After much debate as to how to state my intention for arriving to the LA Float Center in Woodland Hills, CA, I finally go with the simplest possible version… “I’m here for a four o’clock.”
“For your isolation chamber float?” asked the bright-eyed millennial behind the desk.
He is a rather sporty looking guy. Far more an “I-give-wedgies-to people-who-do weird-shit-like ‘float in a densely concentrated Epsom salt water pod kept at 98.6 degrees to achieve a heightened state of harmony…’” than the more new age-y “How-can-I make-your ‘float in a densely concentrated Epsom salt water pod kept at 98.6 degrees to achieve some state of harmony’-experience-better…” than I had anticipated, but nice none-the-less.
“Yes,” I finally say.
I haven’t felt this weird about an activity since a “healer” with rancid coffee breath once told me that she could tell that I was a writer because she saw little tiny letters crawling all over my skin like ants, then called me lazy and charged me fifty bucks. I hope the outcome here is better.
“And are you doing ninety minutes or just an hour float?”
I wish this kid would stop saying float. “An hour,” I answer.
“It is Tuesday,” he says. “On Tuesdays, you can float an extra half hour for free.”
“Hour is fine.”
“Sure you don’t want the extra float?”
The word float is starting to have the same skin crawling effect as the word moist. An hour “float” seems far too long but I don’t want to argue nor do I want to hear him say the word float again, plus this is supposed to feel like being in space, so I conceit. “Sure. Why not?”
“Okay then. An hour and a half float it is. We just need you to sign a waiver then watch a five minute video about the float and then we’ll get you to your float.”
“Excellent.” I say.
“You’re gonna like your float,” he reminds me as he leads me into a four seat theater room and queues up the video. “Sounds moist,” I mutter as he leaves me to the short film.
In the video, I learn that “pods” are filled with eleven inches of water, heated to 98.6 degrees and then loaded with 1200 pounds of Epsom salt. The temperature matches that of the human body, making the water nearly unnoticeable and the enormous amount of salt added to the water creates unrivaled buoyancy. When the pod lid is closed and the “floater” gets into the pod, it creates the effect of being in zero gravity.
With the help of dim, colored light and gentle music, one’s mind is said to wander away from the every day worries of the world until it stops all together and you just float. The health benefits are as profound as the experience of weightlessness, they tell me. My circulation will be better, my immune system will improve, my senses will be heightened and there is a detoxifying element as well, and given my passion for wine and rich dinners, if a float will help me detox, bring it on.
Once the video is finished and my curiosity peeked, I return to the desk and am instructed to select music from a playlist on an ipad. The salt water amplifies the sound, enhancing the experience. Determined to make the most of my time in the pod and have this out of body-like experience, I settle on “Journey to Dreamland.”
A lady escorts me to my pod room and reminds me that before I get into the pod, I need to rinse off under a shower head in the pod room, and upon leaving the pod (ninety minutes later!!!!), I should rinse the salt off. I hadn’t thought about what I’d wear. She tells me that nothing is the preferred method. Not really a naked person, this gives me pause… but whatever. If I’m gonna float into the spirit world, I’m doing it the way God made me.
The pod itself fills half the room. Gentle purple light seeps out of the pod, which looks like a very sterile cross between Pac Man and a giant toilet. “You guys clean these things, right?” I ask. She assures me that they are cleaned after each use. She wishes me well and leaves me alone with my pod. I stop her before she leaves…. “And you can’t drown right?”
“Nope,” she says, “but people do fall asleep.”
“Sometimes. You’ll see,” she says with a smile and closes the door.
I strip down, eyeing the very low level of water in the pod and can’t fathom how this will work. I remind myself that I can leave at anytime, as I rinse off under the shower head. Once clean, it’s go time.
I put my feet in the water. The temperature is not that of a hot tub but certainly not lukewarm… In fact, it feels exactly like the temperature of my body. An odd sensation. Not quite as odd, however, as the when I sink back into the water, assuming that I will come to rest on the bottom of the pod, but instead SHOOT to the surface of the water and begin to spin around floating freely. This tiny little pod of water feels, at first, like floating on a runaway rapid.
I close the lid of the pod and wait to see if claustrophobia will rear its ugly head. I’d been told that if it does, one can always float with the lid open, but it is not the preferred method… Lucky for me I’m fine and the world slows.
The music begins to play and I lay back, floating effortlessly. The sensation is so strange that it makes me laugh. I’m sad that there is no one there for me to share my bewilderment with. I drove thirty miles to sit naked in a pod full of water and giggle to myself. Dear God.
I lie back onto the water, close my eyes and begin to breathe. The sensation is overwhelming. For a moment, I wish I was in a whole pool of the stuff but soon I begin to relax and drift off into my thoughts, until, as promised, they begin to slow down, then kind of stop.
When the hour and a half is up, I’m surprised. It isn’t quite like waking up but a strange feeling as all of your senses return. The air feels funny on my skin. The objects in the room seem fixed and strange. When my feet hit the ground, it is like returning to a place you haven’t been in years. As odd as the float sounded, it somehow worked.
After rinsing off the salt, I walk back into the lobby where the millennial fellow asks me how my float was. I notice I’m walking a little bit slower, easier. The world, as promised seems a little brighter. “The float was really good,” I said, and this time, the word float didn’t bother me one bit.
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