Writer Locks Herself in Bathhouse for 24 Hours

If there is one must-read story of the week, it’s the one in Washington City Paper by  Sadie Dingfelder, who should be in everyone’s regular reading diet. By day, Dingfelder is the Assistant Director/Site Editor at the American Psychological Association. She’s also a blogger who writes regularly for HuffPost, freelance travel and business for WaPo, and freelance arts for WCP.

To give you a taste of Sadie’s story interests, in January she wrote, “I’m the person who farts in yoga class” for HuffPost.

Did this woman just come out of the woodwork?

This week, Dingfelder writes about the 24 hours she spent at Spa World, an urban dweller’s oasis out in ugly Centreville, Va. in a bland shopping plaza crawling with dangerous Asian drivers. Please, WCP, send her back to Spa World for another 24 hours and let her loose in the saunas. Make her get to the bottom of the sleeping room scandal, once and for all.

Here we offer four reasons why you should read Sadie’s story, but really there’s just one main big one: It will have you laughing out loud.

1. The lede. Any story that starts out like this deserves to be read to the end. She writes, “I am sitting boob-deep in tepid water, sous-viding the burrito I ate for lunch a half-hour ago.”

2. Dumb luck. Some of the things that happen to Sadie in the course of 24 hours are genuinely funny and you get the feeling that she isn’t trying too hard, just that she naturally is. For instance: A. An elderly Korean woman accidentally grabs her thigh. B. She tries to communicate with an Asian masseuse about a shoulder injury, resulting in disaster: “I try to warn her about my injury. I point to my broken shoulder and wince. She looks confused, so I attempt to surmount our language barrier by speaking slowly and loudly. ‘Broken shoulder, please don’t touch,’ I say, feeling like an idiot.” C. She tries to nap by a burbling fountain.

See the two remaining reasons.

3. Observational prowess: For anyone who has been there and even if you haven’t, Sadie’s descriptions are dead-on accurate. For example: “The management puts up new signs without taking down old ones, resulting in an archeological record of evolving guidelines and thwarted ambitions—including a laundry room labeled ‘banquet hall’ and a business center that’s ‘coming soon’ but has failed to materialize for at least a year. The very first sign I encounter, in the locker room, is my favorite: ‘Please be accompanied by a guardian for the old, The weak and the children.'” And this: “The last thing I see before I lose consciousness is an elderly Korean woman sticking her hand way down her orange shorts and scratching vigorously.”

4. Spunk and gumption: Far from lazy, Sadie burns the midnight oil for this story and it shows. She writes, “Being an early-to-bed person myself, I have never stayed at Spa World past 5 p.m. Today, however, I’ve told my editors I’ll lock myself in the bathhouse for 24 hours to find out what happens during the witching hours. …Moreover, I want to test my own capacity to stay relaxed for an entire day. Do I have what it takes to spend 24 hours locked in a Northern Virginia strip mall without going crazy?” In addition…she licks the wall of one of the saunas to make sure the salt in the salt room actually tastes like salt.