People kept telling me “You’ve gotta go to the Spars in Budapest!” I visited a few of them, and couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Same as the ones back home. It was a while later that I realised my mistake.
So, I got a ticket to the thermal pools, and booked myself a massage. Everyone had told me this would be great, after all. I understood from the guide book that Hungary was a very tip-conscious culture, so, after a dip in the pool and before I headed to my massage, I went back to my locker and put a 1000 forint note in the rather wet pocket of my shorts.
I was a bit early, so had a while to wait. 1000. A grand. Sounds good. Or is it? Is that enough of a tip? I mean, the guy is having to massage me for half an hour – is it worth it? I mean, he wouldn’t do it if he didn’t like it. Would he?
A man extended his hand to me, smiling. “My name is Zoltan.” Oh no. He’s trying to make friends with me. He wants a big tip.
He poured aromatic oils on his hands, and started to massage my legs. This felt amazing, so relaxing after the long walk… How much is 1000 forint in pounds? About, well, 400 is a quid, so 1000 is just… Oh God.
I closed my eyes and tried to enjoy it. The sound of bubbling water from the pool was a delight, I felt as if I was drifting down a tropical river in heav- the whole massage is 5000 forint, so that makes 1000 a 20 percent tip, which is pretty good, isn’t it?
His hands worked my shoulders, and the aroma of the lavender oils felt like a summer day. Oh Lordy, the sun it does get in! This is fantastic, I really should… So, it’s about a pound, no, two pounds, and a bit… Can probably buy quite a lot for that here. Yes, it is fine. Definitely. It’s better than nothing. Infinitely better, technically.
The warmth of the steam and the scent of the oil and the pressure on my aching muscles all clouded together in my mind, eyes closed and drifting, letting the outside world disappear, and only this momen- I’m sure he will be alright with it, I mean he does get paid already, and if 400 forint is a pound, and 350 is a euro, then it’s not bad at all. I mean, I had a pizza for around 2000…
“That’s everything, sit up gently.”
I sat on the edge of the table, put my hand in my still-wet pocket. The note came out, wet, falling apart, melded together with the spa receipt. He grimaced, muttered something, and walked away.
I slunk out of there, shoulders hunched, wrecked mind, wracked with tension.