Ocean, NJ

If there are people who would turn down a foot massage, I don’t know any of them. It could be because, mmm, most the people I know are my clients, other massage therapists, or people closer to the fiend-end of the massage spectrum than phobe-end. Many of these people have also been to Southeast Asia where foot massage is as common as coffee and rarely a disappointment. Of that group, most of us have been looking to replicate it ever since.

So when a friend told me about a place in Ocean, NJ – “We’ve been going to this place for foot massages…It’s called Foot Rub” I told another friend who just wrapped up two months in Thailand. When we both happened to be off from work at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, the planning went like this:

“What should we do?”

“Hm…sauna? Food? Foot massage?”

“Foot massage?!”

“It’s called “Foot Rub.”

“Want me to pick you up?”

Shameless geekdom. Partly because we’re geeks and partly because we would almost rather get massaged than eat.

She showed up in her red pod of a Hyundai, Trevor Hall playing on the radio, malas and Krishna around her neck. “I don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into, but I can’t wait.”

We walked into the neon-signed spaced with the basic safety rule – 30 minutes. Don’t commit to the hour. Your time is precious and so is massage. Make sure they are worth one another.

Here, it was and it wasn’t. The space was sparse but clean, the soundtrack all tinny chimes and windy wizard-breath sounds, not so unlike the off-the-cuff places in Southeast Asia. What wasn’t expected was how disturbed the one therapist seemed that we walked in. It was as if we showed up an hour late for an appointment. Only it’s a walk-in place and no one else was there. She barely looked at us, kicked the ottomans away from the two window-front chairs as a “sit down” gesture, and walked into the back of the store. We slowly sat down as if moving slowly would prevent anything weird from happening. As we whispered shouted our debate on whether or not to leave, another therapist walked into the front room, looked at us and smiled.

Let’s just focus on her.

This nice woman was my therapist. (I owe my friend big time.) After soaking my feet in a wooden basin lined with a plastic bag – it may sound trashy but it is actually sanitary and very common in Asia – she propped them on a weathered ottoman, covered one foot with a towel, and started massaging the other. It wasn’t a technical wonder. But it was good enough. She massaged every muscle from my knees to my toes, dragging her knuckles through the arches of my feet, smoothing over the tops, smacking my heels, and palming my lower legs. She even made a little finale out of tossing each foot in the air, flipping it from side to side. “At least yours had a little pizzaz,” my friend said afterwards. This therapist also sold herself more boldly than I ever have. “More time? No? Fifteen minutes for your shoulders would be good.” She may have been right, but after a quick sideways grimace from my friend, that wouldn’t have been a kind choice.

Should you run not walk to Foot Rub? If you walk, and get the right person, you won’t feel like you misused any energy. After a long day at work, a race, a lot of stress, or whatever it is that makes us need a little self care, a 30-minute foot massage for $30 (not including tip) would be silly to avoid, Queen Helene cream and all.

“Your massage actually looked good,” my friend said, after we admired the way her therapist threw a towel onto her lap an an X-ray mat. “Like she was actually trying. And she was nice.”

She was and she was. Ask for Shirley.


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