September 25, 2008

Massages Are Not Relaxing

The Minister of Common Sense got a massage the other day. They are supposed to be relaxing, but I don’t think they are. I mean, the first thing that happens is they send you to the locker room to change into the robe and flip flops that they give you. That would be fine, if you didn't have to try to time your nudity to avoid other people. I went into the locker room and, thankfully, I was the only one in there. However, I heard the shower running, so I knew there was at least other nude dude around somewhere. No one likes to get naked in front of strangers in these situations. So now I have to contend with changing out of my clothes and into the robe. Do I dilly dally to see if the guy gets out of the shower right away, and then I can see where he goes so I can avoid him? Or do I rush to get changed now while he’s still in the shower and hope that I beat him into the robe before he comes out? But if I wait a few moments to get changed, then that increases the probability of someone else walking in. I decide to rush and immediately strip down to nothing and quickly wrap the robe around me. I manage to get the robe on while the guy was still in the shower and with no one else walking in on me, which is a big relief. The massage hasn't even started yet, but I've already gone though one of the most-stressful moments of my week.

And it’s not like I’m ashamed of my body or that I am “small” or anything like that. Believe me, my body is way better than 90% of Americans (which I know which isn't saying much). It’s just that it's awkward and weird being in a group of strange, naked men. No one really likes it. It’s like everyone’s trying not to look at one another and trying to act like no one else is in the room, but everyone IS in the room, and everyone is trying to look to see if anyone else is looking, but you’re not supposed to be looking, but you have to see where you are walking... it’s just a stupid, impossible situation.

Anyway, after the awkward nudity that the spa forces you to endure, they make you sit in some kind of fancy waiting room with plants and running water and other people in robes sitting around. I want to get a massage NOW – at my appointed time – I don’t want to sit and “relax” in your “Garden of Tranquility” or whatever the hell they call it. In fact, there is nothing relaxing about that room at all. You sit in this small room, wearing a robe (which is already awkward), pretending to read Home & Garden or some other bullshit magazine, with other robe people sitting around... it’s just weird. And if the setting isn't weird and stressful enough, then there is the stress of waiting to see which masseuse will come out and call your name.

I think I speak for all straight guys when I say we want at least a semi-decent-looking female masseuse. It’s not that we think “something will happen” during the massage, or that we'll get a "happy ending"... it’s just that a massage is nicer if it’s someone we don't mind touching our bodies. When the husky, old woman masseuse walks out to get someone, I hold my breath until she calls someone else’s name... then I sit there anxiously waiting to see what the next masseuse will look like and what name she will call. Once again, this is not a relaxing process. And what if a MAN comes out and calls my name?? I specified that I wanted a female, but mistakes can happen during the reservation process, right? What if a guy comes out for me? I mean, I can’t really say to him (in front of everyone), “Oh, no, sorry, I wanted a female.” Everyone will stare at me as I spoil the Garden of Tranquility with homophobia. And for the female clients, it’s not that they are afraid of looking homophobic – it’s the opposite – they are afraid of appearing too heterosexual. I get the sense that women are generally OK with either a female or male masseuse, but if they ask for a male and they get a female by mistake, they can’t say out loud that they wanted a male, everyone will think, “Oh!... Look what she’s after with her 'massage', hmmm!” The point is that this whole masseuse delivery process is riddled with uncertainty and anxiety for both men and women.

Once your masseuse comes and claims you, they guide you to the room where they explain a few things. You know they are going to eventually leave the room to let you take off your robe and allow you to get naked under the sheets, but there is always those few seconds when they don’t leave right away, and you’re thinking to yourself, “OK, OK, I know what to do – now get out, lady.” Finally they leave, then comes the stressful moment of whether or not you will be able to take off the robe and get under the sheets quick enough. You know the masseuse is going to come back very soon (after all, how long does it take to remove a robe and get under a sheet?). In fact, she is probably standing right outside the door with her hand on the knob. I tried to remove my robe quickly, but I fumbled with the knot (which was probably tangled up after the paranoid and hasty tie job I did in the locker room). Anyway, it took WAY too long to get the robe off, so then I’m rushing over to the massage table, frantically trying to get in it. But the sheet is tucked in too tight, so I’m standing there naked, scratching and clawing at the table, desperately trying to find a seam in the dim lighting. Meanwhile, I know the seconds are ticking away, and the masseuse is going to bust in at any moment. However, I managed to get under the sheets in time. My heart was pounding as my face was down in that holding contraption... not exactly a “relaxing” moment, right? How much am I paying for all this??

