gave me a heads-up that she had been going through a lot lately. She was a mom of twins who had just gone back to work – at the DA’s office. Her first assignment was a murder case. Her Dad was sick, too.

“Get the ice pick out of my shoulder, and then I just want to relax,” she told me.

Right-e-o. The knot took flight; she was starting to soften as we got into the relaxing portion of the massage. Then I felt her body stiffen.

“What’s that music?” she said.

“I think it is Rachmaninoff,” I said. “We just changed out to a new set of CDs and it’s very classical. Do you like it?”

“It reminds me of something,” she said. “I think it is the song from Schindler’s List.”

It wasn’t of note when she came in, but this client was Jewish. The song, it turns out, was played in the back-and-white film just as the little girl in the red coat was separated from her mother and ends up a victim of genocide.

“I can’t believe this place could be so insensitive as to play that song!” she said.

She sat up on the table, wrapped her self up in the sheet and announced her intention to go right to the manager’s office.

“Wait! I’ll go kill the CD! These are new CDs and we had no idea that was on it!” I said.

I ran out to the front desk, popped the offending CD out of the player and put it aside.

It turned out the client graciously forgave us. I had the palps for a while, but I learned my lesson. After that, when I used could choose the music, I used non-thematic new-agey stuff that couldn’t possible end up on a movie score or anywhere else that would evoke some past trauma.

Our lead, a classical fan, was a bit out of joint for a while about it, but eventually classical went south when the spa switched to a satellite service that played all new-agey spa music. We would hear the same songs every two days or so, but at least we weren’t playing romantic music from a tragic scene of a popular movie.

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