I’m in a massage parlor of sorts but there’s not even a lude curtain in sight. Instead, there’s a lookout to terminal six where planes line up, load up and ship out in a constant stream of activity. An elderly gentleman has been sitting at the end of the row of seats and he has no qualms about freeloading. The departures board at Auckland International Airport is whirring with boarding instructions. Our flight lounge hasn’t even been announced yet. Time is in abundance, I need to kill some. A soothing visit to the Massage Cafe will limber our muscles before flying, I consider. My husband and I make a beeline for two souped up lazy boys. The electronic screen next to the coin slot orders me to relax in an authoritative digital scrawl. I obediently lean back, open my book and wait.
The large black leather chair tilts back and swallows me whole. Plastic shackles clasp my ankles and proceed to squeeze the air out of my previously circulating legs. Large fists punch through my back, pummeling from side to side. A machine is battering my body and charging me one dollar for three minutes worth. I am likely to pay double for it to stop half way, but that is not an option. At the end a muffled robotic voice asks me to pay money or exit the chair. “You didn’t ask the elderly man to move, did you?” I enquire. A man in a black shirt with a badge emerges from a door. He applies a damp cloth with disinfectant to clean the comfy looking chairs. The mooching elderly gentleman is suddenly nowhere to be seen. This experience has taught me that man is superior to machine, when it comes to massages anyway. No more coins enter the slot. I return to the less plush seating for a comfortable wait.