And that face-holding contraption is never comfortable, is it? I bob my head up and down on it several times, trying to get a good “fit” and it never happens. Once I’m totally uncomfortable, I can feel the creases beginning to form on my face from the wrinkles in the sheet/face/contraption thing. They put a flower on the floor to look at, but I can never see it because the sheet from the contraption covers my eyes. I must have a malformed head or something.

So then the supposedly real "relaxing" part begins – the actual massage. But it's always a little awkward because you worry about so many things. First of all, will she accidentally (or purposely??) touch your privates? What do you do, if that happens? Or what do you do if you get aroused?? And they move that sheet around you, near you ass, and you just know that they are looking. Are you supposed to say anything during the massage? It’s so quiet. Are you supposed to give verbal feedback, one way or the other? Maybe you start to moan in pleasure to let them know they are doing a good job, but it probably comes across as totally creepy. Sometimes the masseuse talks to you when you don’t want them to. Or they ask you a question, but you can’t hear what they are saying because your face is in the contraption, so you have to immediately decide to either say, “uh, yeah” (without really knowing what they asked) or crane your neck upward and ask, “What did you say?” and now you're in a whole awkward conversation.

They make you flip over at some point and your eyes are closed. She is rubbing your legs or whatever, and I always want to open my eyes, but I fear that if I open my eyes, I will see her staring off into space, with a totally bored look on her face, which will completely ruin everything for me. Or worse, she will have a look of complete disgust on her face. Even if that’s not the case, and I look at her, she will be thinking, “Why is this guy looking at me??” Then she’ll ask if everything is alright, and now I’m back in that awkward conversation thing. So, I clench my eyes even tighter, out of fear of accidentally opening them, which makes my face scrunch up, which makes her quietly ask, “Is evye hinde troyt?”, to which I have to respond, “Uh, yeah” or “What did you say?”

So once the whole thing is over (whew, what a relief!), she then says some stuff which you still can’t hear, and she leaves the room. So you get up and get the robe back on. Then you are sitting there trying to remember if she said she would come back with the water or do you come out to get the water or what exactly happens next? So you open the door and peek out and there is no one in the hall. So you quickly shut the door and stand there, getting more and more anxious with every second. Maybe you are supposed to go to the front desk? Where IS the front desk? Is she coming back? What if another massage patient comes in? Soon, you are just as uptight and stressed out as you were before you even arrived.

Just when you are about to give up and get back under the sheets, the masseuse returns and takes you back to the dreaded locker room, where she invites you to use the sauna or steam room. I should have just left at this point, but I thought the sauna or steam room would help relax me after a stressful massage. I rush out of my robe and into a towel (again, trying to be as quick as possible to avoid everyone). There is a steam room and a sauna room – both have glass windows. I don’t really want to be in either of these rooms with anyone else, and I can’t confirm if there is anyone in the steam room (because the steam clouds my view), so I choose to go into the sauna (which is empty). But are you supposed to go in there with a towel or naked? I never know the rules for these things. I elect to go in with a towel (which I think is the right thing to do). So I’m sitting in there alone, FINALLY relaxing a little, when in walks a guy who is completely naked. Great. Of course, I can’t rush out, because that would be weird, too. But it’s also weird that I have a towel on and he doesn't. So I have to sit there for a few awkward minutes before finally leaving, making one last rapid towel-to-clothes exchange, and eventually get out of there. So I ask you, what is remotely relaxing about a massage??

September 18, 2008


There are two consecutive doors that lead into the entrance of the Ministry. I always question the appropriate etiquette when passing through these doors with other people.

There is one set of swinging glass doors, followed immediately by another set of glass doors that are only about 15 feet away. (I’m not sure what the logic is of having these double doors – maybe it’s to help for climate control or to prevent stuff from being blown in by the wind. I’ll have to look into the common sense of it all when I get some free time, because it’s damn annoying having to open two doors to get in and out everyday). Anyway, the doors are really heavy, and it’s kind of difficult to open them. So when someone is in front of me, and they hold the door until I can put my own hand on it, I always say thank you. Not a big, loud “THANK YOU!”, like they just did me the biggest favor in the world, but a simple, quiet “thanks”. I don’t expect them to say “You’re absolutely welcome” or anything like that – that type of exchange would begin to constitute a conversation, and I don’t really like people all that much, so I’m happy to steer clear of that. But sometimes they say “sure” or “no problem” or something, which is fine.

