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Thumbs of Steel

Story ID:5388
Written by:John Ward (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Travel
Location:Taipei Taiwan
Year:1999
Person:The Masseuse
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Some may think I did it on purpose to avoid lugging baggage, but I assure you I didn’t. We were just about to drive from our home in Colorado to Salt Lake City to catch China Air to Taiwan. I bent over to pick up the first suitcase and before I even touched the handle my back locked! My poor wife had to pack the car by herself, help me in, bent at a 90 degree angle and drive the 10 hours to Salt Lake City without help. I had to lie in the reclined seat the whole way and, upon arrival, be helped into our hotel room.

The next day we boarded the plane with me doubled over, walking like I was searching the breezeway for a contact lens. China Air is a bit behind the rest of the world and still doesn’t know that they are supposed to staff their cabin crew with homely, bitter, old gorgons equipped with permanent sneers. This flight crew consisted of pretty young women, dressed in beautifully embroidered floor-length, silk gowns, sporting pleasant smiles and caring attitudes. China Air is also behind in that, when they realized I couldn’t sit up, they gave us seats behind a huge empty exit area and I was allowed to lie on my back on the floor of the plane with my legs in my seat. As a nod to air safety the seat belt went around my feet, so if there was an accident at least my feet would be saved, neatly laced into my $60 sneakers.

The Pacific crossing was so long that by the time we got to Taipei we had passed backwards through several time zones. That combined with jet lag gave the impression that we had arrived Thursday a week before we left.

Taipei is hot and humid and we threw up our hands and thanked God that our hotel room had air conditioning. While at reception my wife saw a placard stating that massages are available upon request and when we got into the room I ordered one immediately. In about 15 minutes there was a knock at the door. Val opened the door, walked back into the room and burst out laughing.
“Your massage therapist is here” she chimed “and her guide…”

“Her guide?” I asked. A man walked in leading a slender woman in a tight, red cocktail dress. The woman was blind. When the man left, Val just said: “I’m going to look at the stores,” burst out laughing again and made for the door. “Don’t leave me, what are you doing? This is not what I ordered; I need a real massage….” But it all fell on deaf giggling ears as Val left me confident I’d deal with the situation.

When we were alone, the woman moved to the other bed and started trying to find me by touch. I approached her, bent over like a kid playing a chronic game of Leap Frog and took her arm. I guided her to my bed and lay face down. I was naked except for a towel around my waist. She sat beside me and started trying to determine my body orientation by feel. As soon as she found my head she went to work. By God could she massage! I had trouble keeping the towel on and then it struck me: The woman is blind what am I thinking? I let the towel fall to the floor. She kept a running Mandarin monologue with no one in particular, which at first was a little frightening, but after a while I grew accustomed to the diatribe and amused myself by adding phrases like: “Really? I had one of those but the wheels fell off.”

At one point, for greater leverage, she climbed onto the bed and as I looked over my shoulder, she hiked up that tight dress, spread her thighs and straddled my legs! I suffered one of those curiosity / decorum battles, but in the end fatigue and pain won out and I just lay flat on my stomach. Her thumbs seemed to be made of steel and felt like one inch ball-bearings being forced into my spine.

Suddenly, and for no particular reason I could identify, the woman jumped off me and started walking in circles, talking loudly in Mandarin while slapping her left arm with the palm of the right, like an Italian hinting at the size of his member. I got up and said: “What? What’s wrong? Is the air conditioning too high? What is it?” All this punctuated by her loud squawking and arm slapping.

As a last resort I led her to the bathroom and closed the door. Suddenly, through the thin door, there was the sound of a strong, thick stream of urine that lasted about fifteen minutes and would have made any prostate owner jealous. A vision of an incontinent racehorse jumped to mind and I determined that they hadn’t let the poor woman use the bathroom in a week. I became concerned when the hiss of urine escaping went on for so long, mainly because my session with her was only an hour and her guide would be back to retrieve her before my back was done.

When the peeing stopped, the sink tap went on; there was splashing and then the door opened. I had moved back to my bed, by the time the woman exited the bathroom. I realized then that she had no spatial memory whatsoever, because she walked straight into the wall opposite, turned left and walked into the door, turned left and walked into the bathroom wall. By this time I had struggled back to her and taken her arm again. It was at this point that I started looking for Alan Funt and the candid camera crew.

Back at the bed she started to massage my upper back and I tried to explain that the pain was in the lower part and that she only had to concentrate there. I might as well have been trying to explain the theory of relativity to a gerbil. After much failed communication she went in search of the hotel phone, dialed a number and extended the receiver in the direction she thought I was.

I took the phone and heard: “How do you going? Maybe I helping to you sir?” “Yes” I said, “Please let the masseuse know that I want my lower back worked on, nothing else.” “You have your back on? I will tell she to coming down.” “No, wait…” I exclaimed, “She is not finished yet, I just want her to know that she need not massage anything else on me, just where my back joins my buttocks…” “Oh no sir she no massage buttock, she plofessional …” “No, no, no, I don’t want her to massage anything but my back… where it is closest to my buttocks.” “Ah yes, please to letting me speak to lady.”

I handed the woman the receiver and she got into a heated exchange with the receptionist. In about five minutes she extended the phone into the air, which I took as my cue to take it and hang it up.

Back down I lay, back over me she squatted, getting right to work with those thumbs of steel. The pain was so excruciating that if she had understood English I would gladly have confessed to knocking off Jimmy Hoffa or anything else she wanted, but any confession in English would have entailed another call to reception, so I held my peace.

At the appointed time her guide came and knocked on the door. She gathered herself and walked in the direction of the knock. I offered to pay, but was told it would be added to my hotel bill. I thanked them and searched the room for hidden cameras while I waited for my treacherous wife to return.

The next day I could stand! I was badly bruised, but I could stand erect, like the rest of my species. It was wonderful to feel human again.

Val and I met an American man who insisted he was not CIA, although from his wealth of knowledge regarding just about everything on the planet, we were sure he was. He told us that in China, traditionally, if a person is born blind, they are immediately trained to be massage therapists which explained my masseuse. It is felt their lack of sight makes their sense of touch much more acute and effective.

In fact, the next time you are in Taipei, go to any of the many temples in the city and you will find rows of blind people sitting with a little box in front of them, waiting for a client to sit down and pay them for a 15 minute shoulder rub.