February 29, 2008

Lost in Translation, without Sofia Coppola...

In Paris, I live a few streets away from Europe's biggest China Town. Thus it is hardly surprising that a mere 3-minute stroll from my front door leads me to a Thai Nail Bar. Just like in LA. Except that at this nail bar you can also have a Chinese, Indian or Japanese massage.

Last week, I decided to treat myself and booked a 1-hour Chinese massage for Saturday morning. I arrived for my massage on said morning, to find 3 clients having their nails done and one very surprised-looking Asian man folding hand towels at a table. He asked me if I had booked for the massage and I replied in the affirmative. Then he said something else, but all I understood was "wait for the girls to arrive, I am the only man". I know it's rich for me to say I don't understand accents in French when I am the unwilling owner of one myself... but I really battle to understand Asian accents in French. I asked how long the girls might take and got another answer I didn't understand. Lost in Translation, take 1.

Not one to kick up a fuss on a peaceful Saturday morning, I plonked myself into a comfy seat and started gawking at the Roadrunner cartoon on the muted, massive flatscreen TV that graced the stylish nailbar. Obviously I hadn't washed my hair - I was about to have a head massage, you understand - and knowing that my bed-head in conjunction with my puffy, sleepy face wasn't really presentable, I kept my coat and hat on. I have this kind of a hat, called a "casquette Gavroche" after the Les Miserables character:

I must have looked quite the twit, sitting in an armchair in a nailbar, clad in coat and gavroche, staring at a muted cartoon network screen. I didn't care though - exposing my hair was simply not an option and I was getting really caught up in my thoughts about violence in cartoons and other profound contemplations. Mr Asia offered me what I understood to be a glass of water and I gladly accepted. He returned with an unidentified lukewarm beverage which was not tea. Lost in Translation, take 2.

After an age, one of the other clients was ready to have the 20 minute massage that came with her special set of fake nails and so she asked about how many people in the salon performed massages. Mr Asia repeated that he was the only man and three women worked with him. At which point the 20-min massage special client turned to me and said,
I'm not sure you understood, but what he was saying before is that he can massage you, but if you prefer a woman, you would have to wait.

Well, no, I had not understood that. So I jumped up and made it clear that I didn't care if I was massaged by a man or woman, as long as I was massaged. And after a half hour of unnecessary silent cartoon watching, we finally got down to essentials. Just as well, because I thought I was going to expire in my hat and coat.

The massage went very well, until Mr Asia spoke to me.
pkdfiein dfi ffefojd sport ihcdo

I said nothing.
Mr Asia repeated,
pkdfiein dfi ffefojd sport ihcdo

I grunted in reply, trying to make the grunt as neutral as possible.

Not 5 minutes later and my very competent masseur spoke to me again. This time he needed me to do something that sounded like,
Heat, hard.

I had no idea what he wanted me to heat and how, seeing as I had no access to a radiator, so I lay dead-still, hoping he would forget the whole heat thing.
Unfortunatly he didn't. He repeted his request and then demonstrated a deep exhalation and blew air all over my back.
Heat, hard

was actually
breathe deeply.
Lost in Translatin, take 3.

When, towards the very end of the treatment he held my leg and shook it around and my hip-flexor ligament gave an unpleasant twinge that made me wince and he said,
It's normal, you haven't done sport in a long time

I knew I had been Lost in Translation a fourth time.

Happy Leap Year Day!

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