Massage Matters

Mindful musings on massage, muscles, and moxie

The Knot Whisperer Rides!

The Knot Whisperer Rides!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gimmicks, Gimcrackery, and Goodness

The most important consideration about a massage is whether it is good. But what constitutes a “good” massage? The short answer is that it does what you, the client, want/need. The longer answer requires answering in the affirmative to questions such as the following. Were the techniques, modalities, and level of pressure appropriate for what you hoped the massage would accomplish? Did you feel like the therapist had really listened to you and did what you’d asked? Did you feel better (more relaxed, experiencing less discomfort) not only immediately after the massage but in the day or two following? Did your therapist do everything she could to make you comfortable?

Beyond such considerations, there are a variety of extras that may enhance the massage for you, everything from the overall environment of the massage space to the kind of linens used. Such so-called extras can even be therapeutic in the hands of someone professionally trained to, for instance, use essential oils for aromatherapy. The trick is to distinguish between tools that are used with professionalism and knowledge and those that are mere gimcrackery—for instance, the application of tuning forks by someone not trained in sound therapy.

Gimmicks should also be viewed with caution. All too often, the word “gimmick” bears greatest resemblance to the part of its definition delineating it as “a concealed, usually devious aspect” of a deal—for instance, “massage” parlors that offer 24-hour service. But a gimmick doesn’t necessarily have to be a bellwether for something subpar. A gimmick that is “an ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem” used to increase the genuine appeal of a service or product or that incidentally draws attention to something of real value doesn’t warrant the same sort of caution as its less respectable counterpart. In other words, a gimmick can also be an honest means to a good end.

For example, my recent venture of delivering massage to clients in their homes via bicycle could at first glance be construed as a gimmick. And in the sense that transporting a massage table via bicycle is a novel way to do so, it is, in fact, a gimmick. But the motivation for buying a Dutch WorkCycles bike so that I could haul a massage table was not to bring attention to my massage business—though doing so would without a doubt be a happy by-product. Further, it is the quality of my massage—not the fact that I ride a crazy-cool massage-table-carrying bicycle—that persuades people to schedule with me.

So if not primarily for the publicity, why have I embarked on this enterprise? In the main, I have done so because (1) I love bicycling, (2) I hated having to burn fossil fuels in order to go just a few miles to a client’s home, and (3) I work with a lot of athletes and so I feel using my own power to move about adds to my credibility with them. As it turns out, the bakfiets (pronounced bahk-feets and translated as “box bike”) is also incredibly fun to ride!

On the bakfiets, you sit much lower than on a “regular” bike, similar to someone riding a chopper. It is a position that makes me feel relaxed and incapable of hurry, as though I were piloting a ship. And though I’ve not carried as much as the 300-pound load limit, for the most part, I haven’t felt especially burdened by whatever I’ve carried in the box so far. (I’ve taken my five-year-old nephew for rides and used it to carry nearly a hundred pounds of groceries, as well as having transported my massage table.)

In addition to the physical pleasure of the ride, there is the added pleasure of reaping oodles of positive attention and admiration. The day after my partner Kathy and I purchased the bakfiets, I rode it about five miles to the Trader Joe’s grocery in Park Ridge, IL, with Kathy accompanying me on her own bicycle. Though I wasn’t aware of it, Kathy tells me I “turned a lot of heads.” I couldn’t help but notice, however, the things people called out as we passed by. “That is the best bike ever!” “Awesome bike!” “Where did you get that bike? Did you have it specially made?” “Did you build that bike yourself?” I even drew amused chuckles from an elderly woman waiting for her bus. At stoplights, I was engaged in lengthier conversations with nearby motorists. At Central Avenue and Northwest Highway, a Vietnamese man told me the bike reminded him of a kind of bike used in his homeland, and at Raven Avenue, a pale man with dreadlocks quizzed me about where to purchase such a vehicle. There were also questions about what I used the box to carry. The latter sort of question has mostly ceased since I mounted my banners on it, with my logo and the declaration “Pedaling massage to you,” but passersby are no less amazed by the vehicle itself or by its purpose.

When I first used the bike for its intended purpose, I received surprisingly little notice. First, it was near rush hour on a weekday, and not on the weekend as when I’d ridden it otherwise, and so people were more in hurry (hence the rush in “rush hour”!) and less inclined to stop and marvel. Second, I took more residential streets to get to my client’s home so there were simply fewer people out and about. When I arrived at my destination, though, the eleven-year-old boy who lives there was rendered nearly speechless by how “cool” my mode of transport was.

Since that first trip, and since affixing the banners, in addition to the comments about the bike itself, I’ve gotten many comments from strangers on the street and in parking lots about what a neat thing I’m doing and what a great way to advertise. The banners have even generated some networking. In the parking lot of the Trader Joe’s in Wrigleyville, a musician who composes music for massage and relaxation, Michael Strening Jr. (, approached me to pass along his business card and ask for mine. Now he’s spreading the word about me and I am buying his CD of piano compositions to use in my massages and to sell.

Even at this early stage of my latest endeavor, it’s clear that the “gimmick” of this strange cargo bike is generating a little buzz for me. And that’s nice. But in the end, what will really matter is whether I give the people what they want: a darn good massage.

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