James directs me to the steam room, where I shut the metal door behind me and revel in the few brief moments of actual privacy since stepping out of the locker room more than 30 minutes ago. With sweat rolling off of me like condensation on a glass of sweet tea in July, I step out after about three minutes, towel securely in place, and make my way back to James, who has set up a table for the next step.
Think of the mental hospital equivalent of a firm chaise lounge chair with a sheet spread out on top and a towel for your head to rest on. I hop on, and James asks me whether I have any sore muscles or areas. I tell him that my shoulders have been tight, so James wraps each of them in towels soaked in the natural hot spring water as I lay back on the table. Still covered with my original towel, James wraps the sides of the sheet over me, and I’m suddenly snuggled in a warm cocoon like a swaddled baby. Between the whirlpool and the hot towels, it’s actually been a nice time, especially when you don’t count the rather uncomfortable moments like getting from one station to the next. Letting the towels do their job, I lay there in hopes of enjoying the hot water treatment.
I zone out for a minute until “Chatty Chad” starts running his mouth from the table next to me. Just as my blood pressure is beginning to return to normal, “Chatty Chad” starts playing Twenty Questions, because apparently I have a sign on my towel that says “I like talking to naked strangers!”
It turns out that “Chatty Chad” is around my age, teaches yoga and is in town with his wife (relieved beyond words at the revelation of that minor detail). All “Chatty Chad” got out of me was that my name is James and I’m from Florida (neither of which are lies), before James escorted him to the next stop. God bless you, James.
I enjoy a few more moments of the hot towels before it’s my turn in the “needle shower.” How fun does that sound?! Clearly no one got that title focus group tested before rolling it out, but, clearly, the name didn’t stop me from participating. James leads me to a corner of the room, pulls open a curtain and reveals what I assume is small scaffolding with at least 100 shower heads attached to it. Closing the curtain behind me and dropping my towel (in that order), the shower starts pelting everywhere with more water than I’ve ever endured at once. I find a comfortable position just before the water stops and it’s my time to get out.
That James is an efficient one, because he’s already got me a new dry towel ready as I start to step out of the shower. But as I reach for it, James proceeds to dry me off. This was yet another detail left out of the now-useless brochure. It’s at this point I really start to fear what else the “full-service” description means when applied to these attendants. I could have sworn this was a family-friendly place, but they definitely had the “friendly” part right. I thought I had seen this briefly out of the corner of my eye when “Chatty Chad” got out of his shower, but I told myself I was imagining things and quickly put that image out of my head. Oh how I wished I was right. James keeps the rub down to PG-13, avoiding the important areas, and hands me another large sheet to keep with me for the next stage. Between the loofa scrub and the towel rub, James was really working hard for the money that day.
The last installment of “When in Hot Springs…” drops here on the blog next Thursday!