The Wonderful, Mysterious Glamorous Life of a Traveling Massage Therapist

I am driving to an unfamiliar location in a city that is not familiar enough to navigate without directions and en route, halfway between there and home, the GPS signal disappears. By the time I am 3/4 of the way there with no way to turn around because I need to be there on time, it is obvious that the GPS isn’t coming back online. Satellite or tower issues because even my Google maps isn’t working. And did I mention that it is dark outside now too? And I have a horrible sense of direction?

Luckily, I am able to catch a friend online whose internet is working and they text me the turn by turn directions. I get to my destination and now have to navigate from there to my hotel room for the night. Still, no GPS and it is too late to call my friend. Now I am calling another friend who has internet access, is home and is awake but has no cell phone. Navigation is done by staying on phone with me and giving me directions. Naturally, they are half drunk by the time I reach them (gotta love this pandemic and the ways we are keeping ourselves sane) and the entire episode sounds like The Three Stooges give a navigation lesson. I arrived at my hotel and friendship is still intact.

I check into the hotel. The girl in front of me is alone and being checked in. She is young, looks to be in her 20’s and has a tattoo on the back of her hand by the thumb and forefinger webbing peeking out from her jacket. Her only baggage is a backpack. The four men at the front desk are all watching her with a mixture of curiosity and indifferent judgment. I resist a giggle. She’s clearly there to work. I have never actually run across anyone else when I have checked into a hotel so the moment amuses me.

It is my turn to check in and the four men are now staring at me. Luckily, I am old enough that my traveling alone raises less suspicion than the previous check-in. The two men behind the desk I was prepared for a visual investigation from. That is what the staff does when someone checks in but the two hammer heads standing outside the clerk’s counter being idle and entirely too familiar with their gaze? I have no idea who they are. I assume they are maintenance and security in plain clothes, or they are two guests with nothing else to do except idly socialize at the front desk. In both cases, I hate that they are all staring at me without any restraint or politeness. I give them a hard look in response and they look away, talking to each other.

You should know that bullies and rapists use an invasive gaze as a game of dominance and intimidation to assess you by your reactions. They don’t wear signs on their foreheads as a warning so if you do this and you are not a bully or rapist, know that this staring is their hallmark, and stop doing it. Needless to say, their behavior put me on all alarms-go settings.

The young girl with the tattoo gets on the elevator with me. She is one floor up from me and I get off first. The minute I get off the elevator and I am overwhelmed by the smell of marijuana. It literally smells like someone has been smoking it in the hallway for the previous, immediate three hours before arrival. Now, I am wondering what kind of hotel I have checked into and I am angry because it is too late to find another hotel on such short notice without losing even more time. It is late, I need to get set up, take a bath and get some sleep because my first appointment is an early morning one. But the hallway smells like a marijuana farm, Mr. Creepy 1 and 2 are downstairs in the lobby AND I have no GPS to figure out how to get somewhere else easily and quickly at this time of night, even if I wanted to. They need to move me to another room. I go up to the 3rd floor to see if it is just as bad up there. It isn’t. Only the 2nd floor.

Horrified, I returned to the front desk. I demand to be given another room identical to the one I booked on another floor because THIS one smells like a DEA marijuana bust and burn. The clerk sends one of the creepy men up to check it out while he locates a room and offers it to me. It isn’t even close to what I booked and there wasn’t a spare inch available for my massage table.

One of the biggest considerations for me in addition to cost-efficiency is finding a space where I can set up actual equipment like a massage table, AND have room to move around and work. I suppose I could give back rubs on a bed but that’s not what I do. I am a trained massage therapist and working on a massage table for me is the same as being a concert pianist needing a piano not a child’s toy keyboard. The right tools for the right job. It makes a difference.

It is late and they tell me that they don’t have any other rooms available because they are all booked. When the other man returns, he indicates that he didn’t smell a thing. I give up and go to my room. At least, once inside there, I can close the door on the parade of ridiculousness that my trip was turning into. When I stepped off the elevator, the smell of commercial air freshener was so thick in the air it was overpowering like old people wearing too much fragrance standing next to you in an elevator. The maintenance guy is clearly a liar. I am too tired and fed up to worry about it. I really need to get a decent night sleep.

I run hot water for a bath, unpack and decompress. When I return to the tub and prepare to step inside, I discover that the water is not hot but scalding hot. Literally, nearly scalding. After 45 minutes of waiting, I attempt to get in tub again but it is still scalding. I ended up wrapping my hand and arm in a plastic bag to create a barrier as I quickly reached down for the plug like someone noodling for catfish to drain the water so I could add cold water to temper it. I eventually got my bath and climbed into bed, exhausted and prepared for an early morning appointment.

I wake up to the sound of a screaming fight breaking out in the hall between a woman and a nearly silent partner.

“Oh dear god, what the hell have I signed on for here?” I think to myself in despair. I consider going to a new hotel but I wouldn’t be able to check in until 4 pm and all my appointments during the day would be lost in the process. It occurs to me that being checked into the equivalent of a low rent motel, complete with low rent motel stereotype patrons might also ruin my appointments too. I would scream but the woman in the hall fighting with her partner is doing enough for both of us.

And it’s still only 7 am. Yippee skipper awesome! Please let me just get through the day without incident and I can change hotels in the afternoon. I am hesitant to leave my room now and I notice that disintegrating pieces of tissue from the previous nights “taking the waters” are still there in the bottom of the bowl. I flush the toilet it seems really slow. I flush it again and it is definitely slow. I flush it a third time (thanking god that the only thing that is in the bowl to worry about are disintegrating pieces of tissue that stubbornly refuse to flush). I flush it one last time thinking that whatever is clogging the line from before my arrival will dislodge itself but no, the toilet is definitely clogged.

I leave my room and there is a pile of clothes strewn across the front door of a room across from me and a garbage can has been knocked over by the elevator. This is NOT what I was expecting when I was researching the room and reading the reviews!

I go downstairs and ask where the hotel bathroom is, I visit it and return to inform the front desk that NOW my toilet also doesn’t work and I want another room IMMEDIATELY because how the hell am I supposed to stay in a room with a toilet that doesn’t work?! They tell me they are calling a plumber right away but I don’t have time for a plumber to show up and take however much time he needs to fix this because I have people who have arranged their schedules to see me at specific times! I insist on another identical room because I don’t want a stranger in my room in my absence and I cannot spend all morning babysitting him while he works. And by the way, can someone do something about the screaming occupants and the pile of clothes in the hallway and the smell of marijuana in the hallway again?!

At this point, the countdown to my first appointment is ticking away and I still have to finish prepping the room, the table and pulling myself together.

My first appointment arrived and noted the smell of marijuana in the hall. I am sure his apprehension was high and he was thinking the same thing I did when I arrived the night before, “what the hell did I sign on for?”

Once the door opened, we both breathed a sigh of relief that someone normal, kind-appearing and clean cut was on the other side of the door. The massage experience went smoothly and was, as intended: peace inducing, relaxing and restorative like a sensual zen tantra clinic should be. Stepping back in the hall must have felt like being slam dropped back into reality like a professional wrestler hitting a mat.

Thankfully, the rest of my visit went smoothly and I met fantastic new clients who shared a beautiful moment of zen with me. I am definitely NOT booking that hotel again! LOL

Now you have experienced a glimpse of the not-so-glamorous life of a traveling massage therapist.