There’s nothing like a good massage, and this was nothing like a good massage. Okay, that may be a little harsh. It actually had all the elements of a massage, so there’s that. This was my first time at this particular spa, and I was looking forward to redeeming my Christmas present – an entire hour of stress reducing, muscle loosening relaxation just for me.

She asked the usual questions – problem areas, physical limitations, etc. Did I want essential oils? I said no to that. When I told her that I broke my shoulder a year ago and though it is fully recovered, if she should move my arm a certain way, I might wince, but no worries. I do that myself once in a while. I just didn’t want her to freak out if it happened.

That appeared to alarm her despite my insistence that I was fine. I thought about arm wrestling her to prove my point, but that seemed a bit much, and I didn’t want to cut into my hour.

Then I added, “You should know that I am at times prone to vertigo and a trigger for me is lying flat on my back. Elevating my head slightly helps. I’ve been asymptomatic lately, so that probably won’t happen either.”

She seemed to take this in stride, so much so that she asked if I wanted to start out on my back. Of course I said no, for what I thought was an obvious reason. Finally she left me alone to get situated on the table.

I climbed on and put my face in the cushion which allows you to breathe and not turn your neck, thus requiring additional massage to get the kinks out of that. I was immediately greeted with a musty odor. This was not going to do.

When she came in and I was lying there with my head sticking up like a turtle from its shell, I told her the issue. It turns out they keep their linens in a cabinet with essential oils. Now I had to explain to her in more detail that certain oils and fragrances dry out my eyes and give me headaches. She left in search of an unscented pillowcase and maybe a couple of Advil for herself.

When at last she returned and I settled in for my massage, I commented that by the time she finished with me perhaps she, too, would need a massage. She chuckled politely and got to work on me.

She started on my shoulders, which is my favorite place to hold tension. Every time she would rub them and move her hands up my neck, I heard a crinkle sound, kind of like somebody opening a bag of chips. It didn’t take long to realize that she was wearing gloves. Since she didn’t have a mask on, this was even more of an unwelcome surprise. It’s like getting a massage through a plastic bag. I had been asked if I wanted a male or female masseuse, but there were no questions regarding gloves or not.

My mind wandered to Sandy. Sandy is the woman who I would usually go to if I wanted a massage. She is half German matron and half physical therapist. She helped me so much when I was recovering from my shoulder injury. I missed Sandy. I kind of felt like I was cheating on her, and this was my punishment – being massaged through plastic-covered hands like a butcher would use to hand out deli meat, with just a hint of essential oils.

When I checked out and was asked how everything was, I told them about the crinkle. You might say I took the gloves off, but with kindness. They seemed to have no idea that there were gloved masseuses behind the lobby doors and rewarded me with a gift card for a discount off my next massage, which was very kind. I’m conflicted about using it though. I don’t think I can do that to Sandy. I’d just feel too guilty.

Maybe I’ll take a tip from Winnie the Pooh and try something altogether new to unwind.