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NNSL photo/graphic


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Can a human love a machine?

Charlotte Hilling
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - When Yellowknifer heard about the Racquet Club's automatic massage machine it seemed only right that it should be tested by us so we could give the all-clear to the public - and so the love affair began.

NNSL photo/graphic

Lorri Kamitomo says she loves the automatic massage bed at the Racquet Club. - Charlotte Hilling/NNSL photo

It was a mild Sunday afternoon when Yellowknifer showed up to meet Racquet Club owner Kelli Hinchey who praised the massage bed.

"I love it," she said. "I wanted to have a massage therapist here but we don't have enough space."

She said it was perfect for people on the go.

"Obviously it does not replace a massage therapist," she said. "The session is 33 minutes which is not the full hour, which is convenient because some people don't have the time," she said.

The bed arrived at the club in July and came with a $5,000 price tag.

"To be honest with you I was skeptical when I heard about it, but I absolutely loved it when I tried it," she said.

Hinchey kindly offered Yellowknifer a trial run.

"You can do lower body, you can do upper body or you can do full body." she said. "There's quite a lot of pressure, it's not a fluffy massage,"

Yellowknifer agreed to the full body offer, gulping down trepidation upon entering the small massage room and seeing what looked like a CAT scan tube.

Hinchey helped put any fears to rest, insisting the massage bed's prime directive was to soothe people, and not conspire with household appliances to overthrown humanity while our backs were turned and being caressed into submission.

A towel was laid on the bed. Upon laying down the tube slowly advanced, stopping just short of the chin. After checking all was well, Hinchey turned on an Enya CD and left Yellowknifer alone - with a sudden urge to watch Lord of the Rings.

The initial assumption that the massage bed was no replacement for a strapping Scandinavian with eyes like the ocean was wrong.

The Abaton Hybrid Infrared Massage Bed, or for the purposes of this article, Sven, has rollers that emit heat, with infrared heat also coming from the top of the dome.

According to the brochure, Sven claims to help promote weight loss, relief of arthritis, relief of skin conditions and diminishes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, among other things.

After adjusting in the bed a little, not even the sounds of the squash courts could detract from the blissful mid-afternoon relaxation.

Nothing mattered anymore, not even the exposed florescent bulbs on the ceiling, not while in Sven's firm yet gentle embrace.

The 33 minutes was over all too soon, and getting up, hair tousled and cheeks a-flush, nothing could detract from the new-found serenity.

Until, eyes falling to the paper towels and disinfectant on the counter, a strange emptiness ensued.

Yellowknifer had to stay aware of the fact that this wasn't "that" kind of massage parlour.

Sven offered an intoxicating yet fleeting experience. However, if you just want a quick massage, Sven may be the right machine for you.

We welcome your opinions on this story. Click to e-mail a letter to the editor.