Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Gift Certificate

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you are probably aware that I posses a debilitating fear of spas and massages stemming from my very first experience that can be found here:
So when I set out a few days ago to purchase a gift certificate for my wife’s birthday, I was already apprehensive about stepping through the front door. As I feared, it was awkward…..
I arrived at the establishment around 2:00 that afternoon and as I walked in the front door I was immediately struck by the total lack of any ambient noise. Aside from an almost subliminally quiet piano track, the only auditory stimulus was the rhythmic crinkling of aluminum foil as a woman in the corner was having coloring maintenance done. I sheepishly approached the front counter where I attempted to engage the “relaxation hostess” in conversation. This was made somewhat difficult because she was positioned behind a computer monitor so large it looked like it had been stolen from the wall of a sports bar.
I explained that I needed a gift certificate and she advised me that she would be with me in just a moment. As she fielded a phone call, I glanced around the room and realized that although there were about a half-dozen patrons and employees, no one was saying a word. Most of the women in the chairs were staring glassy-eyed at a muted television above the beautification area as their chosen hairstylist silently orbited their scalps.
The lone customer in the lobby had looked up from her magazine and was staring at me as if she expected me to either produce a handgun and demand cash or issue her a pamphlet on where she would spend eternity and for the record I suspect she would have viewed either act in equally bad taste. As the hostess fielded a second phone call, I could feel myself being unnerved by the eerie silence and I began to imagine that one of the back rooms was soundproofed and probably used for live organ transplants.
Finally, the receptionist hung up the phone and just as I began to re-approach the counter, two women emerged from the spa area in the back. After only a few seconds of their dialogue I immediately regretted my disdain for the eerie silence that had preceded it. The employee was leading the woman to the register to settle the tab and their conversation was progressing something like this:
Customer:”My face feels so fresh and clean.”
Employee:  “You look radiant!”
Customer: “That olestra-lemonade oil peel really did the trick.”
Employee: “You look stunning, absolutely stunning!”
Customer: “I certainly feel relaxed.”
Employee: “You look wonderful!”

This exchange continued to escalate until the employee had safely secured her tip and the customer was safely out the door. This entire ordeal only served to prolong my agony as they needed to utilize the very cash register that was required to issue my gift certificate.
At long last it was my turn and we began the arduous process of issuing a gift certificate. At her request, I provided my full name, address, and telephone number along with the full name of the certificate’s recipient. She walked me through the packages they offered (all with relaxation inducing names like “Day at the Beach” and “Island Getaway”) and I made my selection.
Then, just as I thought I was in the clear, she looked at me and said, “You just wanted this to say ‘From Jeremy’ right?” I was not sure whether this lady was just oblivious to our entire conversation or my wife had a secret lover named Jeremy, either way I was determined to get my gift certificate and get the hell out of there before someone started eyeing one of my kidneys. I replied that I would feel more comfortable if the gift certificate had my name on it and that Jeremy could pay for his own “Day at the Beach.” Although immediately puzzled, she recovered and admitted that she forgot my name was Brian.
Finally, she handed me the gift certificate and I made it safely back to my car. I think that transaction was the least relaxed I had been all week.

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