My mother has been bugging me to try acupuncture. She has a lovely acupuncturist down the street from her house, and she has found the practice and the treatment both beneficial and relaxing. She offered to gift me acupuncture at Christmas. It was a kind offer, but the office she frequents is a 20-minute drive from my house, and frankly, if I have two or three free hours, I’d rather take a nap.
But a few weeks ago I went to a sandwich shop down the street from my office and noticed that an acupuncture practice was right next door. A quick peek at the website confirmed it was convenient (open every day!) and inexpensive (sliding scale pay-what-you-want!) so I decided to give it a try.
I did have some trouble with the new patient paperwork. On the “Reason for Your Visit” line I wanted to write, “I have a full-time job, three small children and I really need a nap. Twelve needles and $15 is a small amount to pay!” but that wouldn’t fit (and I didn’t want to sound crazy), so I just wrote “Health Maintenance.”
The office receptionist, Norm, was a soft-spoken man sitting with a crocheted orange, yellow and green afghan on his lap. The practice owner looked exactly like Louis C.K., which was excellent and weird all at the same time. A rush of white noise met me when I walked into the big, dimly lit treatment room of 20 blanket-covered recliners. About five of the recliners held peacefully napping patrons. A brief consult, chair choice, pulse check, tap tap tap of 11 needles and away I went to slumberland. Only I didn’t.
Am I tired? I don’t feel tired. But this chair is comfortable.
That needle in my hand still stings a little. I think. Does it sting a little? I don’t know. He said to make purposeful eye contact if it hurt. Does it hurt?
I’ll give it a minute.
I wonder how many white noise machines he has.
Probably eight. Sounds like eight.
Shouldn’t I be drowsy by now?
My head itches.
I can’t even remember where he put the needles.
I should get a tuna sandwich next door after I’m done here.
I think I’ll be here about 20 minutes, but I don’t know exactly how long 20 minutes is and I’m sitting here with needles in me and I can’t check so I might as well relax.
You only have 18 minutes left to nap. So nap already.
I suppose if I can’t nap I can at least meditate. This room is dark and warm and cozy and apparently I forgot all about that needle in my hand.
Or did I?
Right. Back to the meditation.
Each thought is a maple leaf floating down a bubbling woodland brook. Look a leaf! And another leaf and…
I think I’ll put pickles on my sandwich.
A leaf, I’m thinking about floating leaves.
I should have eaten lunch before my appointment.
Hear the bubbling brook, let the thoughts flow away from me. Like leaves in a brook. Goodbye thoughts.
It must be 78 degrees in here. That’s a nice warm, nappy temperature.
My head still itches.
How long have I been here?
Am I actually paying to nap in a room full of strangers? I guess I am. Except I’m not napping.
I’m going to write about this.
But I should probably be sleeping, not writing blog posts in my head and pretending to nap.
Leaves. I’m thinking about leaves.
Mr. Louis C.K. Acupuncture must have to fold 150 blankets a day.
At least they’re squares.
Alright, the leaf thing clearly isn’t happening.
Has it been enough time? Is it time to make purposeful eye contact?
Did someone just shuffle by me? I think they did. Oh God, was I mouth-breathing? I might have been mouth-breathing.
Oh well. They don’t know me.
Maybe I’ll get a salad for lunch. Is my head ever going to stop itching?
I wonder how much money this place makes.
Do you think he bought the recliners off of craigslist? Maybe he did. I should count the recliners. There are probably 20.
I’ll half-open my eyes and count the ones on the other side of the room.
I should be sleeping. I’ve probably been here about 10 minutes, but I really have no idea.
It is pretty cozy though.
And it is peaceful.
And it is better than eating a sad desk lunch.
I’m definitely going to get tuna. I haven’t had tuna in eons.
Is it time? It must be time. My head still itches. Why does my head itch? If I get lice from these fleecy blankets I’m going to be annoyed. Okay. Time for purposeful eye contact I think.
I’ll open my eyes slowly, pretend to look rested, get the needles removed and go get a tuna fish sandwich.
Does anyone say “tuna fish” anymore? Is that redundant? Does that make me sound 80? I used the word “hamburg” – as in ground beef, not the city – the other week and my sister asked me when I turned 75 years old. Is “tuna fish” like that?
Oh, I was going to open my eyes.
And like that it was over. Purposeful eye contact was made, Louis C.K. Acupuncturist pulled out the needles, told me to take my time and stretch, and laid a comforting hand on my ankle.
And I felt?
Fine. Hungry. Pretty relaxed, actually. The crick in my neck felt better; at least I think it felt better.
So I decided I’m going to go back. Once a week. For a nap, or not. The cozy stillness is good for me, and I bet the acupuncture is, too.
But I’ll remember to eat lunch first.
Health maintenance, indeed!