Recent events in Ontario regarding the G20 conference reminded me of the following…
Over the span of my two decades as a natural health practitioner, there have been a number of memorable moments.
One was when I was chosen to provide a shiatsu treatment for the Japanese Minister of Finance, Masayoshi Takemura , during the G8 conference held in Halifax, June 15 -17 1995.
It all began with a phone call a month or two before the summit from a Japanese Government aide, acting on the behalf of the Minister, enquiring of my availability.( At the time, I had something of a monopoly, being the only qualified shiatsu therapist in the city.) Naturally I expressed my interest in being of help.
What was necessary, I was told , was to meet with the advance security team to be screened. Please recall that at this time security precautions for our elected officials were nowhere as convoluted and elaborate as they are today, as you shall see.
A few weeks later,the next stage involved arranging to show up at the hotel room where the advance security detachment was staying.
It was a rainy evening walk from my apartment across the Halifax Commons to the hotel. Going up to the proper floor, I knocked. The door was cracked open by a burley figure. After a cursory glance, he opened the door wide and I was ushered into the dimly lit double bed room.The curtains were drawn with one corner light on. The rest of the security team, a half dozen beefy men with serious expressions, was seated at the end of one of the beds and in chairs, huddled around the glare of the tv , nosily consuming their dinner. Faces near bowls, chopsticks clacking. Sunglasses, beverages and food containers littered a table. One or two may have been in a suit, the rest were in business casual dress. Except for when I first stepped into the room, they spared no glance in my direction. The door opener announced who I was, the rest grunted in muffled unison and returned to the tv. I don’t recall what show held their interest so much but I’m pretty sure it was an American drama.
One fellow in a matching track suit rose and came over. In refracted english he asked that I proceed and provide him with a shiatsu treatment.( English clearly was not this teams strong point.) He motioned to the bed near the door. He lay face down. I began my shiatsu routine by working on his muscular back. Although the circumastances were unique, I was quite used to adjusting my routine to provide sessions in a variety of public spaces. So I was able to tune out the nearby distractions. After a little while, when it became obvious to my recipient that I knew what I was doing, he gestured that I finish the session. He made some approving comments to his companions. There were a few responding grunts but no one interrupted their fixation with the tv. With that I was thanked, told to expect a telephone call and dismissed with a bow. I had passed the Japanese Delegation security clearance.
Closer to the date of the event, the Ministers aide again telephoned me to arrange a time for the Ministers session. It was to be in the late afternoon, after one of his meetings. I recall riding my bike down to the hotel, a change of clothes in my bag. I locked up my bike at a nearby lamp post, gathering up my bag. The aide, a young thin man in a snappy suit, met me outside the Prince George hotel. He escorted me in, past the police outside. Just before we boarded the elevator, an RCMP officer stopped us, wanting to know who I was, asking where my ID tag was. The aide showed his own tag and explained that I was a visitor for his Minister. The Officer said ‘One minute please.’ We waited near the elevators. He returned with a clipboard and a tag. He asked for some ID. I pulled out my wallet and showed him my drivers license. I was signed in, given a tag to clip to my belt and waved on. Up we went. I had now passed through Canadian Security.
It turned out, not surprisingly, that the Minister was delayed, his meeting going late. I had to wait for more than an hour or so in a seating area in a hallway near his suite. I was left on my own although the aide would step out once in a while to reassure me that it would be any moment now.
Once the Minister arrived, he bustled by without a glance and entered his room, the door shutting behind him. Eventually the aide reappeared to explain: ‘Now the Minister has to freshen up’ . Only after a shower and with strong drink in his hand, was I ushered into the suite. The aide acted as the interpreter – the Minster did not speak to me, other than a perfunctory half bow. Once introductions were complete the aide left.
The Minister placed his tumbler on a night stand and reclined, prone, on one of the beds in the suite, dressed in a bath robe. As I began to work he closed his eyes. Small in stature, his body was solid and big. Not long after that he fell asleep. Then he began to snore, deep and sonorous. He remained unresponsive through the whole session. He was so out of it it felt like one of those moments where you could stop, read a magazine for an hour, do a few grand finishing flourishes, nudge him awake, and the recipient would be none the wiser. Not giving in to such idle temptation, professional that I am, I gamely carried on, doing my best with his inert body.
Once finished, the Minister, was reclining on his back, eyes closed. I cleared my throat a few times. Still no response. So I tapped his shoulder. There was a relaxing sigh. He gestured that I could go.
I met the aide out in the hall. Here we had the added excitement of haggling about my fee. He was not willing to cover the time that I had to wait. ‘He is paying this out of is own pocket’ the aide said in a mild form of admonishment. I loved the irony of the moment – I, the practically penniless practitioner, riding around on a ten year old bicycle, being told that the Minister of one of the most powerful industrial nations did not have an extra few dollars, could I not be more flexible? This went back and forth for a bit, again a cultural moment. We eventually reached a sum that was mutually agreeable. I don’t recall a tip being included.
The aide and I took the elevator down. I turned in my id tag, we bowed out farewells, and I exited the hotel. Outside, I unlocked my bike and set off for home. Another eventful day in the life of a humble shiatsu practitioner.