A Terryn and Shawn Story

Photo by Conscious Design on UNSPLASH.

2:10 PM

I’m trying to put it out of my mind. At first, I didn’t believe the front desk was calling my clients. So on number three, I made Tobias make the call on speakerphone. Sure enough, it rolled to voicemail just like the other two. Weird.

A lot of massage therapists get excited by no-shows. Once in a while, I don’t mind them. But in the corporate chain of spas, the gratuity can be nearly as much as what the owners pay us.

As a taller therapist, my low back is often tender. At those times, I consider the missed appointments as a mini-vacation. Time to retire to some dark corner of the spa and stretch. Or nap. Usually, it’s the latter.

It’s Wednesday. I have six appointments scheduled. Every one of them is for a one-hour massage. I’d much rather do fewer longer massages, but you can’t always get what you want.

I’ve been here three hours. I sanitized my room and set up my table, but other than that, I’ve been hanging out in the office seeing how many “Shawn, I swear to God” reactions I can provoke from my boss, Terryn. So far, I’ve got three.

And three no-shows. It’s going to be a fine day, I think. The last three will no doubt show up, and I will be able to give them more because of my lessened load today.

3:07 PM

I take my lunch as scheduled though I don’t need the break. I hit the deli section at Tom Thumb. One of the servers always gives me a free piece of roast chicken; she winks at me as she puts in a wing I didn’t order.

What a fine day.

We (I!) forget how easy life is in this country. We are hardly “united” in any meaningful way anymore, but I have a great, gratifying job, easy access to food, and today the gods have blessed me with an easy schedule.

“I swear to God, Shawn,” Terryn says, entering the office.

Number four.

I feel the superstitious thought forming.

She has said that FOUR times today, I’ve had THREE no-shows. I glance at the clock. It is 4:02 PM, my next client, Sheila, should be walking in anytime now.

At what point in the game does the pitcher start to fear the no-hitter thing won’t happen today?


Welcome to the madcap, zany world of my thoughts.

“Why are you in my chair again?” she says.

“Terryn, these mines aren’t going to sweep themselves,” I mumble. “I’m making the country safe for overpriced massages. You’re welcome.”

I can actually hear her eyes rolling.

Mary Ann walks by the office, sticks her head in the door. “How many so far?” she asks.

“Three,” Terryn and I say in unison.

“Ohh! Free money, baby!” she cackles as she walks to the back.

I turn to Terryn. I almost mention the parity between her “swear to God” expressions and my no-shows. Then I think about superstitions and say nothing.

I move to the other desk. Let Terryn do whatever it is she deems more important than ridding cyberspace of unexploded ordinance.

4:09 PM

No Sheila.

“Did my client check-in?”

Tobias glances down.

“No, but you can work on me,” she says, pulling her long hair to one side.

No. No, I don’t think I will. Something is happening today, and I don’t dare do anything to interfere with whatever that is.

“Please call her,” I say.

She pouts. Upset. She’ll get over it.

Covering the mouthpiece, she says, “It’s going to voicemail.”

She leaves the message informing the client she’s late, tells her she’ll still be charged for the appointment, etc.

4:37 PM

I put my smartphone down after informing several Facebook users just how hopelessly wrong they are. They’ll thank me later, I’m sure.

“Well, it’s official. Sheila isn’t coming in today.”

I update the client notes for the missed appointment with the customary “NCNS.”

No Call, No Show.

Free money, baby.

Mike wanders into the office.

“Hey bro, busy today?”

Terryn laughs and tells him about my string of no-shows.

She’s jinxed it, I think.

“Dude, you’re pitching a no-hitter.”

Okay, I am sure that will end this streak, I think.

I’m supposed to see Carla in 12 minutes. Her sciatica has been bad lately.

So I’ll work two hours and get paid for six. Be happy with that, I tell myself, pretending it doesn’t matter.

I get the feeling I’ve forgotten something here.

Parity! Four and four.

I fake laugh maniacally; the sound is grating even to me.

“I swear to God, Shawn. Stop that,” Terryn says, without looking up from her spreadsheet.

Okay, well, at least I’ve done my bit in this little dance, I think. Now, we wait and see.

5:07 PM

Carla isn’t here.

I want to ask Gaby to call my client, but I can’t remember how many minutes past the appointment time I had Tobias call the others.


I settle on eleven minutes.

“You want me to call your client?” Gaby says.

“Not yet,” I say. “Let’s call Carla at 5:11, okay?”

I try to divest my voice from any emotions I have about the prospect of not working at all today.

Is this happening? Have I died?

I nod to Gaby. She makes the call.

As statistically unlikely as this is, the fifth call goes to voicemail.

Calm down, I tell myself. Carla might have her ringer off. She could still show up. I can give a pretty solid upper body massage or, in her case, a sciatica treatment in twenty minutes.

I finish updating Carla’s notes.

Is this Terryn’s doing? A prank?

What an absurd idea. We joke and play around behind the scenes, but when it comes to the work, we both maintain adequate levels of professionalism.

I have to get one more from Terryn before she leaves for the day.

I make some whining noises of discontent. Terryn doesn’t take the bait.

Has she figured out her cosmic role in this comedy?

I turn to the computer, GOOGLE “bad dad jokes,” I find one. I read it to her deadpan.

“I swear to God, Shawn. That’s just stupid.”

Okay, well, that’s that. Outwardly I pretend to be a rational, logical man. Inwardly I’m a confused mess of nervous tics, compulsions, and neurosis.

6:06 PM

I’m so amped-up I doubt I could give Beatrice her usual relaxing Swedish if she were to show up now.

I pull up Instagram on my phone; got to keep my mind distracted, or this won’t happen.

Gaby is standing in the doorway, a question on her face.

“Let’s call her at 6:11,” I say to her preemptively.

There’s no disguising the eagerness I’m feeling now. I’m not that good an actor.

Another call straight to voicemail.


Hold on, damn it. I’m giving Beatrice until 6:40 before I’m calling my sixth no-show of the day.

She never showed up, and she never called.

I probably made 40% less than I would have with tips, but still, it’s a pretty cool experience today. I feel like I’ve been crowned queen of the prom.

I go to the break room, gather up my stuff. As I exit the spa, I half expect throngs of fans clamoring for my autograph.

“See ya, easy money,” someone says to me as I leave. My head is swimming as I walk out into the eighty-degree night.

What a fine day.

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