Last Tuesday I became an old woman and did something funky and very painful to my back and neck.

By Thursday I had decided that my first ever visit to a chiropractor was in order, so I impulsively hopped a ride with my friend Christine to visit Dr. L (his name has been changed to protect his privacy).

I was unprepared, to say the least.

I made Christine go first so that I could watch and learn, and the process looked simple enough: hop on the table, lie there for a few minutes being poked and prodded like a steak under the gaze of a picky housewife, then sit up smiling and relaxed. Christine was chiropracted in no time flat.

“All right, ma’am, I’m ready for you,” the chiropractor told me. I sat there blinking at him like a none-too-bright owl until I realized that I was the “ma’am” to whom he was referring; uh oh. . .apparently my age had begun to show on my face in addition to my back and neck. I stiffly walked over to the table and stubbornly declined his proffered hand–I may be a “ma’am,” but I’m still spry enough to lie down, for goodness’ sake! But pride, as they say, is the predecessor to the fall, and I soon realized that while I was certainly strong enough to collapse on the table, I wasn’t technically smart enough.

“Um. . .where do I put my face?” I asked as I lay half-reclined and entirely confused on what looked like a solid block of table. I was not eager to dangle my head off the table like Marie Antoinette post-guillotine.

“Oh, right there,” the chiropractor answered; I followed his gaze to find that I was supposed to wedge my head in between two leather. . .things, for lack of a better word. Excellent. This is so not sexy, I thought in the understatement of the year as I jammed my face between the leather plates and felt my lips ooze toward the floor.

The first few moments of the procedure were painless enough, and I thought to myself, “I could get used to this” as Dr. L squeezed the tension from my shoulders. My guard slowly dropped as I relaxed. When the doctor asked me to roll over to my side, I did so without a murmur, like the proverbial lamb being led to the slaughter.

Next thing I knew, I was folded up like an accordion and my chiropractor was throwing himself bodily onto my side. My body, I regret to say, was making the sort of music fitted to a first-time accordionist; there was some snapping, several loud pops, and a humiliating amount of wheezing.

The doctor released the pressure and my body unfolded violently back to a pitifully crumpled version of its previous form.

“No, if you’ll roll over to the other side, miss. . .”

If the release of stress was enough to take me from a “ma’am” to a “miss,” I figured I couldn’t protest too much. Though I was a bit concerned that if he popped my back on the other side I would suddenly revert back to the category of “little girl,” I nontheless rolled over and tried to relax as I was once again crushed into alignment.

“All right, now please roll over onto your back,” said my doctor, and I gladly did so. It was over, and I had survived. Gloria Gaynor’s hit rolled through my head as I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The chiropractor ran his hands over my neck and shoulders, and I thought, “Oh, this is the massage part.”

“Now I’m just going to adjust your neck,” said Dr. L, and the thought “Uh oh” didn’t even have time to register before he snapped my neck to the left.

“This is the end,” I thought, as the sound of grinding vertebrae assaulted my ears. “This is it. It’s over. I’m about to meet my Maker.”

The noise settled, but my heart rate didn’t. I didn’t dare open my eyes or move a muscle, for fear that the moment I budged my head would roll off the table and thunk to the floor.

“How you doing?” The chiropractor was remorselessly cheerful.

I peeped open one cautious eye. “I think. . .” I paused to take stock of my body signals. They were mixed at best. My muscles were sending shock waves through my body, but I wasn’t sure if they were signs of rejoicing or agony. I had no idea how I felt, but determined to look on the bright side, I ventured a cautious, “I feel. . .alive?” I tried to keep “I think” from slipping into the subtext of my statement.

The doctor helped me sit up, and as I gripped the edge of the table to keep myself in a semblance of uprightness, I saw Christine smiling at me with the encouraging glee of a person who has to undergo this sort of treatment regularly.

I woozed my way to the waiting room and paid my bill with a shaky hand, then staggered out to Christine’s car to text my friend Daniel, a future chiropractor. “It is finished,” I wrote.

Daniel, who apparently does not cosset the dramatic, wrote back, “What did he do?”

“Broke me,” I responded petulantly.

Daniel found this surprisingly amusing, and only after he had indulged in a good deal of textual laughter did he clarify, “No. . .what did he do physically?”

“He made me go ‘snap.’ ” (I’m not incredibly up-to-date on my medical terminology, but I was pretty sure that one would be in the textbooks).

Daniel finally managed a rather weak, “I’m sorry” in between his e-giggles.

It has now been almost a week since “The Day The Vertebrae Died,” and my back is, I am happy to report, in relatively good shape. And while I would consider going back for a second adjustment (Dr. L is actually a wonderful person, despite the fact that he practices legalized torture for a living), I think I might just wait until Daniel gets his license so that I can feel free to screech in terror at him through every procedure I undergo.

What do you say, Daniel. . .uh. . .Daniel?


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