This morning I was a guinea pig and wore a paper thong. Mom and I made massage appointments at Estetica Corpural in Galeria Balboa to cash in on OfertaSimple coupons that were about to expire. When I called about a month ago to make two back-to-back appointments I was told this wasn’t possible — that there was only one masseuse and that they don’t schedule her back-to-back, that she needs an hour break in between. Mom calls a few weeks later and gets what she wants. When I hear this I give myself the experience of being given the shaft as a *gringa* in Panama. I know others complain about unequal treatment towards non-natives. Now I may start to complain about it was well.
Mom offers to drive so I pack her scooter in the car and we head off down Cinta Costera. At some point, she asks me for directions, if she should u-turn or keep straight. I tell her to u-turn since I think it’s shorter. Unfortunately, it’s not; we’re forced by a policeman to go left when we want to turn right and travel in 2 huge circles to finally reach the clinic. I admit that the other route would have been faster and Mom responds with an unexpected “I-told-you-so” type comment. “When I leave the house it’s almost like I need to have an internal map in my head of where I’m going” she says. Um, then next time, please don’t ask me for directions and them blame me when we get re-routed. Deal? Deal.
We finally arrive and I unload Mom’s scooter. It’s dead. She forgot to charge it last night — although she never forgets to charge her iPad — so I put it in neutral and push her into the building. This is kind of fun until I drop my beloved green glass bottle from Uruguay and it shatters into a million little pieces. The fun is over. We’re late, I’m now a bit frazzled, I just lost my bottle and I can feel my blood sugar dropping from skipping breakfast. Suddenly, 9:00 am on a Thursday is the perfect time for a massage.
Once inside Mom says I can go first. I’m escorted to my room, told to get undressed and to put on the paper thong lying on the bed. I’ve never used a paper thong in a massage before — only in waxing appointments — but I have to say it’s a nice touch. I mean it’s always a bit weird to have that area totally exposed. Am I right? With my thong on, I start climbing onto the bed. The masseuse enters mid-climb catching me naked. This is a little bit uncomfortable but fortunately, I’m not a shy person so I recover quickly.
Masseuse is nice but the service is terrible. She rubs me — spending a lot of time on my ankles — rather than really massaging me and then places warm rocks on my back and legs. She then leaves the room — for, like 20 minutes. Once the rocks get cold, I decide this is weird, not what I signed up for or got naked for so I start to shout “Hello” from my head-down position on the table. After the fifth “Hello” Masseuse re-enters the room. “Where did you go?” I ask in Spanish. She says something about having to clean the rocks. I’m glad to know the rocks are clean but mention that it would have been nice if she’d stayed in the room to attend to my feet, arms, hands, head or any other part of my unexposed and uncovered body. She does not respond.
After a bit more rubbing and before I know it, my *massage* is over. Humph. I head back to the waiting room and report to Mom that it was weak. I tell her about the rocks and that, supposedly, that’s the type of service the coupon entitles us to. Mom is no stranger to massage; she has her own table here at the house and her therapist Aurora on speed-dial. She is also very good at getting what she wants — in a very pleasant way, of course. Thirty-five minutes later, she returns to the waiting room and thanks me for the heads-up. She told Masseuse she didn’t want to use rocks and received a deep tissue rub — still not a massage — instead.
“What did we pay for those coupons?” Mom asks in the car. “Eighteen dollars,” I respond. “Well, that’s ok but it was worth about eight.”