So if I say “thanks,” then I sure as hell expect others to say “thanks” when I hold the door for them. It irks me so much when I stop my walk and hold open this heavy-ass door for them for a second, only to not get a thank you. It makes me feel like such a fool and a sucker. If I don’t get a thank you on the first door, then I let the second door swing back on them, and they can deal with it themselves. Sometimes I think I hear them mumble a thank you, but I’m not really sure. When that happens, I only have 15 feet (or about 2.5 seconds) to make a decision how to handle the second door. In those circumstances, I usually hold it open again, to err on the side of caution. But if I sense a bad attitude, I might just let them deal with the second door on their own.

The double doors are so heavy and such a hassle that I time my walk based on the proximity of people around me. If I’m headed for the doors, and there is someone close behind me, I will often speed up my walk a bit to create enough space in between us so that I’m out of the range that would obligate me to hold the door open for them. Conversely, I will speed up my walk, if I see someone in front of me, so that I can quickly catch the open door behind them and not create one of those awkward moments where you are well behind the person, but they think you are in the range that obligates them to hold the door, then you see them standing there with the door open for seconds and seconds, and you have to make that mini-jog move to get to the door quickly, then you DO have to give them a big “THANK YOU!”, which is all just exhausting, so I try to avoid it. If I’m behind someone, and I think I’m on the border of the range of obligation, I will slow down big time (sometimes I even come to a full stop) in order to create a ton of space between me and the person in front of me, so that there is no doubt that they should NOT hold the door for me. I’d rather stand there and let them walk way ahead of me, rather than feel like I owe them something because they played doorman.

But getting back to the etiquette question and saying thank you – do you need to say “thank you” twice (once for each of the two doors that are held)? I go back and forth on this. If I say thank you on the first door that is held for me, and I feel like it’s heard and respected, then I might not say thanks again for the second door, which is only two seconds later. I feel it’s a little repetitive and unnecessary. They get the picture – I’m grateful – I didn't suddenly become ungrateful in the two seconds in between doors.

If I’m the one holding the doors, I definitely care if I hear a thank you on the first door, but I’m not expecting it (or needing it) on the second door. In fact, if I do get a thank you on the second door, it starts to be too much, and now I feel obligated to them to give them a big “you’re welcome” and all that crap.

It’s like when the guy around you sneezes, and you say “god bless you”, and then they sneeze right away again. You want to say “god bless you again”, but then you’re wondering if they have a third sneeze in them, and how much longer will this all go on. If you say the second “god bless you”, then you are committed, and I think you have to stick out the god bless yous or at least fain interest as they go on their sneeze run. I try to split the two strategies and give one initial “god bless you,” followed by a “god bless you, AGAIN!” and if there is a third sneeze, I usually say, “oh my!” and I get the hell out of there (for health reasons and because I have better things to do than to religiously preside over the guy’s allergies).

So, as for the doors, I think the proper etiquette is to say thanks for the first door held, but it is entirely optional for the second door. As for the door holder, it is entirely their option whether they say “you’re welcome” for the thank you(s) they receive, or they can say nothing at all. It is appropriate for the door holder to save up their welcomes and roll it all into one “you’re welcome” after the second door, but it is NOT appropriate for the person who is having the doors held open for them to save their “thank you” for one big one at the end. I never get to hear that anyway, as by that time, I’m letting the second door swing back on them. That is my common sense ruling on the matter.

September 11, 2008

Cell Phones in Elevators

People kill me. They just, plain kill me. How many times do we (as a society) need to complain about people and their cell phones in order for the idiots to finally “get it” and stop annoying the hell out of all of us? Here at the Ministry, we have issued so many bulletins on this topic, I can’t even keep up with all the button pushing that needs to happen to non-conformers.

Using a cell phone in an elevator is a classic example. It is the height of rudeness and arrogance to get on an elevator while talking on your cell phone, and it’s jaw-dropping how many people do it every day. And it’s always the same situation and conversation... the person gets on the elevator (filled with other people) and they are talking loudly on their cell phone. You all know what happens next, right?... the person says to the other person on the other line, “I just got on an elevator, so I might lose you.”

