I call it pins and needles, though I couldn’t tell you the technical term for those sharp objects practitioners stick in us. Pin? Needle? Whatever. You get the point if you’re lying there.
I decided to try it a few months back and, as my choice of venue, entered a “fast-food” style acupuncture establishment. These locations are cheaper by far, but you don’t get the one-on-one handholding (er… puncturing) you get at a more expensive joint.
Instead, you enter a room with six La-Z-Boys covered in moss-covered sheets, are offered a neck warmer as a collar of comfort, and lean back until you are almost on your back looking up. There is also a single bed for those who prefer it–and they’re out there–but for the most part, your fellow acu-nauts, like you, get La-Z.
When the guy with the needles sits by your side, he will whisper the gateway words: “How you doing?” Woe is he who dares ask a patient how he’s doing. Would he be decked out like a filet awaiting skewers if he were “doing” at all? No. But it is a formality. A protocol to be observed.
When I am stuck to my chair like a bug to an entomologist’s cardboard, I often hear the whispered laments of other patients: “Buzz, buzz, buzz, my back… buzz, buzz, my stomach…buzz stress…buzz, buzz, buzz, my shoulder, elbow, knee, arthritis.” After a few questions and assurances, the pointillist tears open the new, germ-free needles and selects his points of entry.
Which brings us to another quirk of “Acupuncture with the People.” All you do is roll up your pant legs to the knee and sleeves to the elbows. All pins go on these extremities (and, occasionally, your face). It seems limited in its way, and I imagine, though can’t prove due to my penury, that people with private sessions get more pins over more real estate than we do. In that sense, I envision something similar to a massage, where you get down to the essentials and the doctor finds every tributary known to Chinese man.
No, they’re not called tributaries. Meridians. Like you’re a globe. A map. A cartographer’s pin cushion.
It’s a relaxing hour, anyway. You know. Lying peacefully to the soundtrack of Chinese music and the sounds of water falling, trilling, flowing. And birds, too, like the dawn of the ages.
Very Zen. Zen interrupted, that is, by the creak of La-Z-Boys (people getting up, people lying down), by the buzz-buzz-buzz of lamentations, by the whispers of comfort, and, now and then, by stentorian snoring.
Me, I can’t sleep. I don’t do it very well in my own bed at 3 a.m., never mind in a room with six other pilgrims seeking succor in ancient Chinese wisdom. But it’s all one, and it all becomes a habit, after awhile.