Friday, June 24, 2016

June 24, 2016--Always Talks to Strangers: The Quiet Room

This is from August 3, 2007 and is a friend's favorite. She asked me to post it again--

It wasn’t a good sign that I didn’t know where to find the belt for my bathrobe.

I had never been to a spa before and when the very nice attendant helped me slip it on, after seeing me struggling to find the belt and sensing that I had come to the conclusion that it was not for some reason included, in a hushed voice, since we were in the Quiet Room, she told me it was hanging right there on the back where it had been stitched in place. Embarrassed for the first of a number of times to come, she as gently as she spoke, reached behind me and drew the two ends to the front, asking, “Do you need any help tying it?”

Only slightly embarrassed this time, trying not to sound inappropriately uncalm considering where this was transpiring, I said, “I think I can manage, thank you. I do have one at home, but it has a belt that comes strung through loops.”

At last with me securely belted up, she asked, “Can I give you a tour?”

“That would be nice,” I said.

“Well, let’s start right here in the Quiet Room. As you can see the lights are very dim. That’s intentional. It helps guests feel calm. And we also have these relaxation beds.” She pointed to about twenty of these arranged in a dimly-lit circle that she said is an “ideal arrangement to induce relaxation,” adding, “It’s a very spiritual arrangement.”

My eyes by then had adjusted to the light and I could see the teak-wood, slatted chaise-like relaxation beds covered head-to-foot with various layers of linen sheets and terrycloth towels. I also noticed that they were not adjustable and that the end where one was to presumably place one’s head was quite a bit lower than where one’s legs would wind up going.

“If I lie on one of them,” I asked, “won’t I get dizzy, and,”  knowing my propensities, “maybe even pass out? I don’t want you to have to call 911.” I chuckled less from my sorry attempt at humor than out of nervousness.

“That wouldn’t be a problem at all. We’re very close to the local hospital. You might have seen it when you drove here from Auburn.”

“I didn’t see it but it’s good to know it’s right here. I feel certain that will help me relax.”

Ignoring that ironic barb, or missing it entirely, she pressed on, “I don’t know if you noticed the music we have here in the Quiet Room. It was very carefully selected by our spa manager. He came to us from California and put these tapes together especially for us. They’re very meditative don’t you think?”

“Oh yes, I can hear it now.” What sounding like wind chimes accompanied by a lute was faintly audible as if descending from the vaulted ceiling which I saw was covered with fluffy frescoed clouds. “The music does sound very meditative.”

“I’m so glad you feel that way because at 4:30 this afternoon, the spa manager himself, Evan is his name, he will be conducting a meditation and relaxation session right here in the Quiet Room. If you’d like, I can reserve a relaxation bed for you. We still have a few free, including one right over there by the waterfall. I know it’s hard to see because of the way Evan has the lights turned down but maybe you can hear it. He adjusts the flow of the water just so, so at the same time you can still hear the music and also the relaxing sound of the water. Should I save a place for you? There’s no extra charge of course and Evan wants guests to know he doesn’t accept gratuities.” I nodded, thinking I should sign up for something. All the other scheduled activities sounded too strenuous for total relaxation—Pilates, aerobics, fasting, purging, colonics. Especially the latter.

“And,” she continued, looking very pleased that I was getting drawn into participating in at least one thing that they had obviously taken so much care and thought to organize, “Did you notice that these specially-designed bathrobes do not have any pockets? Though all the brochures say this is so guests will not bring cell phones to the Quiet Room, it’s really because Evan doesn’t want anyone to have any money with them. He feels strongly that we should ‘leave the world behind,’ that’s what he always says, when we enter here.”

She smiled ecstatically—I knew that because I could see, through the gloom of the scented air, the light emitted by the whiteness of her glowing teeth.

“Also there’s one more thing I must show you. I feel that from the way you responded to the music that this will be one of your favorite activities while you’re here with us.” Again gently, she turned me away from the semicircle of beds and pointed toward what appeared to be a cedar-wood door. “Right there,” she said, “behind that door is our Eucalyptus Shower.” While my eyes strained to adjust again to the even-dimmer light in that corner of the Quiet Room, Shelly, she had introduced herself, remained stationary, still smiling broadly and pointing at the shower door.

“I have to confess, though you’ve probably figured it out by now, that I’m not that experienced with spas and I’ve never heard of that kind of shower. How does it work—do they put eucalyptus in the water?”

“You’re being silly again,” she punched me softly and conspiratorially on the shoulder of my robe, “It’s really a steam shower.”

“Steam? That sounds pretty hot to me. I have very delicate skin. Though,” I winked at her, “you already told me the hospital is nearby.”

"It is down the road; but you don’t stand under the steam like you do in a water shower. You would get burned if you did that.” Exactly, I thought but didn’t say anything. “It’s more like a steam bath. We make steam and put eucalyptus oil in it. Everyone in California takes them. Evan feels it’s good for your spirit as well as your body. It’s aromatherapy. You know about that I’m sure.” I chose not to contradict her, hoping the eucalyptus steam bath wasn’t going to be too big a part of the session I had signed up for. Having grown up in Brooklyn I was still more of a regular water shower kind of person than a steam-and-aroma-therapy one.

                                                                   * * *

It was nearly 4:00 and since I had a half hour to kill I decided to walk around the grounds. They are very beautiful, and from the inn’s brochure I understood are modeled after Monet’s garden in Giverny. I wandered around a bit, over the arched wooden bridge that spanned the water lily pond just like the one so familiar in Monet’s late paintings; and before I knew it, it was time to return to the Quiet Room.

In fact, it was nearly four-forty. I was ten minutes late but thought that would be all right, since for an experience of the kind I was about to have, leaving the world behind, as Evan always said, I felt certain no one would be watching the clock. Probably, there weren't even any clocks.

But I was wrong—pacing back and forth by the door, tapping on his watch was, I was sure, Evan. Blonde streaks such as his could only come from California. In a harsh whisper he admonished me, “Everyone else is here waiting for you so they can relax. Please get onto your relaxation bed so we can begin.”

Cinching my robe even tighter around me in an attempt to make myself invisible, I slunked over to, wouldn’t you know it, bed number 13. As quickly as I could, half tangled up in my ankle-length robe, I lowered myself onto the bed, not at all gracefully since, as you know, the head end was so much lower that that for my legs. But I did manage to get settled without choking myself with the belt.

Almost immediately I realized that too much blood was rushing in the wrong direction and as no surprise to myself I was already getting quite dizzy.

To cover my anxiety, sotto voce, I said, as the etherial music continued to envelope us, “Lying here like this reminds me of a being in a mausoleum.” And, as I looked around at the other nineteen lying there wrapped like mummies in their oversized robes, if they had been orange and not white, we would have looked at lot more like the 38 members of the Heavens Gate Hale-Bopp cult who committed mass suicide together back in 1997 than guests paying $500 a night so we could relax.

I vowed that if I survived the session and managed to avoid being raced to the hospital, at dinner later than night in the inn’s award-wining restaurant I would be sure to have their legendary Mood Altering Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon Ice Cream and Toasted Walnuts. As they note on the menu—“Because You Deserve It.”

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home