Medical Professionals and Mall Kiosks

When my boyfriend, Eric, says that he needs to go see a doctor, he does not mean a medical professional. He means the person working the massage chair at Book People or, more recently, the massage chairs at Brookstone. This makes me a little crazy because I believe in Western medicine. My best friend is a doctor. I’m not afraid to go when I have a problem and get actual, honest-to-God medical attention.

But, since I hit my mid 30s, my body has been rebelling and breaking down on me in ways that have me making periodic trips to the good people of Brookstone. Because what is wrong with me is simply that I’m not 18 anymore. I used to stay up until 2 am, frequently get no more than 4 hours of sleep a night, eat whatever I wanted and avoided working out as though I might be allergic to my own sweat. And I was fine. Now, I work out at least three times a week, I lift weights, I run, I bike, I am almost always in bed by 10, and in most ways, I’m just generally trying to take care of myself, and my body is responding with a full on mutiny.

I have had a problem in my arm that was first diagnosed as tendonitis, but after a month of taking it easy and letting it heal, it continues to act up every few weeks when I dare to lift something as heavy as a gallon of milk. This has been happening for two years, and I can’t seem to fix it.

And, look, I’ve never been the most graceful person. I trip over stuff all the time, I bang my knees and elbows as if I’m constantly surprised by where they are located in proximity to table corners. I walk into walls because I am thinking of other things. I am a klutz. But I’ve recently started hurting myself while sleeping in bed.

Three days ago, I woke with a mysterious pain in my shoulder right around my left shoulder blade. It wasn’t there when I went to bed, but when I woke up, my movement was restricted by a stabbing pain. Now, I could go to the doctor, but, physically there’s nothing wrong with me except that I’m older and I must have slept funny. Eric would blame my mattress, which he believes to be overly firm, but that’s a different argument.

Instead, when we were walking through a mall, we found a solution at a kiosk. Now, I never make eye contact with people working at mall kiosks, and I never give them my hand, and most of the time when the people speak to me, I pretend I didn’t hear them. But this is the kind of interaction that Eric loves. The weirder the gimmick, the more he loves it. So, when a girl asked if he wanted to try a personal massage, he was all over it. He asked questions, let her put a demo model on him and do weird things to his muscles, and tried out eight different modes of massaging technique.

I didn’t get nervous until he asked how much it cost. Eric and I have different philosophies about how we spend money, and normally that’s just a way in which we were different, but I was raised to be suspicious of salespeople and to treat most transactions that don’t take place in a conventional definition of “store” (by which I think my dad meant “a place that has walls”) as scams.

The girl looked it up in the computer and said, “This one is…oh! It’s $400.” Even she seemed surprised at the audacity of that price. So the salesgirl, who had told us earlier that it was her second day on the job, immediately tried to be reasonable. “I could probably get it for you for $250.”

At the moment that she started making deals, her boss popped up out of the woodwork to introduce himself and explain how $400 was a bargain for such a great product. He sized Eric and I up and made the mistake of aiming his pitch at me. He explained that if you put the little massaging pads on your abs and turned it on for just 20 MINUTES A DAy, I could have 6 pack abs. Eric would have egged this kind of nonsense on, whereas I just barely managed to hold on to enough of my Southern manners to not tell him that I was not buying that insane line of bull shit.

The boss man was big on the hard sell, which always triggers my fight or flight response and I start to look for the fastest way out of the situation. Eric surprised me by saying smoothly that we were going to walk around and think about it, but maybe we’d be back. He then led me upstairs where we sat on a bench and Googled the product, quickly finding several places selling the same device for $40. Or as Eric likes to say, “at a 90% discount.”

We knew it was the same product because the a couple of the sellers said this was “As seen at mall kisoks!” We ordered one online, and we’ve been using it for months. The little sticky hands that you press onto your skin to deliver the massage are starting to loose their stickiness, but for $40, we can always afford to replace it. But it is perfect for all of my weird, mysterious pains that pop up. It’s loosened up my bum bicep, and after a few days, it worked the kink out of my shoulder that I got from sleeping like a wild woman. There are still plenty of reasons that I would go see my regular doctor, but for the everyday aches and pains of getting older, this little gadget is all I need.

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