The Sauna

Why is it so hard for people to understand the concept of a sauna? That’s sow-na for you non-Finlanders. Say it with me……SOW NA. That’s it, one more time….SOW NA. For the record, Webster was not a Finlander. Okay, now that we’ve got that straight.

I’ve been dealing with the questions, the looks, the snubbed noses and the non-understanding of the sauna most of my life. I grew up in a town where probably 75% of the people had a sauna or at least access to one on a regular basis so there shouldn’t have been questions or concerns but there was. So here it is, my thoughts on the glorious sauna.

The sauna is a cure all. Pretty much no matter what ails you, the sauna will cure it. Sunburn, yep, sure does. Runny nose, yep, sure does. Headache, yep, sure does. Sleeplessness, yep, sure does. Crabbiness, yep, sure does. I’m not sure about constipation or diarrhea, I’ve never actually tested out either theory, that’s one you can test on your own if you want.

The sauna at the gym is not a real sauna. You can’t throw water on the rocks. It’s a steam room and it’s a decent alternative if you don’t have a real sauna available. The sauna at the gym should not be taken naked, not once, not ever.

A ‘real’ sauna should be taken naked. Yes, I said naked. Naked as the day you were born. Naked as a jaybird. However you want to look at it, it’s NAKED. It’s a bath. It’s sacred. It’s life altering. It’s relaxing. Be naked.

Don’t ask me about public saunas. I have no idea what goes on in there and if you do know what goes on, that isn’t going on in all saunas.

After you are done throwing water on the rocks and sweating all the toxins out of your body, you bathe. Either under a shower or from a pan that you’ve scooped clean cold and hot water into to use as bath water. You wash up while your pores are open, head out to the bench, chair, couch and relax for several more minutes. Sometimes you even fall asleep because you feel so good. Uber clean.

There are times you go to someone else’s house to take a sauna. That’s okay, it’s perfectly acceptable. Yes, that’s like going to the neighbors to take a bath but it’s okay, you may not have wanted to start your sauna that day or you just plain didn’t have one at home. Growing up, we tended to go elsewhere for sauna in the winter, since our sauna was in a building of its own and it wasn’t electric.

Sauna can be a social thing. More so with the men in my family, two or more people will sauna together. I remember the first time an ex of mine was invited to sauna with the boys. He looked at me as if the Deliverance theme song started to play in his head. I explained to him he could say no and it wasn’t some sort of initiation into the family. I also explained it’s just what they do, there’s no judging, no weirdness, just conversation and sometimes a beer.

Yes, there were times when we would sauna as a group, with bathing suits on, and jump in a snow bank or a cold lake after we had poured lots of water on the rocks. Not so great for the old ticker but we were young. I’ve even done that when I wasn’t so young I guess. Keeps your blood flowing or something like that.

Saunaing as a couple is allowed and encouraged. It’s a nice relaxing time to spend together, talk or don’t talk, whichever floats your boat. However, extracurricular activities are not encouraged unless both parties are very accustomed to the sauna. Overexertion can easily lead to heart palpitations, shortness of breath or dizziness. I do not have the official Finnish doctor’s word on this one but I’ve heard stories.

Fibbing to ‘sauna rookies’ is encouraged. For those of us veterans, it is a must to ‘mess’ with the rookies. We tell them that if you pour cold water on the rocks the steam will be cooler. Tell them this as often as it takes for them to finally get it.

You will experience things you will never encounter in your bathtub or shower. Such as: scalding hot shampoo/conditioner (always leave it on the lower bench), soap that is literally melted to the bench, again, leave it in the dish on a lower bench, same goes for razors and any other paraphernalia you may have in there. It’s hot. Just to remind you, it’s hot! Say it with me, IT’S HOT!

Antics are not always encouraged but happen nonetheless. My sister used to make me sit on the floor. The floor of a sauna is not hot, it’s actually fairly cool and rather creepy. It was my punishment for her having to take care of me I think. A friend told me that they used to put the hot metal ladle (you know, to scoop the water onto the rocks) on another’s bare butt cheek, ummm, ouch. That didn’t happen at my house thank goodness. Plugging the chimney while siblings or friends were in there to turn the sauna into a ‘smoker’ was another of my friend’s antics. We didn’t do that one either.

