Columnist for Thursday, 2/1 - jims

Stillness and Soaking Etiquette

Over the years, I have been a fan of a good soak. By soak, I mean finding a warm body of water in which to place my body. Often, this involves being nekkid. Santa Cruz is a good town for this sort of activity, there are many good businesses which provide either private hot tubs or communal tubs. Among my favorites are Kiva, Well Within, and Tea House Spa. For a more natural environment, the Eastern Sierras can not be beat.

Just recently, I decided to go relax at Kiva after a physically active day to soothe various aches and pains. Kiva has a great communal area with grass, a quiet area, a large tub where people talk, and a sauna. Of these, the sauna provides an interesting study in human interaction. The building is small, wooden, and has a central heat pit with stones which is surrounded by three benches which comfortably sit two people each. Three people can bit fit onto a bench, if they do not sit cross legged and are not too big.

The best time for being in the sauna is when it is fairly empty. However, more than likely, you will have other people in there. When I enter the sauna, I only proceed in if there is somewhere to sit. I find that it is difficult to relax standing in intense heat. An additional important factor is that it is difficult to be still when just standing there. I have noticed those that wander in and stand are just hovering, waiting for someone to leave. There must be something in their reptilian little brains that figures if they are annoying enough, someone will get disgusted and wander out. It seems to work, so I guess I can't fault the logic.

Something that is lacking, however, is that the sauna is meant as a quiet place. People are often in there, relaxing, meditating, connecting with their inner reptile. Hovering, shifting, making noise is just plain rude. I guess I expect too much out of people.

When people like this do get a seat, do you think they sit quietly? If you guess no, you are probably correct. They proceed to shift and fidget and seem incapable of relaxing. Why the hell are these people visiting a place like this in the first place?

Rude behavior is not limited to saunas. One of the best things about the Eastern Sierra Nevada's are hot springs. There are a number of springs, in various states of development, found in some amazingly beautiful locals. A recent trip to Death Valley resulted in friends taking me a hot spring outside of Mammoth. The stories my friends told of past visits played up the location, and I was not disappointed. The countryside, mixed with the hot spring, were a joy to watch.

As beautiful as it was, there was one pretty major blemish. Idiots in the hot spring. A group of guys who had been traveling, bouldering, and soaking, were in the tubs. They were drunk. All they could talk about was the quality of the soak (not that I disagreed) and the proximity of quality bouldering (another thing I can not disagree with). The problem was, this was all they could talk about. Drunks, being mentally limited to begin with, are not capable of creativity. Things became quickly repetitive.

Shortly thereafter, a local family showed up with their children. The father politely asked how long people were going to be soaking, with the idea that his children would be soaking and he did not want to disturb those of us in the tub. This is perfectly reasonable. Those of us soaking just told him to let the kids in. (I won't get into the whole thing about kids and water and free flowing bladders.) At the time, that was fine. However, kids mixed with drunks is not a good thing. The topic of conversation changed, but the drunks encouraged children. After a bit, deciding things were hopeless, my friend and I decided it was best to wander on.

What is the point of this ranting? I have no idea. The arguments themselves are sub par. But, when it comes to soaking and spending time in a sauna, there are people wanting to *relax*. It seems like people in this day and age are taking their cluelessness and rude behavior with them wherever they can.


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