OK, so if you know you “might lose” the person on the other end of the line, then why are getting on the elevator in the first place?? If you are talking to the person on a cell phone then, by definition, you DON’T want to lose that person (otherwise, you would have ended the call already). So, if you don’t WANT to lose that person, then why are you willingly engaging in an activity that will almost certainly guarantee that you WILL lose them?? It’s fucking stupid. And I love it when they say, “I MIGHT lose you” – of course you will lose them! When has anyone ever been in an elevator and NOT lost them? It’s a goddamn given. Cell phones barely work outside, so what is it about getting inside a moving steel box surrounded by concrete that makes you think your cell phone will work?

The next stage in the cell-phone-elevator conversation is just as predictable. The cell phone user plays that game with themselves when they say (over and over again), “Hello?” “Are you there?” “Hello?” No, they are not there. You KNEW they would not be there – you even told them so yourself a second ago!

I haven’t even gotten to the part where all of this is totally annoying and rude to the other people on the elevator. I don’t want to hear your fucking conversation. In fact, I don’t want to hear anything at all. Have you ever noticed how quiet it is on an elevator with people in it? Why do you think that is? We weren’t taught to not talk on an elevator, it just feels like the right thing to do, right? That’s because it IS the right thing to do! The decision to be quiet on an elevator is just naturally “in us”. It’s innate. It’s natural. And some people are missing that gene, which just shocks the shit out of me.

One time, I would like to be on an elevator when it’s just me and the cell phone guy. And while he’s trying to talk on the phone, I’m going to start talking really loudly to no one in particular in order to mess up his call. Me talking out loud to no one is essentially the same thing that he is doing to me. (Of course, I won’t need to mess up his call - the bricks and mortar will do that on their own).

So, if you are talking on a cell phone, don’t get on the elevator! It’s so simple. We don’t want you on the elevator because you will annoy everyone. But even if you’re selfish and don’t care about other people, you shouldn’t want to get on the elevator because you will drop your call. Why would anyone ever decide to get on an elevator while on a cell phone? It’s illogical, stupid and rude – and I push the button on them all.

September 4, 2008

Drive-Thru Stupidity

I usually go to a Starbucks drive-thru before going to the Ministry, and I find it astounding that people fail to properly navigate it.

The shocking thing is that people often place their order at the intercom, then they don't pull up all the way to the car in front of them. This prevents me (or the next person in line) from pulling directly up to the intercom in order to place an order. Why on earth do people do this?? Certainly they have been subject to the same problem by other people who didn't pull up properly in the past visits, so why aren't they aware of this and correct the error within themselves?

Drive-thrus are built to handle an exact amount of automobiles between the order intercom and the pickup window, so if people consume more space than necessary by leaving a gap in front of them, then all the cars are misaligned after them and it screws everyone up.

I'm not sure if this is specific to my city or area, or perhaps it happens in other parts of the country. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I also find that it particularly happens in the morning at this Starbucks. It doesn't seem to happen at lunch at Taco Bell or other places. And it's not the shape of this particular Starbucks drive-thru that is the problem - yes, there is a curve to it, but just about every drive-thru has a curve somewhere between the order intercom and the pick-up window. Is it because it's the morning?? More than likely it's because people are just plain stupid.

When it happens, I can clearly see that they are not properly pulled up to the car in front of them. I would love to lay on the horn and get them to correct their idiocy, but at this point, the hood of my car is lined up with the intercom, so I know that if I did beep (obnoxiously), it would blow the eardrums out of the poor 16-year old girl on the headset inside. So all I can do is yell out the window, "PULL THE FUCK UP!". This has mixed results.

I would just love to poll these people after they are finished getting their order and ask them what the hell they are thinking. Are they completely ignorant that they screwed everything up for everyone behind them? Are they only interested in placing their order, then they forget the impact that their actions might have on everyone else afterwards? Are they "afraid" of pulling too close to the car in front of them?

I'm telling you, this happens just about every day - the consistency of their failure is infuriating, and I'm getting sick of all the resulting paperwork that I need to file first thing in the morning when I get to the Ministry. I have your license plate numbers, people.