A sauna is a way of life, a culture, a special occasion, almost a religion in some households. We crave a sauna like a fat kid craves Twinkies. Don’t judge, embrace. Don’t assume, ask. Don’t knock it, try it.

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The Joys of Bartending VIII

There’s been some interesting things while bartending lately so I’ll give you a few bullet points of the highlights…..or lowlights, however you prefer to look at it. They’re highlights to me.

We got a complaint a couple weeks ago that a guy was being really weird to a group of girls out for a bachelorette party. He was saying things like “do you need me to protect you?”, “are you okay, I’m in the military and can save you”. Eventually he got to be a little too much so I told him he had to pay his tab and leave. As I went to run his tab, I got busy so asked my bartending partner to run his credit card because I asked him to leave. When she went to give him his card back he wanted to know her employee ID number because he was going to call the Department of Defense on us. I really hope the Department of Defense is working on more important things than bartenders who keep their bars clear of riff raff.

The same night the Department of Defense situation happened we had a couple using the women’s restroom for something other than what it’s intended for. The couple had just met about 30 minutes prior to last call and there must have been a sense of urgency and the women’s restroom was the place of choice to take care of said urgency. My bartending partner walked in to use the facilities and had to tell them to put their pants on and get out. I’m glad it wasn’t me that discovered them, I probably would have messed with them a bit before telling them to get out but that’s just me.

At 6:00 PM recently we had to ask a couple to not return to the bar because the wife was performing…..let’s call them…..indecent acts, in the bar. Immediately when they walked in we knew something was going to happen. They were clearly hopped up on something not so legal but well behaved…at first. After one drink, brandy neat, she started talking to one of the regulars, the bar was fairly empty so all eyes were on her when she got up to talk to a guy sitting at a table. It wasn’t long before she turned around and pulled down her pants. It was truly like attending a sporting event, first a hush goes over the crowd and then a collective ‘ohhhh’ and even some added ‘my god’ or ‘lord’ at the end of the ‘ohhhh’. So as any good bartenders would do, we continued to watch her antics with the rest of the crowd and listened to their whispers until we got up the nerve to approach her. The kicker to the mooning is that she never really pulled up her pants all the way so we all had a front row seat to observe the pink lace thong she was wearing and one bare cheek. It didn’t take long for the guy at the table to pack up and leave and oddly the couple followed him to the parking lot. I don’t even want to speculate about why but an employee of the bar went out and told them they weren’t welcome back in the bar.

I had a regular patron go into a coughing fit one day. He’s probably in his late sixties and was really sounding bad. I looked at the few people that were in the bar, looked at him and said “Don’t you dare die on my watch, if you do I’m going to drag you into the men’s bathroom and pretend I didn’t notice you.” The laughing didn’t help his cough at all but he survived thank goodness.

A few weeks ago, I once again wore a pair of jeans to work that I obviously shouldn’t have. Early in the shift as I was bending over to put cases of beer on the dolly I felt the release of pressure at my left back pocket. I knew it was bad, it had to be. I went back out to the bar and immediately two of the regulars knew something was up because my eyes were watering from the laughing and the embarrassment. I said “well, I have a situation and you need to tell me how bad it is”. I turned around and pulled up my shirt to show them and they immediately doubled over laughing. Thank goodness they were the only two sitting at the bar. After a few minutes of uncontrollable laughter they both said “It’s bad, you have to find a new pair of pants.” I had to leave my bartending partner on her own and hurry home to change my pants. I made record time and when I came back one of the two at the bar said “Did you get your pants changed?” I said “Yup, I’m good to go.” He looked at me, looked down, looked at me again and said “Then you might want to pull up your zipper.” That caused another bought of uncontrollable laughter, at my expense, which I’m okay with.

A guy came in while I was working and was a talker. After rambling on for a few minutes he said “What’s your name?” I said “Susan”. He said “Nice to meet you, I’m Joe.” As I look over at one of my regulars he mouths “Susan?” to me. I just smiled and went about my business. Joe eventually left and my regular says “What the hell are you telling him your name is Susan for?” I said “When I don’t want someone to know my real name I’m Susan.” He starts laughing and said, “Someone asked the bartender the other day when Susan worked and she said “Oh we don’t have a Susan here”, now I get what’s happening, that’s funny.” I just smiled, shrugged and walked away.