Wednesday, April 04, 2007

One Spot, Two Spots, Red Spot, Blue Spot

I woke up a few days ago with a painful knot in my back. I could feel it just under my left shoulder blade, and I did my best to rub ointment on it, but nothing made it feel better. The next day I called my friend who is a licensed massage therapist and asked her if she would work on it. She agreed and rubbed on the knot for a while which helped, but I finally decided I need more serious attention.

Several years ago I was in a small car accident that left with me with excruciating back pain. I could barely move. That was the first time I ever agreed to see a chiropractor. He helped, but I was still in pain, so I sought out the help of an acupuncturist. I’ve never had a fear of needles (monkeys, on the other hand, scare the pee waddlin’ outta me) and I figured if it really hurt people wouldn’t have been doing it for thousands of years. (Then again, women do still keep having kids so…?)

Anyway, the acupuncturist worked his magic and I’ve been sold on it ever since, so yesterday I called my doc for an appointment. I was disappointed to learn he was on vacation and wouldn’t return for some time. Undeterred, I looked up another doctor and called to schedule an appointment. They agreed to see me yesterday afternoon.

I really, really, really wish I could tell you the name of the doctor I saw, but I can’t, so I’ll just try and come up with something equally ironic and perfect for a Chinese acupuncturist - his name was Dr. Buddha.

I noticed right away that, aside from the name, this doctor was different from the others I’ve seen. Namely, he was young; younger than me, at least. Every acupuncturist I’ve ever seen was an elderly Chinese man with a thick accent, and a wise yet kindly air. Dr. Buddha seemed a little awkward and nervous. Of course, when he began to question me about my bowel movements and asked me to show him my tongue, it was I who began to feel awkward and nervous.

After some questioning and a quick examination of my back he agreed I needed the needles and told me to take off my top, lie on the table, and he would return shortly. Uh…exsqueezeme? “Can I have a robe, or a sheet, or something?” I asked him as he began to exit. He seemed a little confused, but said he would go look for a robe. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was being prudish and all the other patients willingly stripped down for the doc without question, but I’d spent enough time with acupuncturists to know better. After a while he came back and informed me they had run out of robes (yeah right) and told me to go ahead and use a sheet.

A few minutes later I was half naked and face down on the table when he came in and began to insert the needles. He did an excellent job and didn’t hurt me at all, which pleased me tremendously. As he worked, he began to question me about my job. Clearly he had peeked at my paperwork while I was undressing. We chatted for a bit about my job, but it’s kind of hard to carry on a conversation when your face is planted in a cushioned mini toilet seat. After a few moments of silence he began to tell me about himself.

He is new to Bakersfield; came here four months ago from LA. He said he liked it because it was easier to live here. There’s a slower pace, less stress, and it s affordable. He does miss the beach, however. He also told me he was single and liked to play basketball in his spare time. I was starting to feel like I was on a blind date.

After he finished his work, he put a heat lamp on my back, turned down the lights and said he would be back in a while to check on me. This is my favorite part of acupuncture. The room is dimmed, Chinese ting tong music plays softly in the background, and you drift off and relax under the warmth created by the needles. Occasionally you’ll hear a slight rustle as the doctor peeks in to check on you, and twenty minutes later you awake refreshed and pain free. Usually.

I had just begun to doze off and allow a small pool of drool to gather on the floor below me when the door burst open and Dr. Buddha crashed into the room Kramer style. He scared the beejesus outta me. (I think I wet myself a little.) “How ya doing? Everything alright?” he asked. I couldn’t respond. I was still waiting for my heart to begin beating again. Then he asked me if the heat lamp was getting too hot for me. I told him I couldn’t feel it at all. “Oh” he said checking the lamp, “I forgot to plug it in.” If I could have I would have slapped my own forehead and said. “Doh!”

He left again and I relaxed a little, but not entirely. I was bracing myself for the next time he barged in. I listening to the music and felt the gentle breeze flowing through the open window. It was a lovely day. Then I began to hear a noise; a jangley noise that kept getting louder and louder. I couldn’t see, but I knew it was someone pushing a shopping cart full of bottles down the alley. Not a very relaxing sound, but one I would soon welcome. Just as the shopping cart slipped out of ear shot, the tape playing soft Chinese ting tong music came to abrupt stop. Seconds later what sounded like a giant horse fly flew in through the window and began to dive bomb my head. Or at least that’s what I imagined. All I could see was my pool of drool and the paper toilet seat face cover thing that had fallen off when Dr. Buddha burst in. By this point I was looking forward to his return.

I didn’t have to wait long. Dr. Buddha walked in and asked me how I was to which I replied excitedly. “There’s a huge fly in here!!” He seemed a little confused at first, then he head the pest buzzing loudly and discovered it trapped between the window and the blinds. “It’s stuck,” he told me, “but don’t worry, it won’t land on you.” I was very much relieved. I told Dr. Buddha not to worry about the fly but he spent the next five minutes bumbling loudly and pleading with the fly to vacate while I stared at his shoes. Finally he gave up and decided he would just turn the music back on and up to drown out the sound of the buzzing fly. I passed the next five minutes face down, half naked, listening to the blasting Chinese ting tong music, and a fly trapped next to window trying not to laugh out loud. “I am sooo blogging this.”

When Dr. Buddha returned and removed the needles he told me the massage therapist had left for the day so he was going to massage my back himself. “Really?” I thought, “How convenient!” As he rubbed my back I thought about how strange it was to have a younger man doctor massaging me. I can’t say it has ever happened before. Normally I don’t think about such things. Doctors are always elderly, a-sexual beings; to me anyway. This guy I wasn’t so sure about. Then again, I wasn’t complaining. The massage felt great.

Next, Dr. Buddha asked me if I was familiar with cupping. I told him that I was and I didn’t mind it, but once a doctor had accidentally burned me. He assured me he doesn’t use that type of cupping and reminded me that it leaves marks on the skin. I didn’t care. When I had it in the past the marks where about an inch across and didn’t last long; no big deal. The doctor attached three cups to my back then began pumping something causing the pressure to become greater and greater. It was nothing like the acupressure I had in the past. It didn’t hurt, but the pressure was pretty intense. I lay there another five minutes letting the cups work their magic while the doctor slipped out to startle another patient.

When I finally got off that table I left like I had been worked over by The Sopranos. I hurt, but in a good way. I knew the doc had totally kicked that knot’s ass. I was also exhausted and thirsty. I went straight home and drank several glasses of water and ate a healthy meal of salmon and veggies, then jumped in the shower. I couldn’t help but notice that my back felt very strange. When I got out of the shower I saw these on my back. You can’t tell, but that bottom one is about three inches across.

In case you’re wondering, I would totally go back. How else am I going to get such great stuff to blog about?